HWY 20 Ponderosa pine OG cut due to pesticide applications

     In 2018, the Forest Service approved the decision to logging of hundreds of large, old growth Ponderosa pine that have been killed by ODOT’s application of herbicides along HWY 20 in the Deschutes National Forest. This stretch of road is lined with beautiful old growth Ponderosa pines, most of which will now be cut down.
     The public comment process for this sale was conducted under a “categorical exclusion” (CE), and includes little to no substantial environmental review, and had a very limited comment process with no option to object to the project.
     The USFS’s ecologically costly mistakes should not be used as an excuse to cause additional and unnecessary environmental damage. We’ve seen this too often– for example when prescribed burns become uncontrolled and are later turned into post-fire logging projects that irreparably harm soils and ecological integrity.
     This is only one example of rampant and irresponsible use of pesticides on public lands. It is a more widespread then many people realize– not just on roadsides but also across National Forests. For example, in the Lex timber sale (also on the Deschutes National Forest), the USFS is proposing to use glyphosate and hexazinone in timber plantations that they replant after industrial-style logging. They’re also planning to kill gophers to protect their commercial tree crops. Many such similar examples exist across eastern Oregon.
     Large trees (and large downed logs) are at an extreme deficit on the east side due to decades of over-logging, and are needed for wildlife and stream habitat creation. BMBP requested that the Forest Service examine the possibility of using these ecologically valuable trees for restoration projects on the forest– not sold to the highest bidder. We also requested that the Oregon Department of Transportation should have paid the public for the damage the use of this herbicide did to public lands– they should have paid for each large, old tree killed due to negligent use of this toxic herbicide.
     This project should not  have been proposed under a “Categorical Exclusion”–the USFS should conduct and Environmental Assessment to carefully consider how to go about hazard tree removal in the least ecologically harmful methods possible. In this and any similar situations, the USFS needs to fully consider the environmental impacts of removing large trees in an area that with vast tracts of young timber plantations and very few large trees. The USFS should have conducted an Environmental Assessment in order to determine how best to ameliorate the loss of habitat, carbon sequestration, and other important benefits that will be lost when these magnificent trees are logged.
     BMBP has made it clear to the Forest Service that toxic herbicides have no place on public lands. We continue to monitor and fight the use of toxic herbicides on federal public lands in eastern Oregon. We’ve had several important victories in this battle, but more work is clearly still needed.
Join us in the fight against the Forest Service’s widespread and careless use of toxic herbicides! Volunteer with BMBP or donate. Thank you!
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