The Tiger-Mill timber sale on the Umatilla National Forest is located approximately 13 miles east of Walla Walla, Washington. The sale proposes to commercially log 9,343 acres, including in mature and old forests, designated wildlife areas, the drinking watershed for the city of Walla Walla, and the Mill Creek Inventoried Roadless Area . The sale is adjacent to the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness and the Walla Walla Inventoried Roadless Area.
The Tiger-Mill sale includes 3,044 acres of commercial logging in the Mill Creek Inventoried Roadless Area and 1,084 acres of commercial logging the Mill Creek Municipal Watershed.
The Mill Creek Municipal Watershed supplies 85-90% of the drinking water for the city of Walla Walla, Washington.
The Tiger-Mill sale also proposes “non-commercial” logging on an additional 4,619 acres. This overlaps with the Mill Creek Inventoried Roadless Area (2,924 acres) and the Mill Creek Municipal Watershed (2,058 acres). Prescribed burning is proposed on 21,736 acres. Non-commercial logging is described in the agency’s proposal as generally targeting trees below 10″ and 12″ diameter at breast heigh (dbh) depending on the situation. It is not clear if “non-commercial” logging will include “commercial byproduct” that is available for sale, as it can in other timber sales in the area.
Unfortunately, logging and road-related activities are well-documented to negatively affect water quality . Logging can cause increases in stream temperatures and excess fine sediments, both of which can be limiting or lethal to sensitive aquatic species. More details on logging and water quality issues, including citations, can be found here.
Bull trout, Redband trout, Mid-Columbia River steelhead, Chinook salmon– all of which currently occupy or historically occupied the area– rely on clean, cold water for survival . Bull trout and Redband trout are currently found within the project area. Efforts to restore Chinook salmon to the area are being led by the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
The Forest Service recognizes that the Mill Creek Municipal Watershed, which has little or no history of past logging, currently supports streams with consistently excellent water quality. The agency’s scoping materials note that “[a]quatic habitat within streams in the Mill Creek Municipal Watershed are assumed to be in good condition because of the consistently high-water quality at the City of Walla Walla’s water supply intake.”
The Forest Service also acknowledges that watersheds that experienced prior logging and roading suffer from ongoing poorer water quality and degraded habitats. For example, the scoping materials state that “[o]ther streams tributary to Mill Creek (Tiger, West Tiger, China, Webb, Henry Creeks) have degraded habitat and floodplain function because of legacy roads and past timber harvest that have resulted in unnatural channel incision and reduction of habitat complexity and these streams continue to be at risk from high flow events”.
Despite recognizing that forests that haven’t been logged and roaded are currently supplying excellent water quality for drinking water– and that forest areas that have experienced logging and roading continue to suffer from impaired water quality and degraded stream habitats-– the Forest Service is now proposing to log in minimally or never-logged forests in the Municipal Watershed, as well as in watersheds previously degraded by logging.
The photos below, taken by Dr. Trygve Steen by drone in 2023, depict a rugged and unique landscape that deserves protection from logging. The photos show mature and old forests, and include complex canopy structures, natural openings, a mosaic of topographic and ecological conditions, and a variety of habitats.
Mature and old forests, and their habitat complexity, are crucial for supporting biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. Mature and old forests that have been minimally or never logged are currently providing high-quality drinking water for nearby communities.
The Forest Service is targeting these forests for logging in the Tiger-Mill sale, despite well-documented evidence that logging and roading harms water quality and watershed conditions. We hope to receive a permit from the agency to field survey these areas on foot.
The above photos were taken by drone by Dr. Trygve Steen in 2023.
Lack of public transparency: The Mill Creek Municipal Watershed is off limits to the public without a permit. Some of the most pristine and sensitive forests in the Tiger-Mill sale are, essentially, behind closed doors. Should the project move forward, logging in these ecologically important mature and old forests in the Municipal Watershed would occur out of the public eye and with little to no public oversight or transparency. We’ve reached out to the Forest Service with inquiries about getting a permit to survey within the Municipal Watershed. So far we have not received clear answers from the agency. We are very concerned about the lack of transparency for public participation. The core of Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project’s work is based on our extensive field surveys of proposed timber sales, and our use of field survey data in the public comment process. Over the years, we have gotten tens of thousands of acres of proposed logging dropped or modified through using our field survey data in discussions and negotiations with the agency. Unfortunately, our time-tested and effective methods for safeguarding public forests has been blocked by having these forests be off limits to the public.
The below photos were taken in 2022 by BMBP. They depict examples of recent logging in the South George timber sale, also on the Umatilla National Forest– and just a stone’s throw away from the proposed Tiger-Mill sale. The Forest Service describes logging in the South George project as a “vegetation management project to improve vigor, health, and fire resistence within a forested ecosystem.”
BMBP is very concerned about the discrepancies between what the agency portrays as “restoration” logging, and what logging implementation actually looks like, all too often, on the ground. You can see additional examples of heavy and concerning logging in numerous timber sales here, including photos of old growth logging and virtual clearcuts that were characterized as “thinning” by the Forest Service.
Some of the most concerning examples we’ve found of logging of large and old trees took place in timber sales with cable and cable-assisted logging– i.e., where cables are used to move cut trees across steep slopes. Such logging can including extensive logging of all trees, including any large, mature, and old trees, along those corridors. Cable and cable-assisted logging is proposed as part of the Tiger-Mill sale.
As part of logging implementation, large and old trees are frequently logged in or adjacent to roads. In addition to the bloated existing road system, timber sales usually propose building additional miles of roads– further putting large and old trees and water quality at risk.
Particularly given the lack of public access and transparency in the Tiger-Mill sale, we are very concerned about what logging will actually look like on the ground should this project move forward.
Timber sales need roads. Lots and lots and lots of roads.
Across Oregon and Washington, the USFS manages approximately 90,000 miles of roads . The bloated and sprawling road systems on National Forest lands are fiscally burdensome as well as ecologically harmful. On Blue Mountains National Forests, the Forest Service states that the “allocated annual road maintenance budget for national forests in the Blue Mountains only provides approximately 20 percent of the required annual maintenance funds needed to adequately maintain the current open road system”.  Faulty or damaged road crossings, such as too-small or collapsed culverts, also block thousands of miles of salmon and other fish habitat in the region.
The Tiger-Mill sale proposes to build approximately 13 miles of “temporary” roads. “Temporary” roads are not temporary, and their impacts persist on the landscape for decades. Road-related negative impacts on forests include soil compaction and erosion, degradation of water quality, and alteration of watershed hydrology.
You can read more about road-related impacts on National Forests in the region here.
Logging threats large trees, mature and old forests, and wildlife habitats in the Tiger-Mill sale. The Tiger Mill sale area is home to beautiful mature and old forests, with much of the area having never been logged before. The area includes a predominance of moist, high-elevation, and historically mixed-conifer forests that support species such as wolves, bears, elk, American marten, Northern goshawk, and Pileated woodpeckers. BMBP volunteers surveying this sale in the summer of 2023 reported numerous bears and elk sightings.
Unfortunately, logging to reduce “fuels” also reduces the very habitat that many species depend upon. Numerous species, including imperiled birds and mammals, rely on denser canopies in mature and old mixed-conifer forests, as well as abundant snags (standing dead trees) for habitat.
The Forest Service is also targeting large and mature trees as part of the Tiger-Mill sale. Large trees remain at a historic deficit across the landscape, due to over a century of logging and mismanagement. A recent study, led by Dr. Mildrexler in 2021, found that large trees comprise just 3% of the trees in National Forests east of the Cascade Crest in eastern Oregon and southeastern Washington. Numerous wildlife species depend on large trees for habitat, including American marten, Vaux’s swifts, Pileated woodpeckers, Black bears, numerous birds, and bats.
Forests that are unlogged or minimally managed store the most carbon. Logging releases far more carbon than wildfires, and logging is the largest emitter of carbon in parts of the west, such as Oregon.
Large trees, which are targeted for logging as part of the Tiger-Mill sale, make up only 3% of trees in forests east of the Cascade Crest in Oregon and Washington, yet store approximately 42% of the carbon in those forests. Large trees need protection, not logging.
Furthermore, logging exacerbates many of the negative effects of climate change such as high stream temperatures, low base flows, habitat degradation, and fragmentation of key wildlife habitat.
Roadless values at risk: The Mill Creek Inventoried Roadless Area, which the Forest Service is proposing to log as part of this sale, was initially inventoried as a Potential Wilderness Area. It was later delegated to non-Wilderness use, and managed for the city drinking water supply. Logging would degrade the Roadless values of the area, fragmenting forests and degrading important wildlife habitat.
The agency is using fear of fire to log in the backcountry
Current forest management is unnecessarily putting firefighters at risk by focusing on remote areas. Logging and thinning in the back country is ineffective and diverts resources away from actual home protection, which must be focused immediately adjacent to individual structures in order to protect them. Creating defensible space within 100-200 feet of individual homes can more effectively protect homes from fires, even when they are more intense. See footnote  below for citations.
The short-term and temporary nature of the perceived fuels reduction benefits from most project are not likely to result in meaningful changes to fire intensity, size, or severity. Furthermore, re-entering forests to repeatedly and heavily log and then burn them requires a huge road infrastructure, which is incredibly damaging to water quality and wildlife. In addition, areas with more roads are more likely to experience human-caused fire ignitions. Human-caused fire starts are the majority of fire starts in many areas.
The cumulative impacts of such large scale, repeated logging would cause untold degradation or destruction of wildlife and stream habitats, water quality, old and mature forests, carbon storage, and more. It would also create unnaturally open, dry, and hot conditions in many forests– very likely exacerbating fire risk rather than lessening it.
 Water Quality and Hydrology
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DellaSala, D.; Karr, J.; Olson, D.; 2011. Roadless areas and clean water. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 66(3): 78A-84A. Accessed at: http://www.jswconline.org/content/66/3/78A.full.pdf
DeWalle, D. 2010. Modeling stream shade: Riparian buffer height and density as important as buffer width. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 46:2 323-333.
Ebersole, J.; Wigington, P.; Liebowitz, S.; and Comeleo, R. 2015. Predicting the occurrence of cold-water patches at intermittent and ephemeral tributary confluences with warm rivers. Freshwater Science 34(1):111–124.
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Grant, G. and Swanson, F. 1990. Implications of timber harvest pattern on hydrologic and geomorphic response of watersheds. Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union 71:1321.
Groom, J.; Dent, L.; Madsen, L; and Fleuret, J. 2011. Response to western Oregon (USA) stream temperatures to contemporary forest management. Forest Ecology and Management 262:1618-1629.
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Janisch, J.; Foster, A.; Ehinger, W.; 2011. Characteristics of small headwater wetlands in second-growth forests of Washington, USA. Forest Ecology and Management 261 (7) 1265-1274, ISSN 0378-1127, 10.1016/j.foreco.2011.01.005.
Janisch , J..; Wondzell, S.; Ehinger, W.; 2012. Headwater stream temperature: Interpreting response after logging, with and without riparian buffers, Washington, USA. Forest Ecology and Management 270 (2012) 302–313.
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Jones, K.; Poole, G.; Meyer, J.; Bumback, W.; and Kramer, E. 2006. Quantifying Expected Ecological Response to Natural Resource Legislation: A Case Study of Riparian Buffers, Aquatic Habitat, and Trout Populations. Ecology and Society 11:15.
Kreutzweiser , D., Capell, S., and Good, K. (2005). Macroinvertebrate community responses to selection logging in riparian and upland areas of headwater catchments in a northern hardwood forest. Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 24(1):208- 222.
Kreutzweiser, D. and Capell, S. (2001). Fine sediment deposition in streams after selective forest harvesting without riparian buffers. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, v. 31 p. 2134-2142.
Lewis, J.; Mori, S.; Keppeler, E.; Ziemer, R.; 2001. Impacts of Logging on Storm Peak Flows, Flow Volumes and Suspended Sediment Loads in Casper Creek, California. In: Land Use and Watersheds: Human Influence on Hydrology and Geomorphology in Urban and Forest Areas: American Geophysical Union pp. 85-126.
Pollock, M.; Beechie, T.; Liermann, M.; and Bigley, R. 2009. Stream temperature relationships to forest harvest in Western Washington. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 45(1):141-156.
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Al-Chokhachy, R.; Roper, B.; Archer, E. 2010. Evaluating the Status and Trends of Physical Stream Habitat in Headwater Streams within the Interior Columbia River and Upper Missouri River Basins Using an Index Approach. American Fisheries Society.
Al-Chokhachy, R.; Roper, B.; Archer, E. 2010. A Review of Bull Trout Habitat Associations and Exploratory Analyses of Patterns across the Interior Columbia River Basin. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 30-464-480.
Bradley, C.; Rhodes, J.; Kessler, J.; Frissell, C., 2002. An Analysis of Trout and Salmon Status and Conservation Values of Potential Candidates in Idaho and Eastern Washington. Published by: The Western Native Trout Campaign; the Center for Biological Diversity, The Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, and the Pacific Rivers Council.
Espinosa, F.A., Rhodes, J.J., and McCullough, D. A. 1997. The failure of existing plans to protect salmon habitat on the Clearwater National Forest in Idaho. J. Env. Management 49: 205-230.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 1996. Coastal Salmon Conservation: Working Guidance for Comprehensive Salmon Restoration Initiatives on the Pacific Coast.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 2011. 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation of Snake River Sockeye, Snake River Spring-Summer Chinook, Snake River Fall-Run Chinook, Snake River Basin Steelhead. National Marine Fisheries Northwest Region.
Ripley, T., Scrimgeour, G., and Boyce, M. 2005. Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) occurrence and abundance influenced by cumulative industrial developments in a Canadian boreal forest watershed. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 62:2431–2442.
United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) 2005. Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. Accessed online at: https://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc1907.pdf
United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) 2010. “USFWS Bull Trout Final Rule”. 50 CFR Part 17 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revised Designation of Critical Habitat for Bull Trout in the Coterminous United States; Final Rule.
United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) 2010. Bull Trout Final Habitat Justification: Rational for Why Habitat is Essential, and Documentation of Occupancy. Accessed online at: http://www.fws.gov/pacific/bulltrout/pdf/Justification Docs/BTFinalJustifyfulldoc.pdf.
Thurow, R.; Lee, D.; Rieman, B. 2001. Distribution and Status of Seven Native Salmonids in the Interior Columbia River Basin and Portions of the Klamath River and Great Basins. North American Journal of Fisheries Management, 17:4,1094-1110.
Cederholm C., Reid L., Salo E. (1980). Cumulative effects of logging road sediment on salmonid populations in Clearwater River, Jefferson County, Washington. College of Fisheries, University of Seattle, Washington.
Trombulak, S.C. and Frissell, C.A. (2000), Review of Ecological Effects of Roads on Terrestrial and Aquatic Communities. Conservation Biology, 14: 18-30. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1523-1739.2000.99084.x
US Forest Service 2001. Forest Roads: A Synthesis of Scientific Information. United States Department of Agriculture, General Technical Report, Pacific Northwest Research Station. Accessed online at: http://www.krisweb.com/biblio/gen_usfs_gucinskietal_2001_gtr509.pdf
Wemple, B.; Jones, J.; and Grant, G.; 1996. Channel network extension by logging roads in two basins, western Cascades, Oregon. Water Resources Bulletin 32(6).
Wemple, B.; Swanson, F.; Jones, J.; 2001. Forest roads and geomorphic process interactions, Cascade Range, Oregon. Earth Surface Landforms and Processes, vol. 26 pp. 191-204
Wemple, B.; and Jones, J. 2003. Runoff production on forest roads in a steep, mountain catchment. Water Resources Research 39(8):1220.
Wood, P. and Armitage, P. 1997. Biological Effects of Fine Sediment in the Lotic Environment. Environmental Management Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 203-217
Bull E.; Parks, C.; Torgersen, T., 1997. Trees and Logs Important to Wildlife in the Interior Columbia River Basin. GTR 391. USDA FS.
Cline, Steven Paul. 1977. The Characteristics and Dynamics of Snags In Douglas-Fir Forests of the Oregon Coast Range. : Oregon State University.
Mildrexler, David J., Logan T. Berner, Beverly E. Law, Richard Birdsey and William R. Moomaw. “Large Trees Dominate Carbon Storage in Forests East of the Cascade Crest in the United States Pacific Northwest.” Frontiers in Forests and Global Change (2020).
Moriarty, K.; Epps, C.; Zeilinski, W., 2016. Forest Thinning Changes Movement Patterns and Habitat Use by Pacific Martens. The Journal of Wildlife Management; DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.1060
Pacific Northwest Research Station (2017) Science Findings: Woodpecker Woes: the Right Tree Can Be Hard to Find. https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/sciencef/scifi199.pdf
Science Findings. Pacific Northwest Research Station. Nov 1999. DEAD AND DYING TREES: ESSENTIAL FOR LIFE IN THE FOREST https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/sciencef/scifi20.pdf
Pilliod, David S.; Bull, Evelyn L.; Hayes, Jane L.; Wales, Barbara C. 2006. Wildlife and invertebrate response to fuel reduction treatments in dry coniferous forests of the Western United States: a synthesis. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-173. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 34 p.
Pollock, M. and Beechie, T. 2014. Does Riparian Forest Thinning Enhance Forest Biodiversity? The Ecological Importance of Downed Wood. Journal of American Waters Resource Association (JAWRA) 50(3): 543-559.
Robertson, B. and Hutto, R., 2007. Is selectively harvested forest an ecological trap for Olive-sided flycatchers? The Cooper Ornithological Society, The Condor 109: 109-121
 Fires, burn severity, and logging efficacy
Bradley, C.; Hanson, C.; DellaSala, D. 2016. Does increased forest protection correspond to higher fire severity in frequent-fire forests of the western United States? Ecosphere vol 7(10).
Hutto, R. L., R. E. Keane, R. L. Sherriff, C. T. Rota, L. A. Eby, and V. A. Saab. 2016. Toward a more ecologically informed view of severe forest fires. Ecosphere 7(2):e01255. 10.1002/ecs2.1255.
Odion, D. C., and C. T. Hanson. 2006. Fire severity in conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada, California. Ecosystems 9: 1177-1189.
Odion, D. C. and C. T. Hanson. 2008. Fire severity in the Sierra Nevada revisited: Conclusions robust to further analysis. Ecosystems 11:12-15.
Pierce, J. and Meyer, G. 2008. Long-term fire history from alluvial fan sediments: the role of drought and climate variability, and implications for management of Rocky Mountain forests. International Journal of Wildland Fire 2008, 17, 84–95
Rhodes, J. J., and W. L. Baker. 2008. Fire probability, fuel treatment effectiveness and ecological tradeoffs in western U.S. public forests. Open Forest Science Journal 1:1–7.
Heller, N. and Zavaleta, E. 2008. Biodiversity management in the face of climate change: A review of 22 years of recommendations. BIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION 142 (2009) 14–32
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Law, B.E. and R.H. Waring (2015) Carbon implications of current and future effects of drought, fire and management on Pacific Northwest forests. Forest Ecology and Management 355: 4-14. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2014.11.023.
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Law, B.E., Berner, L.T., Buotte, P.C. et al. Strategic Forest Reserves can protect biodiversity in the western United States and mitigate climate change. Commun Earth Environ 2, 254 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-021-00326-0
Law, B.E., April, 2021, Congressional Testimony, “WILDFIRE IN A WARMING WORLD: OPPORTUNITIES TO IMPROVE COMMUNITY COLLABORATION,CLIMATE RESILIENCE, AND WORKFORCE CAPACITY”
Law, B.E.; Moomaw, W.R.; Hudiburg, T.W.; Schlesinger, W.H.; Sterman, J.D.; Woodwell, G.; 2022. The Status of Science on Forest Carbon Management to Mitigate Climate Change and Protect Water and Biodiversity.
Mildrexler, David J., Logan T. Berner, Beverly E. Law, Richard Birdsey and William R. Moomaw. “Large Trees Dominate Carbon Storage in Forests East of the Cascade Crest in the United States Pacific Northwest.” Frontiers in Forests and Global Change (2020).
 Home hardening
Cohen, J.D. 2000. Preventing disaster: home ignitability in the Wildland-Urban Interface. Journal of Forestry 98: 15-21.
Cohen, J.D., and R.D. Stratton. 2008. Home destruction examination: Grass Valley Fire. U.S. Forest Service Technical Paper R5-TP-026b. U.S. Forest Service, Region 5, Vallejo, CA.
Gibbons, P. et al. 2012. Land management practices associated with house loss in wildfires. PLoS ONE 7: e29212.