After legal challenges stopped logging twice, forest advocates prepare for the next fight over the Ochoco’s most popular recreation site
Blue Mountains Biodiversity project and Earthrise Law Center have successfully challenged, and halted, the US Forest Service’s attempts to log hundreds of magnificent large and old fir trees around Walton Lake in the Ochoco National Forest two times since 2016. Claiming that the public is endangered by the potential for falling trees with root rot, USFS has attempted to bypass environmental laws protecting large and old trees in order to extensively log old growth fir forests– including in areas that are not near trails or recreational development. Logging in some units included clearcutting of all firs.
Here are some of the reasons BMBP and Earthrise have successfully opposed this logging:
-USFS has always been, and still is, free to remove any hazard trees that are evident. Extensive logging of firs, including clearcutting of firs in some areas, is not necessary.
In addition, it is documented that logging can actually spread root rot. While some hazard trees may need to be felled near trails, roads, and recreational developments due to root rot, it is unnecessary and ecologically damaging to extensively log in areas away from trails and recreation sites. Root rot is a native disease that serves essential ecological functions such as creating natural openings and wildlife habitat.
-USFS has misled the public by stating the difference would not be noticeable to people who visit the lake. However, when BMBP and Earthrise filed a Freedom of Information Act request to gain access to their internal documents, we learned that the Forest Service stated in their own internal documents that the area would be “unrecognizable,” and they described portions of the project as a “clear cut.”
-USFS has deliberately utilized a special loop hole called a “categorical exclusion” in environmental regulations to exclude public comments from being gathered. BMBP stopped this rush to logging in court, but found the trees around the lake had already been marked, flagged and numbered to cut. USFS has kept the logging contract in place despite the fact that it is an illegal sale, and they will be prevented from doing an objective environmental assessment with this contract in place. Currently there are areas by the road around the lake closed to the public due to root rot. In the fine print of these closures it says individuals and organizations venturing past the signs can be fined $5000 or $10,000 respectively, and that walking there is misdemeanor that could result in jail time. This unfortunately prevents the public from seeing all the markings to cut on the trees, many of which are old growth, spanning 3-4 feet in diameter.
What We Can Do
BMBP and Earthrise will continue to fight these attempts to commercially log Walton Lake. While we do not have specific information regarding the Forest Service’s current plans, we know that they are moving forward with plans to propose logging again. Here’s what you can do to help in the meantime:
-Contact Shane Jeffries, Forest Supervisor, and comment that you do not support commercial logging, logging of large or old trees, or heavy logging or clearcutting in any portion of the Walton Lake area.
You can contact Shane Jeffries via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send comments or call Mr. Jeffries at:
Ochoco National Forest Supervisor’s Office
3160 NE 3rd Street / PO Box 490
Prineville, OR 97754
541-416-6500; FAX: 541-416-6695
Ochoco NF contact form here
-Sign up for our Action Alerts by clicking here. This way we will be ready to weigh in when the Environmental Assessment is released for public comments
-Visit Walton Lake! Go to this magnificent place and soak up the natural splendor. If you take pictures with a time stamp, this helps us establish standing in the area if you are willing to get involved with the case.