by Adam Duvernay | The Register-Guard
Originally published June 3, 2021
The Bureau of Land Management has decided it will harvest trees from inside 910 acres scorched by the Holiday Farm Fire, adding to the extensive post-fire logging in the area.
BLM will conduct post-fire salvage harvesting through four to six commercial timber sales on land the agency administers inside the more than 173,000-acre Holiday Farm Fire burn zone. The three-year salvage operation would remove dead and dying trees.
The BLM harvest area is located approximately 20 miles east of Springfield.
The Holiday Farm Fire, which began during a Labor Day windstorm and went on to destroy more than 400 homes, burned 18,545 acres of land administered by the BLM.
The salvage acreage is within the Harvest Land Base, which is the land designated for sustainable timber harvest in the 2016 Western Oregon Resource Management Plans. BLM identified 1,300 acres in the Harvest Land Base with salvage operation potential.
Timber sales would generate between 15 million and 20 million board feet, according to BLM.
BLM Upper Willamette Field Manager Rebecca Brooke approved the decision May 26.
Brooke wrote in her decision the harvest would have “no significant impacts to the quality of the human environment.” Brooke said the harvest plan conforms to BLM standards and none of the extraordinary circumstances that could stay the harvest, such as negative impact to public health or natural resources, is a factor in culling the trees.
BLM is not required to publish an environmental assessment concerning the harvest.
A policy change made late last year greatly increased the size of salvage harvests BLM is allowed to conduct without publishing such a study. Prior to the change, salvage harvests more than 250 acres in size needed an environmental assessment.
Now if a wildfire burns 3,000 or fewer acres, BLM is not required to publish such an assessment if the harvest is under 1,000 acres. For larger fires, the new policy means BLM does not have to publish an environmental assessment if the harvest is smaller than one-third of the total acreage and does not exceed 5,000 acres.
BLM has conducted an analysis to confirm this project fits into the new policy, in part by assessing items on the list of extraordinary circumstances that would trigger the need to publish an environmental assessment.
“An interdisciplinary team of specialists developed the project together, proposing measures for salvage harvest that will also protect natural and cultural resources,” according to a BLM news release.
Rebecca White, Wildlands Director for Eugene-based environmental nonprofit Cascadia Wildlands, said her group was one of many who opposed the salvage harvest. Cascadia Wildlands has opposed other salvage harvests, concerned over environmental impacts.
They disagree with the Holiday Farm Fire salvage harvest without an environmental study and argued during the public comment period that BLM must, in fact, conduct such a study.
White said Cascadia Wildlands also disagrees with Brooke’s assessment that none of 12 BLM-outlined extraordinary circumstances is relevant to the harvest. She said without more study, it’s impossible to know what impacts it might have on endangered and threatened species such as the spotted owl or to water quality in the McKenzie River.
“It’s just a clear-cutting proposal we think is not in the public interest,” White said. “The agency, itself, is not informed on the environmental impacts of what they will be doing.”
White said Cascadia Wildlands likely will appeal the BLM salvage harvest decision for the 910 acres inside the Holiday Farm Fire burn area within the next couple of weeks.
Contact reporter Adam Duvernay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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