Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman stands in a section of forest in 2020 that was burned during the Archie Creek Fire. The trees in the area were slated to be cut down as part of the proposed Bureau of Land Management Umpqua Sweets timber sale (photo by MICHAEL SULLIVAN/News-Review file photo).

Environmental groups file lawsuit against BLM over Archie Creek hazard trees

The News-Review | By CARISA CEGAVSKE Senior Staff Writer
Reporter Cegavske can be reached at email or 541-957-4213.
Originally Published on nrtoday.com February 9, 2022

A group of environmental organizations filed a lawsuit Tuesday that challenges the Bureau of Land Management’s post-Archie Creek Fire logging plans.

Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center hope to block the BLM’s plans for salvage logging in the burned area.

Cascadia Wildlands Legal Director Nick Cady said Tuesday this is the BLM’s first major post-fire salvage logging operation under a relatively new resource management plan. That plan anticipated a small amount, about 2,000 acres of salvage logging over 50 years.

“This project alone has over 10,000 acres of it, all concentrated around the North Umpqua River. So it’s way beyond what was planned for or being considered” with respect to the impact on endangered species, he said.

This process was incredibly rushed, Cady said, and the BLM only considered the impact on two different values. One of them was the volume of timber that would be generated by logging, and the other was the impact on soils.

“Everything else, impacts to recreation, scenic views, adjacent neighborhoods, future fire risk and hazard, all of that was just kind of brushed under the rug to get this out as quick as possible,” he said. 

BLM spokesperson Cheyne Rossbach said the bureau doesn’t comment on pending or ongoing litigation.

The BLM’s Archie Creek Fire Salvage Harvest and Hazard Tree Removal Environmental Assessment, completed in August, discusses how the hazard tree removal would affect economic value from the harvest.
It also addresses soil and water impacts.

The assessment says impacts to Coho salmon and northern spotted owl habitats weren’t analyzed in detail because no measurable effects are expected.

This is not the first suit filed over hazard tree removal plans in the wake of the Archie Creek Fire. In fact, Cady said, post-fire salvage logging operations have been among the most contentious issues over the past 10 years.
That hasn’t changed since Archie Creek.

In October, Umpqua Watersheds, Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild filed suit attempting to block the U.S. Forest Service’s plans to log burned trees along 65 miles of roads in the Umpqua National Forest.

Douglas County government intervened in that earlier lawsuit to push back against the environmental groups.

In this case, Tim Freeman said he expected the Association of O&C Counties will look at the lawsuit and, if appropriate, intervene on behalf of the BLM.
The difference between the two suits is that this time, the impact is on all 18 counties that have O&C timberlands.

“Removing those dead trees along the right of way provides for safe access to public lands,” he said.

It also ensures safe crossing for neighboring landowners, who own private timberlands that form a checkerboard with O&C land on the map, and creates good firebreaks for the next fire that sweeps through the area, Freeman said.

Douglas Timber Operators Executive Director Matt Hill also expressed opposition to the lawsuit in an email Tuesday.

“This so-called ‘environmental’ lawsuit is an outrageous attempt to block a paltry amount of dead logs from being removed from the fire area. It ignores the obvious fact that the fire itself already killed what they are trying to protect,” Hill said.