Pole Creek Fire logging plans spark early concern

More than 1,000 acres could be logged by next year

POSTED: 10:12 PM PST February 22, 2013    UPDATED: 10:15 PM PST February 22, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

"How much can we do? What's the balance between removing that timber and maintaining that for wildlife?" Deschutes National Forest Public Affairs Officer Jean Nelson-Dean of the Deschutes National Forest on Friday.

That's always the question following massive wildfires -- and it's always controversial.

"These are critical elements of the natural ecosystem that need to be here," Oregon Wild field representative Tim Lillebo said about the leftover dead trees from the Pole Creek Fire.

The wildfire started last September and scorched 26,120 acres located in the Sisters Ranger District.

The Deschutes National Forest has released preliminary proposals to salvage log about 1,050 acres located in "Matrix" land -- land that is zoned for for timber management.

Nelson-Dean said the logging will be good for our local economy.

"There's always an economic component to this, certainly by producing timber, logs that can be used commercially as well as the commercial firewood and personal use firewood," Nelson-Dean said.

The Forest Service hopes to have a final plan by October.

And time may be of the essence.

Nelson-Dean said the logs will lose value if they sit too long -- and salvage logging would need to be completed by the summer of 2014.

Nelson-Dean said the logging would generate 13 million board feet of timber.

But the areas they're considering are home to wildlife -- of concern are the delicate habitats of woodpeckers and owls.

Lillebo said the dead logs most desired for timber are the ones most crucial to wildlife.

"If you have the bigger, larger trees, those are the ones that provide habitat -- big trees that will last the longest in the future," Lillebo said.

Nelson-Dean said she anticipates many people will want even more timber logged -- supporters say decaying logs are wasted money.

But Lillebo told me decaying wood is the future of the forest.

"And that soil resource -- I mean, that's your basis of all life here in the forest."

Lillebo said going in to log these areas will only damage what little soil is left.

"If you run machines over it afterward, that's really going to potentially do some real damage to bringing back the forest," he claimed.

Nelson-Dean said balancing the interests of the timber industry with conservationists is why it's crucial to take public input and conduct a lengthy process.

You can read the Forest Services scoping letter and give your thoughts on the issue:

http://data.ecosystem-management.org/nepaweb/nepa_project_exp.php?project=41286

Comments can be sent to:

Pole Creek Fire Timber Salvage Project, Project Manager, Michael Keown, Post Office Box 249, Sisters, OR 97759; Telephone (541) 549-7735; FAX (541) 549-7746; email: comments-pacificnorthwest-deschutes-sisters@fs.fed.us

You have until March 15th to submit your ideas for this round.

Then, the Forest Service will come up with alternative proposals that will also be made available for public input.

After final decisions are released, there will be a designated time for any appeals.