27 million board feet of timber to be logged in Bybee project

    The U.S. Forest Service has determined that some 27 million board feet of timber will be logged in the controversial Bybee project in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

    A record of decision for the project in the High Cascades Ranger District a dozen miles north of Prospect was announced Monday by forest supervisor Rob MacWhorter.

    He described it as a modified version of a proposed alternative released in January which had called for up to 45 million board feet of timber to be harvested from the 16,215-acre area.

    "We considered the public comments received, scheduled field trips to take a critical look at the project, and made some modifications that strike a balance between improving forest health and resiliency and providing an economically viable vegetation treatment," MacWhorter said in a prepared statement.

    A legal notice in the Mail Tribune will launch a 45-day administrative appeal period. To file an appeal, appellants must have made substantive comments earlier to the Forest Service regarding the project.

    When the environmental analysis for the project was released in January, more than 10,000 comments were received, the most for any forest project in recent years, officials said.

    Environmental activists were concerned about the potential for logging adjacent to Crater Lake National Park as well as the road construction and the removal of large trees. Many environmentalists support creating a 500,000-acre Crater Lake Wilderness to protect what they say are wilderness characteristics along a 75-mile corridor from Crescent Lake south to Highway 140 at Fish Lake.

    Opponents to the Bybee project as it originally was proposed included Oregon Wild, Environment Oregon, Umpqua Watersheds, the Crater Lake Institute and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center in Ashland.

    But the project has been supported by others, including the timber industry and the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.

    The project is intended to improve forest health overall, reduce the potential for a catastrophic wildfire, protect habitat for rare species such as the northern spotted owl and provide jobs in the region, according to MacWhorter. It also is intended to provide a sustainable supply of timber products while preserving legacy trees in the project area, he added.

    Modifications to Alternative 3 included deferring vegetation treatment on 246 acres, officials said. That will reduce the impact along the boundary with the national park and help retain spotted owl habitat, they added.

    The agency also has decided to thin some units before the harvest to reduce tree density, instead of using mechanical girdling or tree removal to treat mistletoe-infected trees. That method also will provide an opportunity to conduct soil restoration efforts, officials said.

    In addition, the modification includes eliminating 1.5 miles of temporary road construction.

    In addition to harvesting 27 million board feet of timber on about 2,000 acres, the decision calls for pre-harvest thinning on 487 acres, noncommercial thinning on 236 acres to improve wildlife habitat, natural fuels reduction on 467 acres, constructing 1.2 miles of new temporary road and decommissioning 5.4 miles of existing roads.

    Other work planned after the timber harvest includes soil restoration, planting, animal damage control activities, stand improvement and wildlife habitat enhancement, according to the document.

    The modified Bybee project would affect roughly 403 acres of the proposed Crater Lake Wilderness area, less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the total proposed wilderness area, officials said.

    Appeals can be mailed to Kent Connaughton, Regional Forester, Pacific Northwest Region-U.S. Forest Service, P.O. Box 3623, Portland, OR 97208-3623. They also may be sent via email to appeals-pacificnorthwest-regional-office@fs.fed.us. Appeals via fax can be sent to 541-618-2400.

    To check out Bybee project documents, including maps that show both the original Alternative 3 and the modified version, go to www.fs.usda.gov/rogue-siskiyou.

    Reach Mail Tribune reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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