The Medford District BLM recently approved the Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands (IVM) Project, which allows the agency to implement up to 20,000 acres of commercial logging and 90 miles of new road construction per decade without additional site-specific scientific analysis or meaningful public involvement opportunities. To make matters worse, this proposal focuses its commercial logging activities in areas outside the BLM’s “timber harvest land base” including Late Successional Reserve (LSR) forests designated to protect old forest habitat for the threatened northern spotted owl.
When authorizing the IVM Project, the BLM approved a theoretical “program of work” and has begun implementation of this project in the Applegate Valley by proposing the Late Mungers Vegetation Management Project, including both the Penn Butte and Late Mungers Timber Sales. Located in the mountains between Williams and Murphy, Oregon the agency has designed these timber sales and marked trees for removal without any public input or transparency, and has released a Draft Determination of NEPA Adequacy, tentatively approving the project before engaging the public.
These timber sales target some of the last intact forests in the Mungers Late Successional Reserve, an area intended to protect the connectivity of old forest habitat between the Applegate and Illinois River watersheds. Large, old trees up to 40” diameter have been authorized for removal in the Late Mungers and Penn Butte Timber Sale and significant canopy removal is also proposed. These activities will increase fire risks, damage our climate, degrade important old forest habitat, and impact scenic values in this unique and beautiful region.
Additionally, the forests proposed for logging are important to the surrounding communities and for outdoor recreation. In fact, large portions of the area were designated as the Mungers Butte Recreation Management Area in the 2016 RMP due to the area’s beautiful forests, scenic vistas and its proximity to nearby communities.
Unfortunately, none of these site-specific impacts have been adequately analyzed in the IVM Programmatic EA or the Draft Determination of NEPA Adequacy, and the public involvement process for the Late Mungers Project is severely lacking. We ask the Medford District BLM and Department of Interior to withdraw the IVM Programmatic EA and the Late Mungers Vegetation Management Project, neither project serves the public interest and neither will lead to positive, restorative outcomes.
Please comment on the Late Mungers Project. We only have until May 31 to make our voice heard. Below are talking points intended to help identify key issues to address during the comment period. Please comment now! Additional links and information on providing public comment are included at the end of this post.
Late Mungers & Penn Butte Timber Sale Talking Points:
The scope, scale and intensity of logging, road building and vegetation management activities proposed in the Late Mungers Vegetation Management Project will have significant environmental impacts. The analysis and disclosure of these impacts should require a full Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The BLM is inappropriately using a Determination of NEPA Adequacy (DNA) Worksheet to implement the Late Mungers Project. DNAs can only be utilized if site-specific analysis has already been conducted and documented in a prior NEPA document such as an EA or EIS. Because the IVM Programmatic EA did not analyze and disclose site-specific impacts for the Late Mungers Project, a DNA worksheet is not sufficient for complying with NEPA requirements. The Late Mungers Project requires the BLM to conduct a site-specific EA.
The Late Mungers Vegetation Management Project was not frontloaded with appropriate levels of public involvement before project objectives, treatment areas, and prescriptions were identified.
The range of alternatives considered in the Late Mungers Vegetation Management Project was inadequate and was not informed by public scoping comments as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Contrary to the rhetoric of the BLM, the Late Mungers & Penn Butte Timber Sales will not create restorative outcomes or increase forest resilience. Instead, the projects propose old forest logging, significant canopy reduction, the removal and downgrading or suitable northern spotted owl habitat, and the removal of large diameter trees up to 40” in diameter. These activities will degrade forest habitats, increase fire risks, reduce resilience, impact nearby communities, and impact recreational opportunities.
Neither the Draft Determination of NEPA Adequacy (DNA) nor the IVM Programmatic EA adequately considered the projects site-specific impacts or environmental conditions.
Neither the Draft Determination of NEPA Adequacy nor the IVM Programmatic EA appropriately analyzed or disclosed the site-specific impacts of project activity on the climate, watersheds, communities, and wildlife of the Late Mungers Planning Area.
Neither the Draft Determination of NEPA Adequacy nor the IVM Programmatic EA adequately analyzed or disclosed the site-specific impacts of proposed project activity on the Mungers Late Successional Reserve (LSR) or considered the consistency of this specific project with the old forest, carbon and connectivity values of the Mungers LSR.
Neither the Draft Determination of NEPA Adequacy nor the IVM Programmatic EA adequately analyzed or disclosed the site-specific impact of project activities on the northern spotted owl or its habitat.
Neither the Draft Determination of NEPA nor the IVM Programmatic EA analyzed or disclosed the site-specific impacts of proposed project activity on the surrounding communities or the Mungers Butte Extensive Recreation Management Area.
Implementation of the Late Mungers and Penn Butte Timber Sale will threaten the communities of Williams and Murphy in the Applegate Valley with increased fire risks associated with large tree removal, canopy reduction, and significant microclimate alterations from commercial logging “treatments” proposed in the Late Mungers Vegetation Management Project.
Please withdraw the IVM Programmatic EA and the Late Mungers Determination of NEPA Adequacy document. Neither serve the public interest or encourage appropriate levels of public involvement on public lands.
For more information on the Penn Butte Timber Sale including maps of the proposed units follow this link.
To provide public comment on the Penn Butte Timber Sale click here.
The Medford District BLM recently approved the Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands (IVM) Project, a large, landscape-scale industrial logging project dressed up in the language of so-called “forest restoration,” and designed to undermine the public involvement process.
The IVM Project would authorize the BLM to log up to 20,000 acres and build up to 90 miles of new road per decade without site specific environmental or scientific review, no public disclosure of impacts and dramatically reduced public involvement processes. To make matters worse, the project is designed specifically to log Late Successional Reserve (LSR) forests set aside to protect habitat for the imperlied northern spotted owl and other areas currently outside the agency’s “timber harvest land base.”
The BLM intends to begin implementation of the IVM Project this coming fall with the Penn Butte and Late Mungers Timber Sales, west of Williams, Oregon. The proposed Penn Butte Timber Sale is located in the old forests of the Mungers Late Successional Reserve, and the BLM is currently designing the project with absolutely no public transparency or accountability. In fact, despite the repeated requests of residents from Williams and the Applegate Valley, the BLM has refused to provide maps or information on the timber sale, while at the same time marking trees and timber sale unit boundaries adjacent to our homes and communities.
In an attempt to shed some light on the BLM’s secretive timber sale plans, ANN has been scouring the landscape for marked timber sale units above Williams. On a recent weekend we were out monitoring the timber sale mark in the Penn Butte Timber Sale on Mungers Butte, as well as in the Mungers Creek and Marble Gulch watersheds, both of which are tributaries of West Fork Williams Creek.
Despite the rhetoric of forest restoration and resilience, and the claims of benevolence in the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the IVM Project, the real intent of the project becomes very clear as the tree removal mark is reviewed in the field. Although the BLM claims that the IVM Project and the Penn Butte Timber Sale will be beneficial to the forests of southwestern Oregon, the tree removal mark demonstrates otherwise, and the project is, in fact, a derisive and shameful attempt by the BLM to circumvent important public involvement processes, manipulate science, mislead the public and log some of the last mature forests in our region under the guise of “restoration” and “resilience.”
The Impacts of the IVM Project & the Proposed Penn Butte Timber Sale
The Penn Butte Timber Sale was designed by the BLM to target relatively intact, mature and old forest stands with industrial logging prescriptions. Although the agency claims otherwise, the project will produce timber for the industry at the expense of public values, environmental concerns, and recreational values.
Under the provisions of the IVM Project, the BLM has identified trees up to 36″ in diameter and over 150 years old for removal . They are also proposing to reduce canopy cover down to as low as 30%-40%, removing extensive suitable northern spotted owl habitat designated for protection in the Mungers Late Successional Reserve. They also intend to implement damaging group selection logging prescriptions. These activities will downgrade or remove thousands of acres of northern spotted owl habitat, pushing the species further towards extinction.
According to the Decision Notice for the IVM Project, group selection cuts with either no tree or minimal tree retention can occur in up to 20% of a timber sale area, and would consist of a staggered patchwork of 2 acre clearcuts embedded within mature forest stands also subjected to heavy commercial thinning. BLM staff have describe this as the “swiss cheese” treatment, where whole groves of mature forests are logged off, creating gaping holes in the forest canopy.
Yet, even BLM’s own analysis of the effects of group selection logging admits that dramatically reducing forest canopy and embedding young regeneration within mature forest stands will increase fire risks. According to the BLM, group selection logging will create brush and slash fuel types that are “more volatile and susceptible to high rates of fire caused mortality. Stands could exhibit higher flame lengths, rates of spread, and fire intensity. Fires started within these stands could be difficult to initially attack and control,” and “the overall fire hazard would increase in these stands.”
These same mature forests proposed for logging in both the IVM Project and the Penn Butte Timber Sale store abundant carbon in the trees, snags, downed wood and forest soils. When logged these forests are quickly converted from carbon sinks to significant emission sources, releasing large volumes of stored carbon as they are converted from living trees, logged, and then made into wood products.
Mature forests store moisture, hold humidity on the landscape, and maintain cool, moist habitats in a warming climate. These habitats, in turn, provide climate refugia for plant and wildlife species requiring persistent forest habitat. Opening these stands with commercial logging, removing large trees and reducing forest canopy significantly alters microclimate conditions, increases temperatures and wind speeds, dries forest soils, increases drought stress, and encourages climate induced mortality.
After a weekend hiking the units of the Penn Butte Timber Sale, we can definitively say that implementation of the IVM Project and the Penn Butte Timber Sale would make these forests more inhospitable to species like the northern spotted owl and would undermine the purpose of LSR forest designations. The proposed logging would also release large amounts of carbon currently stored in mature trees, contributing to a more extreme, dangerous, and unpredictable climate. Finally, implementation of the IVM Project would dramatically increase fire risks for the neighboring communities, making wildfires more fast moving and severe.
The Penn Butte Timber Sale is a direct outcome of the BLM’s approval of the massive IVM Project and it is just the first timber sale proposed for implementation, but is a sign of what the BLM intends to do across the 800,000-acre IVM Planning Area. While the BLM’s rhetoric surrounding the IVM Project is meant to mislead and confuse the public, the combined impact of IVM implementation, in the Penn Butte Timber Sale and many other timber sales to come, is dramatic and clear. If implemented, local communities would be negatively impacted, forests would be degraded, carbon would be released, wildlife would suffer, recreational opportunities would be diminished or destroyed and the public’s ability to participate in local public land management planning would be dramatically curtailed.
For the climate, for the wildlife, for our watersheds, and for the people of our region and the world, the mature forests of southwestern Oregon are best left standing. The BLM must cancel the IVM Project and the Penn Butte Timber Sale, become part of the solution, safeguard our climate and protect our diverse, fire resistant, and carbon rich forest habitats!
Below is a description of units ANN has recently monitored in the Penn Butte Timber Sale above Williams, Oregon, as well as directions on how to get there, so you can access these units yourself to see the old trees BLM intends to log.
Marble Gulch & North Fork Mungers Creek Units
Unit 31-1 is a large timber sale unit sprawling across a wide variety of habitats. In general, the stand consists of mature and late successional mixed conifer forest of Douglas fir, incense cedar, ponderosa pine, sugar pine, live oak, tan oak and madrone. Portions of the unit are located on Mule Gulch, a tributary of Marble Gulch, while other portions of the unit are located just over the ridge in the North Fork Mungers Creek watershed.
Most of the stand maintains a closed canopy, and scattered clumps or groupings of dominant overstory trees are found across the unit. Beneath these dominant, old-growth trees, grows a younger cohort, creating a secondary or layered canopy which shades the forest floor, suppresses understory growth and reduces the development of dense understory fuel beds, while also supporting important northern spotted owl habitat.
The unit is leave tree marked, meaning only the trees marked with yellow paint would be retained, and any tree left unmarked in this stand would be targeted for removal in the Penn Butte Timber Sale. The unit includes areas proposed for heavy commercial thinning, while other portions would be subjected to group selection logging, a form of staggered clearcut forestry.
In unit 31-1 we measured Douglas fir trees up to 35″ in diameter and likely over 180 years old proposed for removal. We also found group selection cuts marked that propose the removal of whole groves of mature trees between 24″ and 35″ in diameter. Contrary to the claims in the IVM Project EA, the Penn Butte Timber Sale would heavily fragment and degrade the Mungers LSR, increase fire risks, and reduce forest complexity.
Unit 31-1 can be accessed by walking up the gated Marble Gulch Road (39-5-5) and heading left at the first intersection on road 39-5-31.4. Look for bright flagging, unit boundary signs and yellow painted trees. The unit is flagged on the boundary. Head up into the forest and zigzag back and forth through the unit to see the old trees BLM intends to log.
Unit 31-2 is located on Marble Gulch Road (BLM Road 39-5-5 and 39-5-31.3) below the Jones Marble Quarry. Long a landmark and hiking destination in the Williams area, residents frequently hike the closed road to the mine through the mature and late successional forests below. These beautiful old forests are the attraction for this hike and are well loved by local residents in the Applegate and Williams Valleys. Unfortunately, the BLM is targeting these spectacular forests for logging in the Penn Butte Timber Sale.
Much of unit 31-2 is located on south facing slopes, but maintains mature forest cover, consisting of Douglas fir, incense cedar, ponderosa pine and sugar pine. The stand also supports beautiful hardwoods, including madrone, live oak and tanoak trees. Relatively open spaced, the groves proposed for logging include many large, old trees and diverse forest habitats.
The unit has a leave tree or retention tree mark, meaning only those trees identified with yellow paint will be retained if logging occurs. During our visit we measured ponderosa pine trees up to 34″in diameter, Douglas fir trees up to 33″ in diameter and incense cedar over 24″ in diameter identified for removal.
Both unit 31-2 and most of unit 31-1 have been previously thinned in the Deer Willy Stewardship Project, which was touted as a “restoration” and fuel reduction project, but is now clearly being used as a “pre-commercial thin,” in which non-merchantable and marginally merchantable material was removed in preparation for the BLM’s timber-heavy Penn Butte Timber Sale. The 2010 Deer Willy Stewardship Project thinned the small trees, and now the BLM is going after the old trees in the same area.
Rather than working to restore forest habitats or minimize fire risks, the BLM is instead implementing the Penn Butte Timber Sale to produce logs for the timber industry at the expense of wildlife habitat, the health of our forests, and in a manner that maximizes rather than minimizes fire risks.
Unit 31-2 can be accessed by walking up the gated Marble Gulch Road (39-5-5) and heading right at the first intersection on road 39-5-31.3. Look for bright flagging, unit boundary signs and yellow painted trees to identify the proposed timber sale unit. A walk up road 39-5-31.3 to the Jones Marble Quarry offers hikers the ability to enjoy a relatively easy old forest hike near Williams, Oregon and the opportunity to view firsthand the logging proposed by BLM in the beautiful forests of Marble Gulch.
Unit 25-1 is located on a southeastern face high in the North Fork Mungers Creek watershed, just off Upper Powell Creek Road (BLM Road 38-5-15) and near the wide intersection with the gated BLM road 38-6-25.
The stand proposed for logging in unit 25-1 consists of largely closed canopy Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, sugar pine and madrone, with a significant mature, mid-successional forest component and scattered groupings of large, old trees.
As you can imagine, removing whole groves of large fire resistant trees is detrimental to the northern spotted owl and other species dependent on late successional forest habitat such as the Pacific fisher. In LSR forest designated specifically for the protection of late successional forest habitat, the large tree removal, group selection logging, and dramatic canopy reduction proposed in the IVM Project and the Penn Butte Timber Sale is both highly problematic and inconsistent with the goals and objectives of LSR designation.
Like other units we visited, unit 25-1 was previously thinned in the Deer Willy Stewardship Project, which focused on small diameter tree removal and largely non-merchantable, non-commercial fuel reduction treatments. According to the analysis for the Deer Willy Project, which was ultimately implemented by the Lomakatsi Restoration Project, the treatments were intended to restore habitat conditions and reduce fuel loading. To some extent these initial stewardship treatments may have met some of these objectives, yet the BLM is now proposing large tree removal, heavy industrial logging and significant canopy reduction in these same locations, using former “restoration” treatments as a “pre-commercial” thins in preparation for the Penn Butte Timber Sale and the removal of large, old, fire resistant trees.
Heavy commercial logging is counterproductive and inconsistent with the goals and objectives of the formerly implemented Deer Willy Stewardship Project. By logging large, old trees previously targeted for retention and “release,” previous stewardship efforts are being undermined and reversed.
Like the other units we have reviewed in the Penn Butte Timber Sale, unit 25-1 is leave tree or retention marked, meaning only trees marked with yellow paint would be retained if logging operations take place. If such logging was to occur in unit 25-1, many large, old trees would be removed and significant canopy fragmentation would occur, creating a loss of natural fire resistance and northern spotted owl habitat.
To access unit 25-1 drive Upper Powell Creek Road (Road 38-5-15) along beautiful Powell Creek, then switch back to the ridge. At the ridgeline, you will see a wide pullout at the intersection of gated roads 38-6-25 and 38-6-25.5. The area between Upper Powell Creek Road and road 38-6-25 is proposed for logging in the Penn Butte Timber Sale as unit 25-1.
Powell Creek Units
Unit 26-1 is located on an east-facing slope at over 4,000′ on the flank of Mungers Butte near the headwaters of Powell Creek. Being higher in elevation than other timber sale units we have recently surveyed, unit 26-1 contains a more montane forest habitat dominated by Douglas fir and grand or white fir, along with an understory of chinquapin and Cascade Oregon grape.
Like other units, the stand is leave tree or retention marked, but unlike other units, crews utilized red paint to identify trees for retention. Again, these stands were lightly thinned in the Deer Willy Stewardship Project, which removed largely small diameter trees, along with some young hardwood trees and shrub species. These previous management efforts maintained canopy conditions and did not trigger an extensive understory shrub response and fuel increase.
The logging treatments proposed in the Penn Butte Timber Sale would reenter these stands with a more industrial commercial logging prescription, reducing canopy cover, breaking up naturally complex tree groupings, removing much larger, more mature trees, and encouraging the regeneration of dense, young, and highly flammable vegetation where logging occurs.
Located in both the officially designated Mungers Late Successional Reserve and the Mungers Butte Extensive Recreation Management Area, the unit would impact the scenic, recreational, and late successional forest values these areas were designated to protect.
Unit 26-1 is accessible by driving Upper Powell Creek Road (road 38-5-15) past unit 25-1 to the end of the pavement. Shortly after the gravel road begins, you will see bright flagging, unit boundary markers and trees marked with red paint. The unit extends out along the road as it runs up the ridge and then parallel to the slope.
Help us stop the Penn Butte Timber Sale & the IVM Project!
After the bigleaf maple leaves fell in the canyons, bright red berries covered madrone trees, and oak woodlands turned the foothills a vibrant golden hue, winter cast its spell across the Applegate Siskiyous. Although relatively mild and dry this season, snow has accumulated in the high country, and at times, blanketed the region from the valley bottom to the highest peaks. Rains have poured from dark clouds obscuring the mountains, filling our rivers and streams with runoff. Winds have howled across the Siskiyou Mountains, blowing down trees and bringing the fire killed snags from the recent Abney, Burnt Peak and Creedence Fires crashing to the forest floor.
The low winter sun has also brightened the grassy balds, dormant oak trees and manzanita thickets, while casting dark, cold shadows across the canyon bottoms and north-facing slopes for months at a time. Each clear, starry night has left sparkling, white frost across the landscape, which accumulates in the shade and melts off each morning in more exposed locations.
With winter waning and spring just around the bend in the Applegate Valley, we ask you to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of winter by viewing this Winter Wild and Scenic Photo Essay, highlighting streams proposed for protection in the River Democracy Act, co-sponsored by Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley.
Initiated with an open, public nomination process, the River Democracy Act empowered local citizens to nominate worthy stream segments for Wild and Scenic River protections. In response, ANN got to work documenting and nominating streams across the Applegate River watershed for Wild and Scenic River designation.
From the sparse serpentine canyon of Slate Creek, with fragrant azaleas, charismatic cobra lily fens, and elegant, streamside Port Orford-cedar, to the arid oak woodlands of the Little Applegate River, and to the headwaters of the Applegate River in deep forested canyons below the Siskiyou Crest, the proposed Applegate Wild and Scenic River contains a wide variety of beautiful streams in need of protection.
This post highlights the beauty of the Applegate River and its many wild tributary streams. Please support the River Democracy Act and the designation of Applegate River tributary streams as new Wild and Scenic River segments.
Support Clean Water and Wild Rivers! Here’s how:
Write to Oregon Senators Wyden and Merkley, thanking them for introducing the River Democracy Act. In your letter express your support for the inclusion of Applegate River streams, full, mile-wide stream buffers for all protected streams, and a full mineral withdrawal (allowing no new mining claims) on all protected streams.
2. Submit Letters to the Editor in local newspapers supporting the River Democracy Act and the inclusion of Applegate River streams.
3. Hike a trail, raft a river, and get to know the wildlands in our region. Those who know and love the region are often its best advocates.
4. Encourage your friends, family and neighbors to support the River Democracy Act and fall in love with the Siskiyou Mountains!
In September of 2021, the Klamath National Forest (KNF) approved the Road 20 Project, which proposed to pave forest roads to the summit of Mt. Ashland and out to Grouse Gap Shelter, a rustic snow shelter built along the Pacific Crest Trail at the headwaters of Grouse Creek on the Siskiyou Crest. The KNF claimed the gravel Forest Service roads had historically been paved and approved the Road 20 Project with a Categorical Exclusion for “routine road maintenance and repair.”
However, this project was approved with absolutely no public notification, no public involvement, no public comment period and no public analysis of potential impacts or environmental concerns — it was also based on faulty information.
In response to the Road 20 Project, Applegate Neighborhood Network and our allies at Klamath Forest Alliance filed suit with local residents Luke Ruediger and former Ashland City Councilor, Eric Navickas as plaintiffs. Our lawsuit claimed, the roads south of Mt. Ashland had never been paved and could not be legally paved utilizing a Categorical Exclusion.
Following the filing of our lawsuit, the Klamath National Forest conducted additional research and analysis into the issue, and discovered what many of us all knew: Road 20 on the south side of Mt. Ashland had never been previously paved. Based on this information, the agency was forced to withdraw the project and halt all road paving activities.
As the highest summit on the Siskiyou Crest and in the Siskiyou Mountains, Mt. Ashland is a special place, but its unique character does not end there. The Mt. Ashland region is particularly diverse, even for the Siskiyou Mountains. It has also been designated by the Klamath National Forest as a Botanical Area to protect the area’s rare plant species, including the Mt. Ashland lupine (Lupinus aridus spp. ashlandensis), which is found only on Mt. Ashland and is one of the rarest plant species in the Pacific Northwest.
Additional rarities include the world’s largest population of Henderson’s horkelia (Horkelia hendersonii), a Siskiyou Crest endemic found in about 8 locations between Dry Lake Lookout and Mt. Ashland, and Jaynes Canyon buckwheat (Eriogonum diclinum), which is endemic to approximately 12 locations in the northern Klamath-Siskiyou region.
The last documented sighting of the endangered Franklin’s bumble bee in 2006 was on the southern slope of Mt. Ashland, adjacent to the proposed paving area in the Road 20 Project. The direct and indirect impacts of road paving would have degraded habitat conditions through road renovation work and the increased public use, the paving would have facilitated.
The Mt. Ashland area is already very accessible and recreational use of the area is very high, including non-motorized use of the roads proposed for paving in the Road 20 Project, which are popular for hiking, botanizing, butterfly watching, bird watching, mountain biking, jogging, dog walking and other uses. These uses would have essentially been eliminated on Road 20 if paving occurred and driving speeds were increased. The additional traffic, driving speeds and access would have also damaged the backcountry experience on the Pacific Crest Trail on the southern slope of Mt. Ashland and around the Grouse Gap Shelter.
We believe the withdrawal of the Road 20 Project is the best outcome for the Mt. Ashland area, the Mt. Ashland/Siskiyou Peak Botanical Area, rare plants that inhabit the region, the endangered Franklin’s bumble bee, and for the residents of southwestern Oregon and northwestern California who appreciate the area’s wild character, botanical diversity, scenic values and existing recreational experience.
We thank the Klamath National Forest for withdrawing the Road 20 Project and look forward to working with the agency to reallocate the road maintenance funds where they could be put to a much better use, with far less impact to the important recreational, botanical and biological values of the Siskiyou Crest region.
For more information, check out these great news stories on the Mt. Ashland road paving controversy.
To support our work on behalf of the biodiversity, wildlands, forests and connectivity of the Siskiyou Crest region, please consider a generous, tax deductible donation to ANN.We need your support to continue protecting the beauty and biological integrity of the Siskiyou Crest and the Applegate River watershed.
Applegate Neighborhood Network (ANN) works at the intersection of community and conservation in the Applegate Valley. We strive to build a stronger sense of place in the Applegate River watershed, through education, stewardship, and activism.
Our goal is to inspire a culture of advocacy in the Applegate Siskiyous and to empower both friends and residents of the region to become a voice for all things wild.
As an organization and as individuals, we take pride in both the unique diversity of our region and the strength of our community. We are inspired each day by the region’s rugged beauty and have made a commitment to protect the lands that surround us. We are also inspired by our friends and supporters who make this work possible and share our passion for this spectacular landscape.
The Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands (IVM) Project
For the past two years ANN has been opposing the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) massive Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands (IVM) Project. Although cloaked in misleading euphemisms and language, the project is not about “restoration” or land resiliency, and instead proposes widespread industrial logging across 800,000 acres of Medford District BLM lands in southwestern Oregon. This includes forests in the Aplegate Valley, the Illinois River watershed, the Rogue Valley, in the Rogue River watershed, the Cow Creek watershed near Glendale and in many other locations throughout the region.
In fact, if approved, the IVM Project would allow the BLM to log up to 20,000 acres and build up to 90 miles of new roads per decade without additional site specific scientific review, public comment, public involvement or the disclosure of environmental impacts. By reducing or eliminating many of the processes intended to infuse public interest into public land management planning, the BLM is attempting to circumvent its obligation to the public under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The intent of the project is simple: to increase timber production on BLM lands by cutting the public out of the process. Rather than allow the public to participate in the planning and approval process, under the provisions of the IVM Project, the BLM would approve timber sales before announcing them to the public, before providing meaningful information to the public about these timber sales, and without offering the public an opportunity to participate.
To make matters worse, the IVM Project specifically proposes this logging in Late Successional Reserve (LSR) forests set aside to protect old forest habitat for the Northern spotted owl and in other locations outside the current “timber harvest land base” identified in the BLM’s 2016 Resource Management Plan.
If approved, the IVM Project would allow the logging of trees up to 36″ DBH and over 150 years of age, the reduction of canopy cover to as low as 30%, and the implementation of “group selection” logging, a form of staggered clearcut logging that specifically targets mature forest habitats. These activities have been documented to increase fire risks, eliminate suitable Northern spotted owl habitat, and degrade scenic values that are important for the local recreation economy.
Please sign our petition to Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, asking her to withdraw the IVM Project, maintain the NEPA processes and encourage meaningful public involvement on public lands. The IVM Project intends to eliminate the public’s influence by reducing public input, accountability, transparency and removing regulatory hurdles that promote the protection of biological values, endangered species habitat, and fire resilient old forests. Throughout the last two years ANN has been organizing against this vast and damaging timber project — this opposition will continue and intensify in 2022.
Despite having no authorization to do so, the Medford District BLM, Grants Pass Resource Area, has already begun planning projects under the provisions of the IVM Project. This includes the Late Mungers and Penn Butte Timber Sales near Mungers Butte and in the mountains between Williams, Murphy, and Selma, Oregon.
These projects, located in proximity to rural communities in the Applegate and Illinois Valleys, would increase fire risks, damage habitat conditions, and impact carbon sequestration and storage, while degrading the scenic values for which these areas are known.
Located in a large Late Successional Reserve (LSR) forest and in an important connectivity corridor between the Red Buttes Wilderness, the Siskiyou Crest and the wildlands of the Kalmiopsis, the region contains high biological values, important old forests habitats, dense coastally influenced forests, and unique serpentine soils supporting intact plant communities, spectacular wildflower displays and open stands of sugar pine, western white pine, Jeffrey pine, incense-cedar and fir.
If the IVM Project is approved, both the Late Mungers and Penn Butte Timber Sales could be implemented without site specific scientific review, the disclosure of direct, indirect or cumulative impacts, adequate public involvement or meaningful public comment periods. The impacts would be devastating to the wildlands of the area and to the surrounding communities.
In 2021, we led public hikes into the area and conducted field monitoring to document the old forests targeted for logging. We also organized with local partners on the ‘Protect Mungers Wildlands’ campaign, and have been working to engage the affected communities to oppose the IVM Project and the associated timber sales. In 2022, ANN will continue focusing on our opposition to the IVM Project, the Late Mungers Timber Sale and the Penn Butte Timber Sale.
For more information on the IVM Project and Late Mungers Timber Sale visit our campaign website:
In late 2020, ANN and Klamath Forest Alliance worked to document the many important biological values of the Pipe Fork watershed, a tributary of East Fork Williams Creek. We then nominated the watershed for Wild and Scenic River protection in the River Democracy Act.
Located on the northern slope of Sugarloaf Peak in the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area, the area is the most intact drainage in the Williams Creek watershed. The spectacular Pipe Fork begins at Larkspur Spring, then pours down bedrock cascades and over log jams as it rushes through slopes of old-growth forest into the easternmost stand of Port Orford-cedar in Oregon.
Large portions of the watershed are located within the Pipe Fork Research Natural Area intended to protect this rare stand of Port Orford-cedar from logging, development and infection with the deadly Port Orford-cedar root rot (Phytophthora lateralis). Port Orford-cedar stands across its limited range have become infected by this non-native pathogen and are dying en mass in many watersheds. Yet, the Pipe Fork watershed remains intact, largely unlogged and uninfected by this devastating pathogen.
Unfortunately, while we work to secure Wild and Scenic River protections for federal lands in the watershed, the Josephine County Forestry Department is heading in the opposite direction and has proposed clearcut logging on a 320-acre parcel along the stream’s lowest reach. Our partners at the Williams Community Forest Project (WCFP) have been working to secure a conservation buyout of these threatened private lands and stop Josephine County’s shortsighted timber sale plan. ANN has played a supportive role in this effort and we encourage our supporters to get involved with WCFP and the campaign to save the Pipe Fork.
In 2022, ANN will continue supporting the proposed conservation buyout on lower Pipe Fork. We will also continue working towards the permanent protection of the adjacent federal lands as a Wild and Scenic River segment in the River Democracy Act.
For more information on the threats to Pipe Fork, read our blog:
The Rogue Gold Timber Sale is located in the mountains between Rogue River, Gold Hill and Jacksonville, on the ridgeline divide between the Applegate and Rogue River watersheds and has been proposed by the Medford District BLM. Located predominantly in Kane, Galls, and Foots Creeks, the project proposes to log the last old forest habitats remaining in these already heavily fragmented watersheds, and either remove, downgrade or degrade the last islands of suitable Northern spotted owl habitat in the area.
The removal of large, old trees up to 36″ DBH, the removal of significant forest canopy and the implementation of “group selection” logging will not only impact endangered species habitat, but it will also increase fire risks in the watershed’s last, fire-resilient, old forest habitats.
In 2021, ANN conducted extensive on-the-ground monitoring of timber sale units and submitted extensive public comments in the BLM’s Scoping process. We intend to continue tracking this project and advocating for the retention of old trees and old forests in the Rogue Gold Planning Area in 2022.
For the past five years, ANN has engaged in a collaborative process surrounding the Upper Applegate Watershed Restoration (UAW) Project, which was approved by the Forest Service (Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District) in July 2020. Throughout the planning process we worked to protect intact habitats, reduce impacts to the environment, and focus the project on the needs of the land and the community.
When the decision was released approving this project, we were happy with significant portions of the project and disappointed by others. We were disappointed by some of what was included, such as the highly controversial OHV trails on Beaver Creek that are inconsistent with the project’s stated “restoration” goals. We were also disappointed by some of what was not included, such as the pollinator and native plant restoration sites proposed by the community, and the Applegate River Ditch Trail, a proposed hiking trail that was also both envisioned and heavily supported by the community. Finally, we were hopeful that the agency would continue working with our community into the project implementation stage.
For the past year, our goal has been to improve the implementation of those portions of the project we do support, such as the extensive plantation thinning and fuel reduction treatments near communities in the Upper Applegate Valley. Yet, despite repeatedly promising to continue collaborating with our community, the Forest Service has been largely unresponsive since the project’s approval.
In late 2020 and early 2021, ANN organized a community implementation review team to monitor the fuel reduction and commercial logging units in the UAW Project. We visited the proposed thinning sites, led review team field trips and submitted a written document to the Forest Service outlining the portions of the project we support and the portions of the commercial logging mark that we believe could be improved. After almost a year, the Forest Service has yet to respond and the thinning projects are unfortunately moving forward without the promised community collaboration.
In 2022, we will continue our advocacy in the UAW Project area and continue striving for real community collaboration. We will also continue working to design, map and encourage the designation of the proposed Applegate River Ditch Trail. Our goal is to improve outcomes in the UAW Project for both the environment and residents of the Upper Applegate Valley.
Envisioning the Future of Conservation in the Applegate
Siskiyou Crest Coalition
In 2021 ANN worked with partner organizations and supportive individuals to start the Siskiyou Crest Coalition. The goal of the Siskiyou Crest Coalition is to promote and secure permanent habitat protections for the Siskiyou Crest and the surrounding mountains.
Our vision for the future of the Applegate includes broad protected landscapes, rewilding projects, the restoration of natural processes, the maintenance of our region’s world-class biodiversity, thriving rural communities connected to the landscape that surrounds them, and sustainable outdoor recreation. We are actively working with rural communities in southwestern Oregon to promote this vision for the future
In 2021, ANN and the Siskiyou Crest Coalition joined forces on a series of public hikes into the wildlands of the Siskiyou Crest, sponsored online webinars exploring the area’s complex ecology, and hosted the premiere film showing of Sagebrush to Sea: A Journey Across the Siskiyou Crest.
In 2022, we will continue our advocacy for the Siskiyou Crest through coordination with the Siskiyou Crest Coalition.
After working to nominate numerous new Wild and Scenic River segments in the Applegate River watershed, we are now collaborating with both the Siskiyou Crest Coalition and the Oregon Wild and Scenic River Coalition to amplify our voice and more effectively promote our proposals.
Currently, public lands throughout the Applegate River watershed are proposed for permanent protection as Wild and Scenic River segments in Senator Ron Wyden’s River Democracy Act. The legislation calls for the protection of portions of the Middle Fork Applegate River, Butte Fork Applegate River, Elliott Creek, Carberry Creek, tributaries of the Upper Applegate River, the Little Applegate River canyon, Pipe Fork, Long Gulch and Slate Creek.
ANN will be working in 2022 to secure passage of the River Democracy Act and gain permanent watershed protections for these iconic Applegate River tributary streams.
For more information on our proposal read our blog:
Although technically outside the Applegate River watershed, Mt. Ashland is the highest peak on the Siskiyou Crest and is threatened by a road paving project proposed by the Klamath National Forest. This project proposes paving Forest Service Road 20 from the Mt. Ashland Ski Area parking lot to Grouse Gap Shelter at the headwaters of Grouse Creek, and to the very summit of Mt. Ashland. We believe this project is not only completely unnecessary, but damaging to the environment, to numerous rare plant species, and to the current recreational uses in the area.
Paving these roads will create direct, indirect and cumulative impacts that were not adequately considered by the Klamath National Forest when they approved this project, with absolutely no public input or scientific analysis.
Our vision for the future of Mt. Ashland and the Siskiyou Crest does not include additional development, road paving, the encouragement of overuse, and/or the degradation of the unique natural values found on the highest peaks in the Siskiyou Mountains. We will continue working in 2022 to oppose this project and protect the many important biological and recreational values of the Mt. Ashland area.
In 2o21, ANN worked across the Applegate watershed advocating for conservation and community values. We opposed those projects that threatened our environment and our community, we led hikes to regional wildlands; we hosted educational presentations; we advocated for the permanent protection of regional rivers and streams, and began organizing to implement our vision for the future of the Applegate River watershed. We look forward to 2022, and working with you to protect, defend and restore the wildlands, wildlife and biodiversity of the Applegate Siskiyous!
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Although just outside the Applegate River watershed, at 7,532′ Mt. Ashland is the highest peak on the Siskiyou Crest, a botanical paradise, and one of the most beautiful and accessible landscapes in the region. Important as the gateway to the Siskiyou Crest, and located at its intersection with the Cascade Mountains in the nearby Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the area is also very important for its habitat connectivity and contains extremely high biological, botanical and scenic values. It is also a very popular recreation area, offering world-class hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, mountain biking and hiking in the adjacent Ashland Creek Watershed, hiking in the McDonald Peak Roadless Area, incredible botanizing, pollinator viewing, and camping at the two primitive campgrounds, including the Mt. Ashland Campground and Grouse Gap Shelter, a CCC-era snow shelter built in the Grouse Creek Basin.
The area is wild and spectacularly beautiful despite being easily accessible from the town of Ashland, Oregon. It is only a short distance from Interstate 5 on the Mt. Ashland Ski Road to the Mt. Ashland Ski Area. However, the mountain’s southern face remains accessible only by gravel roads that extend from the pavement’s end at the Mt. Ashland Ski Area. This gravel road access helps to retain the area’s incredible backcountry charm and reduce the impact of overuse on both the ecology of the mountain and the recreational experience it provides.
Unfortunately, the Klamath National Forest has proposed paving Forest Service Road 20 from the Mt Ashland Ski Area overflow parking lot, around the southern face of Mt. Ashland to the Grouse Gap Shelter, and up to the very summit of Mt. Ashland. This project, although completely unnecessary, comes at a high price to the region’s incredible botanical diversity, biological values, habitat connectivity, and recreational experience.
Currently Road 20 is particularly popular for dog walking, jogging, mountain biking and hiking directly on the gravel road surface, past the Mt. Ashland Ski Area overflowing parking lot. If paved, traffic and driving speeds would dramatically increase on Road 20, leading to a total loss of this currently popular recreational resource. Paving these roads will negatively impact Mt. Ashland’s two backcountry campgrounds. The traffic, increased driving speeds, noise, increased use and the loss of solitude in the area will also impact recreation on the Pacific Crest Trail and on adjacent trails in the Ashland Creek watershed, degrading one of southwestern Oregon’s most important recreational resources.
In addition, access to the area on the existing high standard gravel roads is already completely adequate. In fact, if anything the area is already perhaps too accessible and suffers from impacts associated with overuse. Rare native plants are routinely walked on, driven over and crushed along the road systems on Mt. Ashland. Paving will only increase this impact.
As described above, paving these roads will impact the currently very popular forms of recreation found in the area today; however, the impacts will also be quite severe to the region’s important biological values.
As the axis of connectivity between the Siskiyou Crest and the Cascade Mountains, the old-growth forests, subalpine parklands, wet meadows, rock gardens and aspen glades in the area are highly important as both wildlife habitat and for their intact and exceptionally diverse botanical values.
Designated as the Mt. Ashland-Siskiyou Peak Botanical Area, the region contains the world’s entire population of the Mt. Ashland lupine (Lupinus aridis ssp. ashlandensis), along with numerous other rare wildflowers and two rare conifer populations. These populations could easily be impacted directly by the proposed road paving project and will certainly sustain impacts associated with overuse in the future if the road is paved. These impacts have already begun to mount in the area, forcing Forest Service action by closing down unauthorized parking areas and user-created trails to reduce impacts on rare plant species.
Ecological impacts will multiply exponentially with the increased use facilitated by the proposed Forest Service Road 20 Paving Project. The additional traffic and recreational use will increase the destruction of vegetation associated with user-created trails and excessive trampling. Very little parking exists along this narrow road system, and parking on roadsides and unauthorized parking areas will undoubtedly increase with the proposed road paving, leading to further vegetation damage, soil compaction, accelerated surface erosion, and gully creation on fragile decomposed granite soils. These impacts are inconsistent with the mandates in the Fish & Wildlife Service’s Conservation Agreement for the Mt. Ashland lupine and other rare plant species found on the mountain and should not be authorized.
This includes impacts to numerous rare plant species that grow directly adjacent to the roadway. Species impacted could include the only population of Mt. Ashland lupine in the world, one of only 8 populations of the endemic Henderson’s horkelia (Horkelia hendersonii) which is found only on the Siskiyou Crest, and one of only 8 populations of Jayne’s Canyon buckwheat (Eriogonum diclinum) which is endemic to the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. Impacts to these species will be particularly severe along the Mt. Ashland Summit Road and on the summit itself, where many rare species grow, including these unique wildflowers, along with the only population of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) in the Siskiyou Mountains — the population consists of only a few vulnerable trees — and one of only two populations of subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) on the Siskiyou Crest.
In recent years, increased use has compounded the impact of recreation on Mt. Ashland, including impacts to the important plant species mentioned above. Likewise, just this past summer, staff on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest removed graffiti from large granite boulders near the summit of Mt. Ashland. Unsightly impacts such as graffiti will increase if the roads are paved and Mt. Ashland is made even more accessible.
To date, the Klamath National Forest has provided no real justification for the so-called Forest Service Road 20 Project and the agency has also worked to ensure the public has no voice in this process. The agency approved the project with no public notification (besides one, single facebook post), no environmental or scientific analysis, no public comment period, no disclosure of direct, indirect or cumulative impacts, and with no attempt at public transparency.
The authorization for this large road paving project on Mt. Ashland was authorized through a paltry, one-page Categorical Exclusion (CE). Read the Road 20 Road Paving Project CE here.
ANN opposes the Forest Service Road 20 Project and we invite you to join us in making our voice heard. Please help us stop the Forest Service Road 20 Project that proposes to pave roads on Mt. Ashland by both signing our petition and sending the District Ranger for the Happy Camp/Oak Knoll Ranger District, and the Forest Supervisor for the Klamath National Forest an email expressing your concerns.
Since the agency did not ask for our input, we must take the initiative ourselves and advocate for Mt. Ashland, the Siskiyou Crest and the area’s many important biological values. We have one very simple message: No new pavement on Mt. Ashland!
In January 2019, the BLM proposed the Anderson Butte Safety Project to address serious public safety concerns with inappropriate, irresponsible, and unsafe target shooting near Anderson Butte in the Little Applegate River Watershed.
For many years, the BLM has allowed unmanaged and irresponsible target shooting to expand across the face of Anderson Butte and throughout Medford District BLM lands. This activity has threatened lives, contaminated forest soils with lead bullets, encouraged illegal dumping on unauthorized shooting sites, and pushed other public land users off the landscape, literally out of fear for their own lives.
Also for many years, local community members and public land visitors have complained to the Medford District BLM about the obvious safety risks posed by people shooting down public roads, across public hiking trails and off big open spaces elevated directly above rural communities. In January 2016, a neighbor on Griffin Lane had a bullet fired from BLM land above her home and lodge into her front door. Other neighbors have also been threatened by stray bullets shot from BLM land towards their private residential properties. Likewise, many hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers utilizing the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail (an Oregon State Scenic Trail), the Jack-Ash Trail, and the Wolf Gap Trail have also been threatened by stray bullets while enjoying their public lands.
Public land managers across the country have begun limiting target shooting to safe and ecologically appropriate sites that do not threaten the safety of other public land users, yet our local BLM has allowed public safety concerns to escalate, and recreational shooting now overwhelms and displaces other users in the Anderson Butte area and throughout other portions of the Medford District. We do not believe going for a hike on public lands should be a life threatening experience, nor do we believe that nearby landowners should have to be regularly threatened by stray bullets on their own land.
Currently, the Medford District BLM’s so-called multiple use policy has been replaced and subverted, in many locations, by a “dominant use” policy, where the most intrusive, intimidating, damaging and dominant forms of recreational use are the most prominent, but not the most popular uses of public land.
At times, to truly provide for multiple uses and to accommodate a wide variety of public land users, the BLM must curtail incompatible uses to maintain both public safety and ensure enjoyable, high quality recreational opportunities are available to all public land users. Currently, the Anderson Butte area is suffering from agency neglect, indifference and bias that creates a de facto “dominant use” policy.
Although numerous trailheads in the region were “closed to target shooting” in the BLM’s 2016 Resource Management Plan, these closures have gone completely unenforced, and the problem only intensified following the development of the Jack-Ash Trail in 2017.
The Jack-Ash Trail was heavily supported by the surrounding communities and required significant collaborative efforts between the Siskiyou Upland Trails Association, the public and the BLM. The project was approved by the BLM and funded through private donations, grants, extensive volunteer efforts and agency support. Yet, rather than provide a safe recreational experience for the public, the BLM has allowed the situation to become extremely dangerous.
Unfortunately, many hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers have experienced the trauma of approaching a trailhead with excessive automatic gunfire occurring. They have felt unsafe and vulnerable to bullets raining down on designated recreational trails. The impact to trail users has created a situation where people decide to either risk their lives enjoying the Jack-Ash Trail, or avoid the area altogether. After the considerable collaborative and volunteer efforts to build this beautiful non-motorized trail, public members are frustrated and upset that basic public safety has not been maintained by our local land managers.
The situation is particularly problematic not only because of the level of recreational use and the number of residential properties surrounding the area, but also because of the open nature of the environment on Anderson Butte. Much of the area supports south- and west-facing slopes with broad sloping grasslands and large stands of chaparral. These areas do not provide an adequate backstop and bullets can fly unobstructed across long distances towards homes, communities and public recreational trails. The situation is extremely dangerous, and at some point someone could be killed or injured by stray bullets. We ask the BLM to act before that happens and close the area to recreational shooting.
Multiple fires have also been started in the Anderson Butte area since 2002 from irresponsible target shooting, further threatening the communities below. These human caused ignitions are preventable and can be reduced by prohibiting target shooting in the Anderson Butte area.
Finally, after decades of pressure by residents and other recreational users, the BLM proposed the Anderson Butte Safety Project. This project proposes the closure of 11 specific sites to recreational target shooting, totaling 50 acres on BLM lands near Anderson Butte. The closures are currently proposed for only two years and, unfortunately, the BLM is addressing this long-term public safety problem, with a temporary, short-term “solution.”
Way back in January of 2019, the BLM accepted public comments on the Anderson Butte Safety Project and the associated Environmental Assessment (EA). ANN and many others submitted substantive comments on the project and had hoped to see the closures move forward, but the project has been stymied since that time and no progress has been made. Now two years later, after as many years as the closure is proposed to last, the BLM has initiated an additional 60-day comment period before releasing a final decision and working to maintain public safety in this beautiful area.
Unfortunately, the 2019 John Dingle Jr. Conservation and Recreation Act, which contained many good provisions and new wilderness areas, also requires an additional 60-day comment period before the BLM can release a final decision and close small portions of the area to target shooting. That comment period extends to January 3, 2022. We hope you will again speak up for the safety of residents, trail users and other public land users on Anderson Butte.
Join us by commenting on this project and asking the BLM to:
Institute a permanent recreational shooting closure to restore public safety throughout BLM lands near Anderson Butte, including the area between Talent and Phoenix, Oregon, the Little Applegate River, Wagner Creek Road and Sterling Creek Road. The proposed two year closure on 11 specific sites is not adequate to protect and maintain the safety of other public land users and nearby private property owners.
Implement and fund aggressive monitoring, signage and enforcement of this closure to ensure compliance and maintain public safety.
Conduct a separate, comprehensive, district-wide NEPA project analyzing recreational shooting on Medford District BLM lands. This process should close most BLM land to target shooting, while designating a limited number of safe public shooting sites on BLM lands. These sites should be specifically chosen because they do not threaten nearby homeowners, do not conflict with other recreational uses such as hiking and driving on backcountry roads, do not create excessive environmental impacts, and will not contaminate soils in riparian areas with lead shot.
To be very clear, ANN does not oppose the Second Amendment and we understand the right of individuals to bear arms. We take no position on public land hunting and acknowledge ethical, backcountry hunting as a valid public land use. Yet, we do take a position on irresponsible, dispersed public land shooting. We are extremely concerned by the impacts associated with irresponsible shooting on our communities, to public safety and to our environment.
Click here for more information on the Anderson Butte Safety Project
Submit comments to: Tye Morgan, Ashland Planning and Environmental Specialist, by mailing the BLM,
You may also submit comments via BLM’s ePlanning register on the project’s website by selecting the “Participate Now” tab, or in the Documents section of the webpage. The comment period ends on January 3, 2022.
Four years later, Applegate Neighborhood Network is taking a look back at the Miller Complex Fire through our photo monitoring project. Many of the photos in this post allow one to compare the fire effects utilizing photos taken during fire activity, or soon after the fire had burned, with contemporary photos taken this summer in the same or approximate locations. These photos offer insights into how the fire has regenerated over time and demonstrate how fire activity translates to fire severity.
Four years ago today, lightning crashed and thunder echoed down the canyons of the Applegate River sparking twenty-seven small fires across the entire Applegate River watershed. After a few days, only five smoldering fires remained burning in remote reaches of the watershed. These included the Abney and Cook Fire above Cook and Green Creek and the Seattle Fire above the Middle Fork Applegate River. These fires later merged becoming the roughly 30,000-acre Abney Fire, the largest fire in the 2017 Miller Complex.
That same evening lightning sparked the Creedence Fire near Grayback Mountain at the headwaters of Carberry Creek, and the Burnt Peak Fire on the forested ridgeline dividing Palmer and Kinney Creek above the Upper Applegate Valley. Together these two fires burned over 6,000 additional acres, bringing the total acres burned in the Miller Complex to 36,400.
In the summer of 2017, residents of the Applegate endured dense smoke and active fire until rain and snow fell in mid-October, dousing the stubborn, unending backcountry fire. As fire activity increases across the West there are debates about the most appropriate strategies to adapt and evolve with a changing climate and with changing fire behavior. We are bombarded with fire information from across the West. The big destructive fires that burn communities are heavily covered in the media, but hundreds of other fires are burning throughout the West with far less media interest. Smaller fires in remote locations with beneficial fire effects rarely make the news, and the Miller Complex is a prime example of that. Only four years later the Miller Complex Fire is largely forgotten by the public, but remains a prominent footprint in our local landscape.
By taking a look back at the Applegate’s most recent major wildfire, there are lessons to be learned by our community and about the ecosystems that surround us. Residents on Palmer Creek Road and at Joe Bar had active fire on or near their properties and homes in the summer of 2017, but no homes or structures were lost. We should try to learn from the experience of these communities. These comparative photos provide a window into the world these communities lived with as they watched the fires burn, and have subsequently watched the areas regenerate in the post-fire landscape.
In all, the Miller Complex burned in a wide variety of plant communities and habitat types at 66% low, 27% moderate, and 7% low severity. The fire burned in remote locations inside our biggest, wildest wildland habitats in the Kangaroo and Condrey Mountain Inventoried Roadless Areas. In these areas it burned at mixed severity through subalpine forests and into deep mountains canyons filled with old-growth forest on the northern slope of the Siskiyou Crest.
The Burnt Peak Fire also burned in largely inaccessible backcountry in the Collings-Kinney Inventoried Roadless Area, however, it burned through arid oak woodland, sunbaked chaparral, dry grasslands and low elevation forest, more indicative of our low elevation habitats. The Burnt Peak Fire backed down from the wildlands to the doorstep of the Upper Applegate Valley near Palmer Creek Road and was visible by many residents that live on or near Upper Applegate Road.
Check out the photo comparisons and keep the dialog going around how we can best live with wildfire in the Applegate while also protecting lives and property. Fire is an important part of our ecosystem and is an inevitable force of nature, but how we choose to live with and adapt to it now will shape our community for decades to come.
Comparison Photos During the Fire & After the Fire Four Years Later
Burnt Peak Fire
After Wildfires Come Wildflowers
After wildfires come wildflowers that are a boon for pollinators. The Miller Complex Fire area came to life with massive super blooms two and three years after the fires. These masses of flowers are stimulated to germinate due to the heat of the fire itself, as many species need heat to break down their seed coat and allow for seed germination. Other species germinate in response to chemical cues from smoke and ash that lets them know conditions are right to grow due to an increase in sunlight and abundant nutrients from ash that feed rapid plant growth. Four years on the super blooms have started to wane as shrubs have filled in burn areas in many locations. Many of the early seral shrubs that find their niche in burn areas, such as deer brush (Ceanothus integerrimus), are also beneficial for rejuvenation of the fire area because they can fix nitrogen from the air into the soil and help build soil in fire affected areas. The Siskiyou Mountains world-class botanical diversity is increased through wildfire, which many refer to as pyrodiversity.
Abney Fire Super Blooms
This short video highlighted the wildflowers in the Abney Fire three years after the fire.
Burnt Peak Fire Super Blooms
A Complex Mixed Severity Fire Mosaic
The Miller Complex Fire created various fire effects that overall could be classified as a mixed severity fire mosaic, with low, moderate and high severity fire effects present in different areas throughout the fire.
The Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains are renowned for their biodiversity. A whopping 35 species of conifer grow throughout the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains, and 22 species of conifers can be found right here in the Applegate River watershed alone. Yet of all the conifer species in our region, Baker cypress (Hesperocyparis bakeri) is the most obscure, unknown, underappreciated and mysterious.
Worldwide, Baker cypress is found in only eleven widely dispersed and relatively small populations located in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, the southern Cascade Mountains and the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains of southwestern Oregon and northwestern California. Of these populations, six grow on serpentine or granitic soils in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains and five grow on volcanic soils in the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade Mountains. These populations range from an estimated 7,000 acres at Timbered Crater on the Lassen National Forest, to less than 3 acres on Flounce Rock above the Rogue River (Merriam.2010).
Baker cypress is a Pleistocene relic from a more moist climatic period when it was broadly distributed across a more contiguous range. Now restricted to highly infertile soils and particularly marginal sites, the species has evolved through speciation and long periods of time to fill a very narrow habitat niche. It is now the northernmost naturally occurring cypress tree in the world (Kaufmann. 2012). Overtime, its range has contracted, leaving only isolated populations scattered across the region in small pockets of habitat, with a very specific fire regime.
Across its limited range, Baker cypress seems to have three general habitat requirements, including poor, low nutrient soils, limited competition, and a history of periodic, high severity fire.
Baker cypress is a sun-loving tree that simply does not compete well with other, more vigorous conifer species. It appears that its adaptation to poor soils and high severity fire are related to its need for limited competition from other conifers or even hardwood trees.
The harsh growing conditions that Baker cypress exploits often include poor, shallow, low nutrient soils. These soil conditions allow Baker cypress to colonize isolated openings, rock outcrops and relatively open habitats nestled within the larger matrix of mixed conifer forest. In most locations Baker cypress favors open, rocky sites, where conifer competition is geologically limited.
It also occupies a distinctive niche on the landscape where poor growing conditions overlap with a history of periodic high severity fire effects. Baker cypress is not just fire adapted, but is entirely dependent on periodic high severity or stand replacing fire. Without fire, and in fact, without periodic, high severity fire, Baker cypress cannot reproduce or persist on the landscape.
Baker cypress often grows in even-aged stands, suggesting that previous stand replacing fires are responsible for maintaining the scattered populations of Baker cypress currently found in our region (Ne’eman etal. 1999.). The effects associated with high severity fire appear important for Baker cypress regeneration (Vogl etal. 1977), with more severe soil heating, crown scorch and char height encouraging higher seedling densities (Merriam. 2010). Furthermore, high severity fire can consume the dormant seed load of other conifer species during high severity fire events. Sterilization of the soil can limit the regeneration of competing conifer species in both the short and long term, allowing the establishment of persistent Baker cypress populations (Keeley and Zedler. 1988).
The presence of high severity fire is not enough to maintain or increase Baker cypress populations on the landscape or stand level. Instead, fires must also be relatively infrequent. In fact, repeat high frequency fire in Baker cypress habitat can lead to population declines and immaturity risk.
Baker cypress has serotinous, resin-sealed cones that require fire to open and disperse the mature seed. Until the heat from a hot fire opens those cones and disperses Baker cypress seed, the entire stand’s seed load is stored in the canopy of existing trees. (Merriam. 2010). Once dispersed en mass following a wildfire, the viability of Baker cypress seed is relatively short lived. This means that they must germinate vigorous populations in the freshly burned soils or risk significant population declines or localized extirpation (Vogl etal. 1977, Merriam. 2010).
Evidence also suggests that young Baker cypress trees require 16 years to produce their first crop of mature seed (Armstrong. 1966). Thus, if successive high severity fires burn more frequently than 16 years in an existing Baker cypress stand, seed production may not be sufficient to maintain population viability. Researchers estimate that a minimum fire return interval of 30-50 years is necessary to build the seed load, grow sufficient seed cones and support stand recruitment (Merriem. 2010).
Baker cypress represents all that is still wild and unknown in the Siskiyou Mountains. It hides in isolated canyons and on specific mountaintops throughout the region, waiting for a high severity fire to rip through its habitat and trigger renewal. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Baker cypress is a symbol of strength, hope and resilience.
Like the mythical Bigfoot, many have heard of its existence, some have hunted it in its habitat, but few can claim to have had the pleasure of finding a grove of Baker cypress. Few have smelled the foliage of Baker cypress wafting through the breeze on a hot summer day, few have watched the first morning light illuminate its canopy, and few have swam in clear mountain streams surrounded by thickets of cypress trees. Here in the Siskiyou Mountains we can, and we encourage you to do so.
Oliver Matthews Research Natural Area
In the Applegate River watershed Baker cypress can be found in only one widely scattered population in upper Carberry Creek. Located in numerous small groves across Steve Peak Ridge, the population extends up the Sturgis Fork watershed from a saddle west of Iron Mountain to Steve Peak. Other populations can be found near Miller Lake and below Little Craggy Peak.
In total, it is estimated that the Sturgis Fork population covers less than 50 acres (Merriam. 2010) and is located entirely within the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area. In some places, individual trees can be found growing in isolation and in other locations, small groves of Baker cypress can be found.
The largest grove is located east of Miller Lake in “Cypress Basin.” This stand is centered around a prominent rock outcrop at the headwaters of Miller Creek. Here, thickets of Baker cypress grow among patches of Brewer’s spruce, incense-cedar and true fir. Most of the Baker cypress grows from shallow soil in the little gullies that cut into this broad rocky outcrop.
Below the rock outcrop Baker cypress also grow among stands of relatively moist mixed conifer forest consisting of white fir, red fir and incense cedar. Large tree-form Baker cypress grow into impressive specimens in these stands, including the second largest Baker cypress in the world — a massive, open grown tree over 46″ in diameter.
The Cypress Basin stand was first “discovered” by the first Forest Service Ranger in the Applegate Watershed, Bill Fruit. Later, in the 1930s, Oliver Matthews, a self described “botanical tramp” and noted dendrologist began exploring the Miller Lake area and advocating for its protection. In particular, he was intrigued by the Baker cypress and the surrounding old-growth forests. This exceptional grove of Baker cypress is now protected in his honor, along with Miller Lake in the Oliver Matthews Research Natural Area.
Seiad Baker Cypress Botanical Area
Seiad Creek is a tributary of the Klamath River draining the rugged redrock canyons south of Red Butte and the Siskiyou Crest in the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area. The area is just over the ridge from the Applegate watershed and can be accessed via Cook and Green Pass Road (Forest Service Road 1055) in the Upper Applegate. At 800 acres, the Seiad Baker Cypress Botanical Area contains the largest populations of Baker cypress in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains, and the third largest population in the world (Merriam. 2010).
The Seiad Creek population contains numerous even-aged stands regenerated from multiple regional wildfires, including the 1951 Devil Fire, 1987 Fort Complex Fire, 2013 Fort Goff Fire, and the 2017 Abney Fire. Each fire burned through portions of the population creating a mosaic of burned and unburned habitat. This mosaic of periodic high severity fire has established large, dense populations of Baker cypress and increased the abundance of Baker cypress on the landscape.
In fact, in the 1930s, when Oliver Matthews visited this stand he described a “few hundred” trees growing in the Seiad Creek canyon. Today, literally hundreds of thousands of trees can be found on the site and the population has dramatically expanded in response to the four major fires that have burned through this stand in recent years.
After these historic burns and the subsequent regrowth, the Seiad Creek population is thriving like few others. Baker cypress thickets dominate large portions of the West Fork Seiad Creek canyon, and dense populations of skinny little cypress trees have colonized both the 1951 Devil Fire and 1987 Fort Complex fire areas. Thousands and thousands of little seedlings have also sprung up following the 2013 and 2017 fires, creating new stands of vigorous young trees.
In recent years the mixed severity fire regime on Seiad Creek has sustained the health and vigor of Baker cypress habitat in the area. It has regenerated numerous even-aged cohorts and maintained the pattern of burning necessary for the species to thrive. Fire has also renewed three nearby populations on the Klamath River in or adjacent to the Marble Mountains Wilderness Area, at Timbered Crater on the Lassen National Forest, and in the two populations located in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Mud Lake and on Wheeler Peak.
The cumulative effect of these wildfires has been highly restorative for existing Baker cypress populations, regenerating new stands, and creating new habitats.
Armstrong, W. P. (1966). Ecological and taxonomic relationships of Cupressus in southern California. Los Angeles, California, California State College: 129 p.
Kauffman, Michael E. “Conifer Country: A Natural History and hiking guide to 35 conifers of the Klamath Mountain Region” Backcountry Press. 2012.
Keeley, J. and P. H. Zedler (1988). Evolution of life histories in Pinus. Ecology and biogeography of Pinus. D. M. Richardson. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press: 219-249.
Ne’eman, G., C. Fotheringham, et al. (1999). “Patch to landscape patterns in post fire recruitment of a serotinous conifer.” Plant Ecology 145: 235-242.
Merriam, Kyle. and Rentz, Erin. (2010)”Restoring fire to endemic cypress populations in northern California” Joint Fire Science Program project ID number: 06-2-1-17
Vogl, R., K. Armstrong, et al. (1977). The closed-cone pines and cypresses. Terrestrial vegetation of California. M. G. Barbour and J. Major. New York, New York, USA, Wiley- Interscience.
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