Donation are being accepted via our online donation page and will also be accepted at the door. We sincerely hope to see you there! Come out and enjoy an afternoon with neighbors, friends and ANN supporters. Donate to ANN, have a good time, and help keep the Applegate wild!
To attend either pay at the door or make a donation of $25 or more to ANN. If you donate online, please also leave us an email address so we can confirm your donation.
(This article was originally printed in the Spring 2021 edition of the Applegater Community Newsmagazine)
Happy Earth Day!
For those of us who care for our environment, love the land, and work for wildlife, water, or wildlands, the last four years have been dark and uncertain times. From the national monuments stripped of protection and regulations gutted for the benefit of industry, to the xenophobic, environmentally destructive border wall, widespread anti-science policy and climate denial, we have had little, to nothing to applaud about the Trump Administration and its frenzy of shortsighted, profit-driven resource extraction.
Now with a new administration calling the shots, and in a flurry of Executive Orders, the Biden Administration has begun dismantling the destructive legacy of Trump era anti-environment policies. These Executive Orders have set forth a new policy agenda focused on environmental justice, climate change, and land and water protection. They commit federal land managers and regulatory agencies to science-based management, climate smart policy, and the protection of 30% of the American oceans and land base by 2030.
The lofty goals and words of these executive orders sound hopeful, but will only become meaningful when they are fully enacted and backed up with permanent wildland protections, long needed endangered species protections, and transformative changes to our economy, our food production system, our transportation system and our way of life. These changes will require innovative thinking and consistent political pressure. No matter how lofty and progressive their words might be, our elected officials must be encouraged by citizens like you and me to turn those words into meaningful action.
All too often people view the climate and extinction crisis as something affecting far off lands, with solutions in the carbon rich forests of the Amazon in South America and the Tongass National Forest in Alaska; however, both the impacts and the solutions can also be found right here in the Applegate watershed. We have seen the impact of highly variable and erratic weather patterns, warming temperatures, reduced snow loads, extended droughts, and low stream flows. What we don’t often appreciate is how the public lands of the Applegate watershed can also be part of the solution.
The Siskiyou Mountains are known for their world-class biodiversity, incredible habitat connectivity, towering ancient forests, and wild, clear-flowing streams. Protecting the Siskiyou Mountains is an important part of fighting climate change on the local level, but with global implications. The forests of the Siskiyou Mountains and in particular the ancient, fire-adapted, old-growth forests, sequester significant amounts of carbon. In fact, recent research shows that forests and other vegetation can absorb up to 40% of the emissions generated in the lower 48 states. Ironically, the timber industry is instead the largest single source of emissions in Oregon, but if managed properly for carbon sequestration and biodiversity, rather than industrial timber production, our forests could be a significant part of the climate solution.
Protecting the Siskiyou Crest and the surrounding wildlands in the Applegate watershed as part of Biden’s initiative to protect 30% of America’s ecosystem by 2030 would not just protect these carbon rich forests, it would also protect some of the most botanically diverse wildland habitats in the West. The Siskiyou Crest contains widely varying plant communities, endemic plant species found nowhere else in the world, and strongholds for endangered wildlife like the Northern spotted owl and Pacific fisher.
A broad, protected area straddling the Siskiyou Crest, expanding the Red Buttes Wilderness Area, designating new wilderness areas and encompassing the many wildlands of the Applegate would protect the region’s important biodiversity, maintain connectivity in a changing climate, facilitate species dispersal, promote carbon storage in old forest habitats, and protect important regional climate refugia.
Local Applegate residents are also strongly supportive of new Wild and Scenic River designation in our watershed. Recently Senators Wyden and Merkley introduced the River Democracy Act proposing 4,700 miles of new Wild and Scenic River in the state of Oregon and over 150 miles in the Applegate River watershed. This includes numerous important tributary streams to the Applegate River, vital cold water refugia, carbon rich forests, and significant wildland habitats. We hope to see this legislation passed and enacted into law, protecting the wild rivers and streams we depend on in a warming climate.
If we are to weather the coming storms, high dry winds, atmospheric rivers and the extended droughts of climate change, while maintaining the planet’s spectacular biodiversity and sustaining a livable future, we must alter many aspects of our daily lives and economy. We must also preserve what remains of our wild, old forests and woodlands, our rivers and high mountain peaks. Finally, we must build movements that ensure the lofty words of the Biden Administration translate into real action on climate change and biodiversity.
Beginning at beautiful Larkspur Spring high in the spectacular Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area, and running through the Pipe Fork Research Natural Area (RNA), the Pipe Fork is one of the last truly wild streams in the Williams Creek Watershed. The Pipe Fork tumbles down the northeastern flank of Grayback Mountain through spectacularly lush old-growth forests supporting the easternmost stands of Port Orford-cedar in Oregon. The Pipe Fork flows cold and clear out of the wildlands and into the East Fork Williams Creek where it contributes important cold water refugia for threatened coho salmon.
The old-growth forests along the Pipe Fork contain spectacular groves of Port Orford-cedar, incense cedar, Douglas fir, sugar pine, live oak, madrone, chinquapin and tanoak. These forests also provide important connectivity habitat between the high country of the Siskiyou Crest near Grayback Mountain and the foothills of the Applegate Valley around Williams, Oregon.
ANN recently nominated the Pipe Fork for protection as a Wild and Scenic River, and just this month, Senators Wyden and Merkley introduced the River Democracy Act, which proposes Wild and Scenic River designation for streams across the state and across the Applegate River watershed, including the federally owned portions of Pipe Fork.
Yet, while support for the permanent protection of the Pipe Fork has been growing, a 320 acre parcel of “timberland,” owned by Josephine County and directly adjacent to the roadless wildlands and the Pipe Fork RNA, has been proposed for clearcut logging. The Josephine County Forestry Department has proposed to clearcut 114 acres of mature conifer forest, and under the Oregon Forest Practices Act, would likely not only log off this important forested habitat, but would also likely “treat” stump sprouting hardwoods like madrone, live oak, tanoak and chinquapin with herbicides after the logging is completed.
Clearcut logging, road reconstruction, landing construction and yarding activities will increase surface erosion rates in the watershed’s highly erosive decomposed granite soils. This will increase sedimentation rates, fill in small pools, create turbidity, compromise coho salmon and steelhead spawning gravels with siltation, and increase stream temperatures in the East Fork Williams Creek’s most important cold water tributary. The removal of forest cover will also impact the area’s important habitat connectivity and reduce habitat for forest dwelling species like the Northern spotted owl and Pacific fisher.
Thankfully the Williams Community Forest Project (WCFP) has been working to acquire the 320 acre Josephine County parcel for conservation purposes. WCFP is attempting to attract conservation buyers that can acquire and hold the parcel until federal funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund can be used to incorporate the property into federal ownership and add the acreage to the existing RNA. At first Josephine County appeared interested in selling the parcel rather than logging off its forests; however, recently the county commissioners proposed selling the property at public auction to the timber industry. Again folks at the WCFP sprang into action and have secured a temporary reprieve.
Currently, WCFP is working to secure funding or backing from large land trusts to acquire the property, but they also need to convince Josephine County to act on behalf of its citizens, not the timber industry. Please support their efforts by signing their petition and sending comments to the Josephine County Commissioners. Also please watch the new film sponsored by WCFP, “Pristine Waters.” This seven minute film will give you a glimpse of Pipe Fork’s beauty and will explain why it must be protected. ANN strongly supports the work of WCFP and the protection of Pipe Fork.
Today, Oregon Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the River Democracy Act of 2020 which will designated new Wild & Scenic River segments across the state of Oregon. The legislation is a direct result of a public nomination process initiated by Senators Wyden and Merkley to identify potential Wild & Scenic Rivers across the state. Oregon residents responded with enthusiasm, submitting over 15,000 nominations for thousands of miles of wild rivers and streams.
Currently only 2% (2,137 miles) of the state’s 110,000 miles of streams benefit from Wild & Scenic River protections and not a single stream mile in the Applegate River watershed has received Wild & Scenic River status. Yet, during the public nomination process Applegate Neighborhood Network (ANN) and our partners at Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) identified 200 miles of stream eligible for Wild & Scenic River protections in the Applegate River Watershed.
Our proposal includes 3 separate river segments spread throughout the Applegate River Watershed including the proposed Headwaters of the Applegate Wild & Scenic River, the Applegate Wild & Scenic River, and the Slate Creek Wild & Scenic River. Currently these spectacular streams are proposed for designation in the 2020 River Democracy Act.
The Headwaters of the ApplegateWild & Scenic River Proposal
The proposed Headwaters of the Applegate Wild and Scenic River includes the over 85 miles of the wildest streams in the Applegate River watershed including the Middle Fork Applegate River, Butte Fork Applegate River and Elliott Creek. These streams and their spectacular tributaries contain extremely rugged terrain, vast old-growth forests, high levels of biodiversity, undisturbed wildlife habitats, deep clear pools, rushing waterfalls and bedrock gorges.
Each stream drains the northern slope of the Siskiyou Crest and runs largely undisturbed through the vast wildlands and old-growth forests extending across the headwaters of the Applegate River in the Red Buttes Wilderness Area, as well as the unprotected Kangaroo and Condrey Mountain Inventoried Roadless Areas.
The Middle Fork is the the largest tributary in the Applegate River. Known for its deep swimming holes, thundering waterfalls, beautiful bedrock gorges, spectacular dispersed camping, old-growth forests and numerous wilderness hiking trails, the watershed contains portions of the Red Buttes Wilderness Area, the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area and smaller wildlands like the Whisky Peak and Stricklin Butte Roadless Areas. The proposal includes the Middle Fork and all its major tributary streams.
The Butte Fork is the largest and wildest major tributary pouring into the Middle Fork. The stream originates at Azalea Lake in some of the most rugged and diverse high country in the Siskiyou Mountains. The majority of the watershed is protected in the Red Buttes Wilderness Area, but this proposal would include the lower reaches of the Butte Fork below the Wilderness boundary. Located within the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area, this portion of the Butte Fork contains beautiful old-growth forests, crystal clear pools and numerous spectacular wilderness trails. The proposal would include lower Butte Fork and its tributary streams.
Little known and relatively obscure, Elliott Creek contains some of the steepest, loneliest canyons in the Applegate River watershed. The stream drains a broad swath of the Siskiyou Crest’s northern slope from Dutchman’s Peak to Copper Butte including the Condrey Mountain Inventoried Roadless Area, the adjacent Elliott Ridge Roadless Area and numerous Forest Service Botanical Areas. The area is also a stronghold for old-growth forest and large portions of the watershed are designated as a Late Successional Reserve. The stream provides important, largely undisturbed wildlife habitat for species like the Pacific fisher, Northern spotted owls, great gray owls, black bear, cougar and elk. The proposal would include Elliott Creek and many of its tributary streams.
Applegate Wild & Scenic River Proposal
The proposed Applegate Wild & Scenic River would include numerous tributary streams spread across the Applegate River watershed. The proposal includes over 105 miles of stream representing nearly all the major ecosystems found in the Applegate Watershed from the Siskiyou Crest to the Applegate Foothills. The proposal includes streams in Carberry Creek, the Upper Applegate River, Little Applegate River and Middle Applegate River Watersheds.
Forks of Carberry Creek
Draining both the spectacular high mountain meadows, rocky summits and old growth forests of the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area and the low elevation forest and woodlands of the Collings-Kinney Inventoried Roadless Area, Carberry Creek contains a wide variety of intact forest habitats. It also contains numerous Forest Service Botanical Areas and the Oliver Matthews Research Natural Area designated to protect the rare Baker’s cypress. The proposed Forks of Carberry Creek Wild & Scenic River includes Steve’s Fork, Sturgis Fork, O’Brien Creek and Brush Creek.
Upper Applegate River
Our proposal includes 4 small tributaries of the Upper Applegate River including Kinney Creek, Palmer Creek, Mule Creek and Star Gulch. These streams contain unique low elevation habitats including dry conifer forests, mixed hardwood forests, oak woodlands, chaparral and sweeping grasslands. Portions of Kinney Creek and Palmer Creek drain the Collings-Kinney Inventoried Roadless Area, Mule Creek drains the Little Grayback Inventoried Roadless Area and is traversed by the popular Mule Creek Trail, while Star Gulch contains large portions of the BLM’s Burton-Ninemile Lands with Wilderness Charateristics (LWC).
Little Applegate River
Our proposal in the Little Applegate River watershed includes the beautiful Little Applegate River canyon and numerous tributary streams including Bear Gulch, Muddy Gulch, Birch Creek, Blacksmith Gulch, Owl Gulch, portions of Glade Creek, and Skunk Gulch. The area is arid and unique for western Oregon with a diverse mixture of grassland, chaparral, oak woodland, hardwood groves and dry mixed conifer forest. Wild, accessible and extremely popular for recreation, the Sterling Ditch Trail traverses the area and numerous trailheads provide river access.
The Pipe Fork is the last wild tributary of Williams Creek, an important cold water refugia and the only stream proposed for Wild & Scenic designation in the Middle Applegate River watershed. The stream also contains the Pipe Fork Research Natural Area which currently protects stands of Port Orford cedar, uninfected by the fatal Port Orford Cedar Root Rot (Phytopthera lateralis). Usually a coastal species, this disjunct population of Port Orford cedar is the eastern most population in Oregon.
The Pipe Fork flows through the northern Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area on both Forest Service and BLM lands. The area supports spectacular old growth cedar groves, along with sugar pine, ponderosa pine, white fir, and Douglas fir.
Slate Creek Proposal:
Slate Creek is the first major tributary to the Applegate River. Located near Wilderville and Wonder, Oregon the headwaters of Slate Creek flows through Forest Service land in a deep red rock canyon. The areas unusual serpentine soils create rather open, rocky forests of twisted chaparral and windswept Jeffrey pine savannah. Healthy stands of Port Orford cedar also line the stream. Portions of the area are protected in the Cedar Log Flat Research Natural Area which supports the only carnivorous cobra lily fens in the Applegate River watershed and numerous rare plant species.
Although relatively obscure and unknown, Slate Creek flows cold and clear through the beautiful Slate Creek Roadless Area. The proposal includes the upper portions of Slate Creek, Cedar Log Creek, and Buckeye Creek.
Support the 2020 River Democracy Act
We strongly support the 2020 River Democracy Act and look forward to new Wild & Scenic River designations throughout Oregon and in the Applegate River Watershed. These new designations will support healthy rivers, streams and fisheries. They will also protect old-growth forests, roadless wildlands, rare plant species, intact wildlife habitats and unique pieces of Oregon’s natural heritage. Please take a moment to thank Senators Wyden and Merkley for their leadership and urge Congress to move this bill forward.
2020 has been a difficult year for people across the world. Here in the US we have struggled through the pandemic, economic hardship, social isolation, mass misinformation campaigns, ongoing displays of systematic racism, social unrest and an all out assault on public institutions, including those who manage our public lands.
It has been a year of turmoil and anger, fear, anxiety, outrage, and also empowerment. Yet, despite the pandemic and all the uncertainty and instability it brings, millions of people across the country and across the world have raised their collective voice for equality and justice. So within the darkness of the pandemic there is hope for a better tomorrow.
Here at ANN we work hard to protect the landscape that surrounds us, support our community and help empower local, rural people to engage directly in the management, conservation and protection of public lands. Below are projects and issues we worked on in 2020 and that we will continue addressing in 2021.
Bear Grub Timber Sale
We poured our hearts into stopping the Bear Grub Timber Sale in 2020. Located in the mountains between Talent in the Rogue Valley and Ruch in the Applegate Valley, the project proposes nearly 1,100 acres of commercial logging, including 293 acres in the Wellington Wildlands and additional acreage along the popular East Applegate Ridge Trail.
The timber sale calls for group selection logging, a form of staggered clearcut logging that will increase fire risks, degrade forest habitats, and impact the scenic and recreational values of the Applegate Valley, the beloved Wellington Wildlands and the East Applegate Ridge Trail.
We worked with neighbors throughout the region to fight this timber sale, which was, unfortunately, approved by the BLM and sold at timber auction in October. In 2021 ANN will continue working to STOP BEAR GRUB and SAVE WELLINGTON WILDLANDS.
Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands Project (IVM)
The IVM Project could perhaps be the single most damaging BLM proposal in southwest Oregon in many, many years. The project proposes 684,185 acres of proposed “treatment areas” spread out across nearly the entire Medford District BLM. Under the provisions proposed for the IVM Project up to 20,000 acres could be commercially logged, and up to 90 miles of new road built per decade without site specific environmental review or public comment. These “treatments” would include heavy industrial logging in Late Successional Reserves (LSR) set aside to protect the Northern spotted owl and its old forest habitat.
ANN is working with conservation allies across the region to oppose this damaging project that will increase commercial logging in sensitive landscapes, while gutting public accountability and reducing public input and oversight. ANN’s work on the IVM Project will continue and intensify in 2021.
The Late Mungers Timber Sale is proposed in a large Late Successional Reserve on the ridges between the Williams Valley and Murphy in the Applegate Watershed, and Selma in the Illinois River watershed. The project has proposed logging in old forest habitats including small roadless areas near Mungers Butte. ANN is actively working with conservation partners in Williams, Murphy and Selma to oppose this sale and PROTECT MUNGER WILDLANDS!
In response to a public nomination process initiated by Senator Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Merkley (D-OR), ANN and our partners at Klamath Forest Alliance have proposed new Wild & Scenic River designations on tributary streams throughout the Applegate River Watershed. In total, we have documented, identified and promoted almost 200 miles of new Wild & Scenic River designations for the Applegate River Watershed that encompass some of the most intact wildlands in our area.
ANN will continue working towards the protection of these ecologically important rivers and streams in 2021. If secured, these would be the first permanent protections of federal lands in the Applegate River watershed in 33 years!
Applegate River Native Plant & Pollinator Restoration
For the past three years ANN has been working with the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District to restore native plants and pollinator habitat along the Upper Applegate River. This past fall, with much-appreciated funding provided by the Ashland Food Co-op, we worked with Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds to grow out 14 native species of plants and provide a seed mix comprised of 16 different native species of wildflowers and grasses. In November, under COVID protocols, a small group of five community volunteers planted 250 plants and sowed the seed mix at the small site along the Upper Applegate River. We will continue working to restore native plants and pollinator habitat along the Upper Applegate River in 2021.
ANN has worked collaboratively with the Forest Service for many years on the UAW Project. We have attended an exhaustive amount of public meetings and field trips about the project, and have done extensive on-the-ground monitoring of the project proposals.
We have worked hard over the years of project planning to help focus the project on thinning in plantation stands and fire protection measures directly around homes and communities, including manual thinning and prescribed fire. We also worked to keep logging and manual thinning away from important wildlands and intact habitats scattered across the Upper Applegate Valley.
In the end, the Forest Service approved a project we can mostly support. The logging, manual thinning and prescribed fire proposals are located primarily in tree plantations or adjacent to rural communities at risk to wildfire impacts. Although we are following the project, the impacts of this portion of the project have been greatly minimized by ANN’s years of collaborative efforts.
Unfortunately, two new OHV trails we strongly opposed were approved in the Final Decision for the UAW Project; however, three additional OHV trails proposed by the Forest Service, including routes in the Boaz Mountain Roadless Area, were withdrawn due to pressure from ANN and long-time rural Applegate residents.
In 2021, we intend to monitor UAW project design and implementation. We have developed a UAW Community Implementation Review Team to continue ensuring the project meets the habitat restoration goals promoted by ANN and local community members during the long UAW collaborative process. Once projects are approved, we can’t just walk away and forget about it. ANN has a commitment to seeing collaborative projects through to the end, to ensure the ecological commitments made by the agencies are met.
ANN has been working for many years to monitor OHV impacts and advocate for the closure of unauthorized OHV routes in the Applegate Watershed. Progress has been slow but steady as we document impacts and advocate for solutions. BLM in particular has been slow to act, but is directed to address the issue in 2021. We hope to hold their feet to the fire.
We are also working on illegal OHV route closures on the Siskiyou Crest and in designated Botanical Areas on Forest Service land. Recently some progress has been made and numerous routes have been either approved for closure, or initial steps have been made to physically close them to illegal OHV use. We hope to continue closing damaging OHV routes and documenting impacts across the Applegate Watershed in 2021.
Moving Forward in 2021
Although 2020 was a long and difficult year on many levels. ANN has continued to build our grassroots movement advocating for the public lands of the Applegate Valley. We have made progress on many levels, but have also faced challenges and disappointments. With the closing of 2020 comes hope for 2021. Please help us defend the Applegate River watershed, advocate for responsible environmental policies, and build a grassroots movement to permanently protect the wildlands of the Applegate.
Your support in 2021 will help us achieve our goals and keep the Applegate, wild, spectacularly beautiful and uniquely diverse. In the Applegate Valley we have so much to appreciate and so much to defend. Join us in 2021 and make a generous tax deductible donation today!
This summer while wind-driven wildfires raged throughout the region, tragically burning homes and communities, the Devil Fire quietly burned through the headwaters of the Applegate River watershed in the Red Buttes Wilderness Area. Threatening no homes or communities, the ironically named Devil Fire burned through intact conifer forests, chaparral, and mixed evergreen forests, restoring fire as a natural process and creating highly beneficial wildfire effects.
The Devil Fire began as a human ignition of unknown origin, high on the Siskiyou Crest near Upper Devil’s Peak on the Klamath River side of the ridge, at about the same time as the nearby Almeda and Slater Fires. Pushed by strong winds and hidden under a thick blanket of smoke from fires across the region, the Devil Fire was not even detected until September 9 when it had reached roughly 500 acres and was well established in the remote backcountry of the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area.
Burning through montane chaparral on exposed south-facing slopes, the fire initially took hold during incredibly dry and exceptionally windy conditions. The extremely rocky terrain and light fuels regenerated after the 2012 Fort Goff Fire moderated fire behavior, however, the strong winds fueled fire growth to both the north and south. Once the wind died down, both fire intensity and spread significantly diminished and portions of the fire self-extinguished on the recently burned south-facing slopes above the Klamath River.
By September 11, the Devil Fire had burned north over the Siskiyou Crest near the rocky, rugged summit of Rattlesnake Mountain and into the Butte Fork of the Applegate River. The Butte Fork is the main drainage in the Red Buttes Wilderness Area and contains some of the most intact old-growth forest remaining in the Applegate River watershed. Although large portions of the Red Buttes Wilderness Area, the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area and the Butte Fork drainage have burned in recent years, the Devil Fire backed downhill into areas with no recorded fire history.
Finding sufficient fuels and dry early fall weather, the Devil Fire continued to burn in the Butte Fork watershed below the towering summits of Red Butte, Kangaroo Mountain, Desolation Peak and Rattlesnake Mountain until mid-October. The few fire personnel assigned to the fire essentially allowed the fire to burn down the rugged and inaccessible northern slopes of the Siskiyou Crest to the Butte Fork drainage, where for the most part the fire was extinguished both naturally and with a little help from fire crews. In only one location did the fire cross the lower Butte Fork drainage, burning both sides of the stream down to its confluence with the Middle Fork Applegate River.
The mosaic created by the Devil Fire consists of largely low to moderate severity fire effects. In total, the Devil Fire burned at 71% low to very low severity, 11% moderate severity and 18% high severity. By and large, the low to moderate severity fire occurred in forested habitats, while the high severity fire burned in stands of montane chaparral.
Burning under moderated weather conditions and a heavy smoke inversion, the mosaic in the Butte Fork canyon and in the Red Buttes Wilderness Area includes 86% low severity, 6% moderate and 8% high severity fire effects. For about a month and half, the forests of the Butte Fork canyon burned as a vast, low intensity, understory fire, cleaning up fuels and burning back understory vegetation, while maintaining the old-growth forest canopy that dominates the watershed.
The heavy smoke inversion blanketing the region and covering the sun throughout southern Oregon and northern California trapped humidity, reduced ambient air temperatures and limited air movement across the Devil Fire area, essentially suffocating the fire as it slowly burned down the steep slopes of the Siskiyou Crest and into the dark forested canyon of the Butte Fork.
With the Devil Fire area now open to the public, you can hike the Shoofly and Butte Fork Trails through the fire area. The hike winds along the Butte Fork Applegate River among massive old trees blackened but not killed by the fire. As you walk through the charcoal and soot of the Devil Fire, enjoy the lush green canopy and the rushing stream.
This coming spring and summer, the understory will sprout back in renewal, triggering fresh new woody growth for browsing deer and elk, abundant berry crops, and a profusion of wildflowers creating pollen and nectar for local bees, butterflies and other pollinating species. Cavities or hollows have been burned into both standing snags and live trees, creating nesting and denning habitat for Northern spotted owls, Pacific fisher, black bear, goshawks, woodpeckers, song birds and a multitude of wildlife species. New snags have been created, old snags have been deposited onto the forest floor and into the wild stream, creating habitat complexity.
Like all things in nature, the Devil Fire is part of the cycle of life, death and rejuvenation. These systems have adapted to wildfire as one of the many processes that shape vegetation and habitat conditions across the landscape. The Devil Fire burned its legacy into the forests of the Applegate and has the potential to leave an impression on all those who experience it firsthand. For many, the diversity of its mosaic, the beauty of its renewal, and the abundance fire creates is both surprising and inspirational.
Please go out and experience the Devil Fire and the Butte Fork canyon for yourself. The area can be explored along the Shoofly and Butte Fork Trails. Go check out your local fire adapted forests and experience their fiery renewal!
Butte Fork Trailhead Directions:
Horse Camp Trail Access: Follow Upper Applegate Road past the Applegate Dam and around Applegate Reservoir to the intersection of Carberry Creek Road and Elliott Creek Road. Turn left on Elliott Creek Road and continue driving past Seattle Bar to the California/Oregon border. Immediately after the pavement ends, at a wide intersection, turn sharply to the right on Middle Fork Road (FS Road 1040). Continue 3.7 miles up the Middle Fork Road and look for the Horse Camp Trailhead on the left. Park at the trailhead and hike the trail to the first trail junction, heading right on the Butte Fork Trail.
Shoofly Trail Access: Follow the directions above, but pass up the Horse Camp Trail and follow Middle Fork Road another 1.3 miles upstream, turning left on a large bridge and staying on road 1040. Continue uphill for roughly 2 miles to the Shoofly Trailhead on the left. The Shoofly Trail drops quickly to the Butte Fork Trail. Once on the Butte Fork Trail you can head downstream (left) into the fire area or upstream (right) along the Butte Fork Trail into the 2012 Hello Fire area with the Devil Fire just across the canyon.
Pollinators are fundamental for a healthy ecosystem and helping improve habitat for imperiled pollinators in the Applegate is important to us. For the past three years ANN has been working to facilitate a native plant and pollinator restoration project on a unique valley bottom parcel of Forest Service land, located directly adjacent to the Upper Applegate River. ANN identified this small parcel for pollinator and native plant restoration in 2016 during Forest Service project planning in the Upper Applegate. Our goal for this project is to increase native plant abundance and species diversity that will benefit native pollinator populations. We are also working to reduce non-native and noxious weeds at the site.
We chose this site due to its spectacular potential for restoration, its already important habitat features and its accessibility for local residents and volunteer crews. Located next to the river, the site contains highly valuable pollinator habitat, abundant water, a wide variety of microclimates, existing native plant populations, oak/pine woodland, riparian forest, and a large, relatively weedy open meadow where we will focus our efforts to restore native plant habitat.
The site also contains some unique native plants such as large populations of Douglas’ grasswidow (Olsynium douglasii), Nuttall’s larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum), and a small but robust population of the locally uncommon heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia). Heartleaf milkweed is loved by many native pollinators and is a larval host plant for monarch butterflies. The West Coast population of monarch butterflies has crashed in the last two years and they are now being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Shortly after we identified the site for pollinator restoration plantings we worked with the Forest Service to create a rock barrier, eliminating vehicle access to the majority of the site. This barrier was meant to protect future restoration efforts from damage by inappropriate vehicle use. We then began working with former Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest wildlife biologist, Bonnie Allison, to do the initial wave of restoration plantings. Bonnie had secured funding through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) for native plant and pollinator restoration plantings along the Upper Applegate River, and we worked with her to include this little parcel of public land.
That first year we planted hundreds of plants grown by the Forest Service at their Dorena Nursery, grown from seed collected locally by Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds. This initial planting included hot rock penstemon (Penstemon deustus), tall woolly buckwheat (Eriogonum elatum var. villosum), Lemmon’s beardtongue (Keckiella lemmonii), and showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa). The hot rock penstemon took particularly well in the rocky tufts of bedrock that punctuate the grassy flat, and three years later, many robust, flowering plants provide pollen and nectar for native bees that are highly attracted to this species’ small cream to yellow flowers.
We were excited to plant the tall woolly buckwheat, a native valley bottom species with very limited distribution across the Applegate Valley. We assume this species may have been historically abundant, but populations were likely impacted by early mining operations, settlement and agriculture in the valley bottom. Currently, we know of two small populations of tall woolly buckwheat that grow on the shoulder of Upper Applegate Road, one population on the shoulder of Little Applegate Road, a few plants west of Ruch in rocky soil along the Applegate River, and a small population at Fish Hatchery Park. Extremely late blooming, these plants colonize and thrive on dry, harsh sites, often in sandy, cobbly or otherwise well drained soils at the valley bottom or along the floodplain of the Applegate River. Outside the Applegate Valley the only other place these plants grow in Oregon is around Klamath Lakes and reportedly at one site in Douglas county that was observed in 1899 by famed botanist John Leiberg.
The tall woolly buckwheat we planted were were grown from seeds collected just across the road from our restoration site, at one of only two known populations in the Upper Applegate. Unfortunately, this existing population grows on the shoulder of the county road and could be easily impacted by noxious weed spread, disturbance from road maintenance or roadside herbicide spraying. Our goal is establish a more stable and protected population in the small valley bottom, public land parcel across the road at our native pollinator plant restoration site. Numerous of the plantings from that first season are now established and have started flowering and producing seed.
Last year, the Forest Service donated plants they had grown at their Dorena Nursery, that were leftover from their other planting projects around the district, including yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and willow dock (Rumex salicifolius). The yarrow took well and is now established in dry, well-drained locations around the site.
Additionally we planted more tall woolly buckwheat plants, western verbena (Verbena lasciostachys), Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), mule’s ears (Wyethia angustifolia), and balsamroot (Baslmamorhiza deltodiea), grown by Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds, from seed collected near the project site. We also seeded numerous native wildflowers in small plots around the site. Despite last year’s dry winter and spring, some seed establishment was successful and will hopefully persist creating stable, naturally reproducing populations.
This year, we were fortunate to receive funding from the Ashland Food Co-op Gives Grant Program. This generous funding allowed us to contract Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds to grow out 14 species of native nursery plants from locally collected native seeds. Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds also donated 4o silver lupine plants (Lupinus albifrons), over 20 Lemmon’s needle grass (Achnatherum lemmonii) plants and a native wildflower seed mix, including 16 native species of wildflowers native to low elevations in the Applegate Valley.
Working under COVID-19 regulations, we organized a small group of volunteers for a socially distanced volunteer planting day. Our small crew of five people spread out across the site to meet COVID protocols, and we planted over 250 native plants throughout a portion of the project area. We planted perennial wildflowers, native grasses, and more tall woolly buckwheat. We also sowed the wildflower seed mix with numerous perennial and annual species within the planting area. We hope to have abundant rain this year that will benefit plant establishment, bring beautiful spring flowers and provide enhanced habitat for native pollinator species.
This project is just one example of how ANN gives back to the landscape of the Applegate. Our goals are not only to defend wildlands, oppose damaging public land projects, and protect biodiversity, but also to provide stewardship opportunities for local residents. This hands-on public land stewardship encourages a deep connection to place, benefiting the communities of the Applegate Valley and the local wildlife. ANN will continue working on our native plant and pollinator restoration site in the Upper Applegate Valley and other stewardship projects on the beautiful public lands of the Applegate Watershed.
Thanks to the Ashland Food Co-op Gives Grant Program for supporting our work in the Applegate Valley!
Two years ago ANN began working to defend the Wellington Wildlands and the forests around Ruch from BLM timber sales. First came the Middle Applegate Timber Sale, which proposed to log the heart of the Wellington Wildlands and numerous important watersheds between Humbug Creek and Ruch. ANN successfully campaigned against this sale, forcing the BLM to cancel the project in the face of significant public opposition. Although encouraged by the cancellation of this sale, ANN knew this was not the end of BLM’s logging plans in our region.
Within days of canceling the Middle Applegate Timber Sale, the Medford District BLM proposed the Bear Grub Timber Sale, which simply shifted the planning area to the east, to include portions of the Wellington Wildlands on China Gulch, the forests around the East Applegate Ridge Trail, Sterling Creek, and in the mountains between the Little Applegate River canyon and Talent, Oregon.
For the last year ANN and a committed group of local residents have led the opposition to the Bear Grub Timber Sale. We have organized our neighbors, connected with hikers and people recreating on the East Applegate Ridge Trail, written Letters to the Editor, Guest Opinion pieces in local newspapers, held public meetings and rallies, spoke on local radio programs, developed the Stop Bear Grub webpage and yard signs, and raised awareness of this threat to anyone who would listen. We also wrote extensive public comments on the BLM’s Environmental Analysis, and have officially filed Administrative Protests opposing the sale.
On October 29, 2020 the Medford District BLM auctioned off the Bear Grub Timber Sale, along with two additional timber sales in the Applegate Valley, and one near Butte Falls. Unfortunately, all three Applegate Valley timber sales sold to single bidders for their appraised price.
Read more details about each of the timber sales below:
The Bear Grub Timber Sale
The BLM estimates that the Bear Grub Timber Sale could produce over 12 million board feet of timber in 72 units and on 702 acres. As noted earlier this includes multiple commercial logging units in the Wellington Wildlands and along the East Applegate Ridge Trail. It also includes beautiful old forest on the northeastern face of Bald Mountain and at the headwaters of Wagner Creek.
The project proposes extensive “group selection logging” units where staggered clearcuts up to 4 acres in size and across up to 30% of a unit could be logged. Whole groves of large, dominant, fire resistant tree will be cleared from mature, closed canopy forest. This will dry out forest stands, accelerate wind speeds, increase ambient air temperatures, replace mature fire resistant forest with highly flammable young trees and shrubs, and significantly increase fire risks in both the long and short term.
Many of these treatments are located directly adjacent to homes and communities, including residential portions of the Applegate. The project also includes the watersheds directly above Talent and Phoenix, Oregon. Currently recovering from the Almeda Fire, the communities of southern Oregon are working to become more fire resilient, while BLM undermines those efforts with timber sales creating conditions that are highly conducive to fast moving, high severity fires.
The Bear Grub Timber Sale sold to Timber Products Company, based in Springfield, Oregon, for $1,085,651 at the October 29, 2020 BLM timber auction, but it cannot be implemented until the many Administrative Protests filed by conservation organizations, local residents and concerned citizens have been processed by the BLM. In the meantime, ANN is looking for opportunities to continue opposing this sale and are encouraging conservation interests throughout the state to consider focusing efforts on litigating this sale. We will keep you posted!
Savage Murph Timber Sale
The Savage Murph Timber Sale was originally proposed as the Applegate portion of the massive Pickett West Timber Sale proposed by Medford District BLM’s Grants Pass Field Office in 2016. The project originally included commercial logging units spread across the region, from the Rogue River downstream of Grants Pass, to the mountains above Selma in the Illinois Valley, and into the North Applegate area above Missouri Flat Road.
ANN took a leading role in exposing this old-growth logging project for what it was, a massive timber grab disguised as “fuel reduction.” Half of the units proposed for logging were between 150 and 240 years old and contained significant old-growth characteristics. The project proposed heavy industrial logging, utilizing the Rogue Basin Cohesive Forest Restoration Strategy promoted by the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative and local federal land management agencies. This would have allowed logging late successional forests down to 16-25 trees per acre and 30% canopy cover, removing potentially tens of thousands of old-growth trees.
Due to the efforts of ANN, many local southern Oregon residents, and our conservation allies, much of this timber sale, including the vast majority of the old-growth or late successional units, were canceled due to public opposition and impacts to the red tree vole, a prey source for the Northern spotted owl.
The Savage Murph Timber Sale originally included proposals to log old-growth stands and diverse intact habitats, but many of those units have been withdrawn over the years as the BLM offered, but could not sell the Savage Murph Timber Sale. Unfortunately, a significantly scaled-back version of the Savage Murph Timber Sale, including 4 units and 115 acres, sold to Estramado Logging LLC for $51,077 at the timber auction on October 29th and logging could begin at anytime.
Wild Bill Timber Sale
The Wild Bill Timber Sale is located near Wilderville on BLM lands and was originally a part of the proposed Pickett West Timber Sale. The entire Wild Bill Timber Sale consists of one, 54-acre commercial logging unit. The project was purchased by Macs LLC for $90,977 and logging could begin at anytime.
In the era of “alternative facts” and politically motivated misinformation, federal land managers, like those at the Medford District BLM, have created a misleading and Orwellian narrative promoting heavy industrial logging as “restoration” and “fuel reduction,” while ignoring or masking the environmental impacts. According to this narrative, the solution to every environmental problem is more logging, more roads, and more resource extraction.
This campaign of misinformation has reached a crescendo with the innocuous sounding Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands (IVM) Project. Although called “Integrated Vegetation Management” this project would be largely implemented as commercial timber sales. Approval of the IVM Project would authorize up to 20,000 acres of commercial logging and 90 miles of new road construction per decade on Medford District BLM lands. According to the BLM these authorizations would have “no sunset date” and could be utilized to log many tens of thousands of acres and build many hundreds of miles of new road.
The IVM proposes to allow the BLM to implement these activities virtually anywhere within the 800,000-acre planning area, without disclosing or identifying specific units or locations. This would include up to 684,185 acres of potential “treatment areas” extending across almost the entire Medford District BLM, from the Wild and Scenic Rogue River, south and east to the western slope of the Southern Cascade Mountains, and across the arid foothills of the Applegate and Rogue Valleys.
The IVM Project, combined with logging that is currently proposed in the BLM’s “Harvest Land Base,” like the Bear Grub Timber Sale, would change the face of Southwestern Oregon, fragmenting some of our last intact BLM forest lands and altering the scenic character of our region. Unfortunately, the IVM Project is specifically designed to promote logging in Late Successional Reserve forest designated to protect habitat for the Northern spotted owl. It also proposes logging activities in designated Recreation Areas, adjacent to communities, in suitable Northern spotted owl habitats, Riparian Reserves designated to protect stream corridors and in wildland habitats like the Mungers Wildlands, west of the Williams Valley.
Some action alternatives proposed by the BLM allow the logging of large, fire resistant trees up to 36” in diameter, in stands over 120 years of age, and to as low 30% canopy retention. This will require the retention of some large trees, but certainly not a forest. Recent examples of logging to 30% canopy cover include the O’Lickety Timber Sale in the Little Applegate River Watershed, which triggered “accelerated overstory mortality,” a condition in which residual overstory trees left after a disturbance such as logging can sustain dramatic mortality outbreaks. These outbreaks can be associated with significant microclimate alterations, canopy loss, stand desiccation, bark beetle mortality, and windthrow from high winds and/or heavy snow loads.
Action alternatives proposed in the IVM Project would also allow the clearing of up to 4-acre group selection “openings” in mature, fire resistant forest and across up to 20% of a given stand. In these areas, whole groves will be targeted for logging, with all or virtually all vegetation removed. For all practical purposes this logging will create a series of staggered clearcuts fragmenting formerly mature, closed canopy forests. These so-called group selection “openings” will look, act and respond like small clearcuts. They will fragment forest habitats, damage or remove Northern spotted owl habitat, reduce fire resilience, increase fuel loading, and degrade scenic values throughout our region.
Percent Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Sector in Oregon 2011-2015
The impact of logging large, old trees and significantly reducing canopy cover also translates into a net loss in carbon sequestration, especially because the logging is proposed in LSR forests which are intended to maintain and promote late successional forest values. In both the long and short term, logging significantly reduces our local forest’s potential to sequester carbon and mitigate or slow the effects of climate change. In fact, recent research from Oregon State University and the University of Idaho demonstrates that the timber industry represents the largest source of carbon emissions in the state of Oregon, accounting for 35% of total emission levels.
Despite the many damaging activities proposed in the IVM Project, perhaps the most troubling aspect of the project is its attempt to avoid current requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to conduct detailed environmental review, analyze and disclose potential impacts, and conduct meaningful public engagement. If the IVM is approved, large timber sales could be authorized without project specific Environmental Analysis, site specific scientific review, adequate public comment or meaningful public involvement. Instead large timber sales could be approved by the BLM through an internal and non-transparent Determination of NEPA Adequacy (DNA) process. The public would no longer be consulted as partners in the NEPA process, but would instead be informed when decisions have been made.
Under this scenario, protest periods (which BLM is also proposing to eliminate through a different process) and litigation would become the public’s only form of meaningful involvement, leading to increased controversy, gridlock and legal action. Under the Trump administration, proposed BLM rulemaking changes and projects like the IVM are working to limit public involvement, reduce NEPA requirements and discourage site specific scientific review. We are fearful that this approach will degrade our forest environments, make our communities less fire resilient and bring the timber wars back to southwest Oregon.
Please comment on the IVM Project between now and October 19, 2020. Ask the BLM to:
Extend the current public comment period for the IVM project by an additional 30 to 60 days. Commenting on this project and its over 600,000 acre “treatment area” is complex, difficult and time consuming. The public needs more time to read the over 300 page Programmatic Environmental Assessment, consider the impacts, make meaningful suggestions and provide substantive public comment.
Withdraw the current IVM Project and work towards more meaningful public involvement, transparency, and collaboration with diverse stakeholders to create ecological and socially responsible public land management projects.
Implement site specific NEPA Analysis and full public comment periods on all commercial logging and road building projects like the agency has in the past. NEPA analysis and the public involvement process it requires substantially improves land management outcomes and reduces controversy by encouraging collaboration, transparency and science-based land management planning.
Do not utilize a Programmatic NEPA approach to undermine public involvement, eliminate public comment and reduce scientific oversight of BLM logging projects.
Complete a full scientific analysis of the impacts of the IVM Project to climate change and carbon sequestration.
Do not remove, modify or downgrade Northern spotted owl habitat in LSR forest
Do not log large, fire resistant trees over 20″ diameter, implement group selection logging or remove canopy cover to as low as 30%. These activities impact habitat values and increase fire hazards.
Due to the massive scope and scale of the proposed project a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should be required to address substantive concerns, environmental effects, and social concerns surrounding the over 800,000 acre planning.
Please submit EA comments or questions to Kristi Mastrofini, Medford District Planning and Environmental Coordinator by mailing the BLM, Attn: IVM EA Comments, 3040 Biddle Road, Medford, Oregon 97504; or through email at BLM_OR_MD_IVM@blm.gov.
We live in an era of turmoil and crisis. From climate change and the global coronavirus pandemic, to the policies of an administration that has slashed regulations, degraded our environment, empowered corporate and industrial interests, and dismantled the public institutions meant to protect our environment and public health. Although many of these problems are national or global in nature, they are affecting our lives here in the Applegate Valley. Now, more than ever, we need to defend the last wildlands in our region, and ANN is taking the lead in advocating for the land, forests, wildlife and streams of the Applegate River Watershed.
We all have had to alter our lives to safely and responsibly navigate the coronavirus pandemic; we all are also dealing on a daily basis with extended droughts, low stream flows, and the consequences of climate change. At the same time, many of our elected officials fail to act and our local land managers are actively promoting projects that will implement industrial logging prescriptions, emit large amounts of carbon, degrade habitat conditions, reduce climate resilience, and increase fuel loading. This means ANN has been extremely busy advocating for conservation in our valley and fighting against projects that will impact our environment.
Due to the chaos of the pandemic, the economic shut downs, and the stay-at-home orders implemented across the country and the state of Oregon this spring, 2020 has been difficult for many individuals, small businesses and non-profit organizations. For small grassroots organizations like ANN that depend on both the financial and organizational support of the local community, our typical means of public organizing, fundraising and outreach have been significantly altered. For many months, the public events, educational presentations, and hikes that typically help engage the public and facilitate fundraising opportunities for our organization have been canceled to protect the health of the public and our community.
Despite the situation with coronavirus, the tragic loss of life, the disruption of public health and safety, and the crippled economy, land management agencies like the Bureau of Land Management have continued and even accelerated the pace of commercial logging, road building and other destructive practices on our public land. In fact, they have taken advantage of these disruptions to plan controversial projects without public input, transparency or accountability. Local examples include the Bear Grub Timber Sale, Late Mungers Timber Sale and the Integrated Vegetation Management Project.
ANN is dedicated to defending the wildlands and forests of the Applegate. If you appreciate our work consider volunteering your time in support of our organization and its goals. You can also make a tax deductible donation to support our work.
ANN is currently working on a late summer campaign to raise $5,000, and we are offering the first 50 donors of at least $100 an opportunity to attend a small gathering in the Little Applegate Valley. The event will be held outdoors and will practice strict coronavirus social distancing protocols. Our intent is to have a small-scale Britt Festival-like experience at a private home in the beautiful Little Applegate Valley. Music for the event will be provided by a collection of currently out-of-work Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors and musicians. We will also have libations and dinner available for purchase at the event. Donate here to join us.
All proceeds will support ANN, and will help to not only protect the wildlands of the Applegate Valley, but also the forests that stabilize our global climate.
DONATE NOW & JOIN US AT THE ANN DONOR APPRECIATION EVENT