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The Jazz Timber Sale, which Bark successfully defeated last year, is back and once again threatens 2,000 acres in the Collawash Watershed, the most geologically unstable watershed in all of Mt. Hood National Forest. While we are not surprised to see the Forest Service resurrect a ‘zombie’ Jazz proposal, we are shocked to see that the agency has essentially done nothing to revise the timber sale proposal to address the valid concerns that convinced the agency to withdraw the original project. Rather than respond to the ecological concerns raised in Bark’s appeal by making substantive changes, the Forest Service has simply inserted empty language into the revised EA and reissued a decision to log this ecologically sensitive watershed that provides critical habitat for threatened salmon.
The Jazz Timber Sale was initially proposed in October of 2010, with a scoping notice that immediately put Bark’s hackles up and got us ready to dig our teeth into this sale. The proposal called for the logging of Late Successional Reserves and Riparian Areas in the Collawash Watershed that would require the re-opening of 12 miles of previously decommissioned roads. Bark volunteers groundtruthed all of the 2,000 acres of the proposed logging project and found many issues of concern: from waterways on the landscape missing from Forest Service maps to crumbling and washed-out roads blocking access to sale units, and vibrant forest ecosystems labeled simply as ‘plantation’ in agency descriptions of the project area.
We commented on the sale throughout the public comment period and participated in agency and stakeholder fieldtrips to the sale. We were disappointed, if not surprised, when a September 2012 Finding of No Significant Impact and Decision Notice was signed by Forest Supervisor Chris Worth. The agency decision indicated the Forest Service was ready to move forward as planned with the proposed project despite concerns raised by Bark and members of the public. Bark’s next step was clear: we would file an administrative appeal with the Forest Service articulating where the decision fell counter to the law.
In October 2012 we filed our appeal and in December, Forest Supervisor Worth withdrew his original approval of the sale, clearly signaling that the points raised in our appeal got through to the deciding officer. After this final reiteration of the concerns we raised throughout the planning process for Jazz -- including reversing restoration work by reopening 12 miles of closed roads, logging in important salmon habitat and the most geologically unstable watershed of Mt. Hood National Forest, and the agency’s reliance on Best Management Practices (BMPs) to mitigate the impacts of logging – we finally saw the end of the Jazz Timber Sale. Or so we thought.
Three months later, in March of 2013, during the administrative leave of Forest Supervisor Worth, the Forest Service reissued the Jazz Timber Sale with an EA and Decision Notice that make no substantive change to address the our concerns and with only slight wording changes that in fact just heighten our concerns for this project.
Where do we go from here?
Since our initial appeal was submitted to the Forest Service in October of 2012, Bark volunteers have continued to get boots on the ground in logged forests to examine the impacts of logging on the landscape and measure the effectiveness of the agency’s BMPs which are designed to minimize watershed impacts of logging. Our findings continue to validate the concerns voiced in our appeal of Jazz: the Forest Service’s work to implement and monitor BMPs is not having the intended effect and our drinking watersheds and fish habitat are bearing the burden of these failed mitigation measures.
Bark is better positioned than ever to bring this important issue to light and the Jazz Timber Sale is just the type of egregiously designed proposal to utilize our findings. The Forest Service issued its ‘zombie’ Jazz Environmental Assessment (EA) in March of 2013. We intend to hold the Forest Service accountable to the laws that protect our public lands and we will appeal this newest decision to resolve the problems with this proposal that has had no substantive change since our first appeal was filed.
Meanwhile, Barkers can revel in the fact that although the Jazz Timber Sale proposal has returned, the 2,000 acres of forest it threatens have not been logged and will not be logged in the coming season, because of our efforts. Our volunteer powered work to monitor the implementation and success rate of BMPs has forced an unprecedented dialogue surrounding the agency’s reliance on BMP protocols that may have significant impact on future timber sale planning. And our staff and volunteers will continue our persistent outcry against the mismanagement of our public lands in our ongoing effort to see watershed health, quiet recreation, and wildlife habitat become priorities of management on Mt. Hood. Stay tuned for upcoming developments on the Jazz Timber Sale.