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The Salem office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has dropped 88 acres of logging from a timber sale surrounding the Upper Molalla River called “Hole in the Road Timber Management Project (HITR)”, about 20 miles southeast of the City of Molalla.
After starting with a 440 acre timber sale proposal in 2015, the BLM subsequently cancelled several units groundtruthed by Bark volunteers from the original proposal, with a total of 352 acres remaining for the public to comment on before December 29th, 2016. While the timing of this 30-day comment period is not ideal for those planning on celebrating the holidays with their loved ones, Bark is pleased that the agency has taken it upon themselves to remove from consideration several areas which we presented concerns about in our initial comments we submitted almost a year ago.
Bark’s concerns with this project included logging in designated Riparian Reserves, impacts to mature forests containing old-growth trees, degradation of wildlife habitat including that for sensitive red tree voles, and impacts on water and soils from roadbuilding and increased access for off-highway vehicles (OHVs).
The BLM removed all Late Successional Reserves from the HITR project, which are meant to be managed to eventually become old-growth forest. The agency dropped other areas “for a variety of reasons such as wildlife protection, logging problems, low stocking, steep terrain, or stream protection.”
Molalla River Suitable Wild and Scenic Corridor
The HITR proposal still includes 62 acres of commercial logging within what the BLM has identified as “Suitable” for designation under the Federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Congress first enacted the Act to preserve “in free-flowing condition” rivers of the United States that “possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values.” Final designation a Wild and Scenic River requires an act of Congress.
Bark and the public will be reminding the BLM that according to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act they must give “[p]articular attention to scheduled timber harvesting, road construction and similar activities which might be contrary to the purposes” of the act. This could mean dropping additional acres within the "Suitable" corridor from this timber sale.
In addition to being identified as “Suitable” at a federal level, last year the Upper Molalla (along with the Chetco River) received the first designation of a State Scenic Waterway since 1988. The portion of the Molalla River included within the HITR project area meets the state Scenic Waterways Act criteria for outstanding scenic, fish, wildlife, geological, botanical, cultural, and outdoor recreation opportunities. Governor Kate Brown, who announced the designation, was quoted saying that "(s)tewardship of our rivers is increasingly important as our population grows and our climate changes."
In the fall of 2016, the White House Council on Environmental Quality updated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to require federal land management agencies to quantify projected greenhouse gas emissions of proposed federal actions whenever the necessary tools, methodologies, and data inputs are available. The HITR project is the first timber sale surrounding Mt. Hood to follow this guidance, and with telling results.
According to the BLM, the estimated carbon dioxide immediately released from logging the proposed HITR project total at 3,283 tonnes of carbon dioxide, equating to approximately half the average daily emissions in 2013 (6,871 tonnes) from vehicle use in Portland, Oregon. Within the 50 year time frame analyzed, these forests would store significantly less carbon (14,084 tonnes less to be exact) than they would if they were left alone. Put another way, if HITR is logged it would take the area over 20 years to re-accumulate as much carbon as exists safely in the ground now.
Bark staff and volunteers will be reviewing the newly released Hole in the Road Environmental Assessment as well as keeping supporters updated about future opportunities to get involved with stopping this project. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more about this or other timber sales surrounding Mt. Hood.
You can also submit a comment drafted by Bark here.
Please send written comments on the EA to Chris Papen, Natural Resources Staff Administrator, BLM Northwest Oregon District, 1717 Fabry Road SE, Salem, Oregon, 97306. Comments may also be sent via email to email@example.com, or faxed to (503) 375-5622. The comment period on this EA will end on December 29th, 2016 at 4:30 p.m.
"Related activities being considered are...renovating existing roads and/or constructing new roads to provide access for logging, decommissioning or closing and stabilizing roads after logging, maintaining roads, improving or replacing culverts" -- Hole in the Road scoping letter