Located on the northeast corner of Mt. Hood National Forest within the West Fork Hood River watershed, Waucoma is surrounded by the protected Mark O Hatfield Wilderness to the north and west, and the highly fragmented Longview and Hood River County timberlands to the south and east.
“Waucoma Huckleberry Enhancement”, a large logging project being developed by the Hood River Ranger District, is located on the northeast corner of Mt. Hood National Forest within the West Fork Hood River watershed. Waucoma includes the area surrounding Mt. Defiance, and is surrounded by the protected Mark O Hatfield Wilderness to the north and west, and the highly fragmented Weyerhaeuser and Hood River County timberlands to the south and east. Much of this land is steep, roadless and remote.
Bark has been tracking this project since 2016. In 2018, the project was re-framed to focus mostly on promoting huckleberry growth. This would be done through “variable density thinning, and shelterwood and intermediate thinning.”
Existing recreation opportunities include Warren Lake, Mt. Defiance (in photo), and trails currently used by mountain bikers including the Kingsley Wahtum trail. The Waucoma project area includes irrigation infrastructure associated with the Kingsley Reservior, which is also the site of an Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) staging area managed by Hood River County.
While the Forest Service is proposing this project, the potential Waucoma Backcountry Recreation Area will be a unique opportunity to showcase collaboration between diverse advocacy groups to achieve both conservation and recreation goals in Mt. Hood National Forest. By partnering with recreation advocates, Bark is charting a new course to protect the forest, enhance wildlife habitat and create more opportunities for quiet recreation near Mt. Hood.
Bark is participating in the Hood River Stew Crew, which is a collaborative group of many “stakeholders” working to develop management recommendations for this area. This process has resulted in the following positive changes to the project:
- Doubling of the riparian buffer width on North Fork Green Point Creek, and Green Point Creek.
- Removal of “shelterwood” logging in Riparian Reserves
- Removal of logging in Late Successional Reserves
- Removal of logging in wet rocky areas
- Removal of logging in suitable habitat for northern spotted owls
- Removal of approximately 961 acres of logging
The Hood River Ranger District released the Preliminary Assessment for Waucoma in February 2020, with a 30-day comment period ending on March 19th. Although Bark is relieved to hear of these positive changes to the project, we have deep concerns regarding the following:
- 550 acres of proposed “shelterwood” logging (15% tree retention), much of which is on steep slopes above Green Point Creek.
- Waucoma includes a significant amount of logging in mature and old forest. Out of the total 2,557 acres of proposed logging, 1,328 acres are over 80 years old, and 64 acres are over 200 years old. Some of this forest is high elevation subalpine forest which is already at high risk of being impacted or lost due to climate change.
- The Waucoma project proposes to build 8 miles of roads into the forest, but does not specify where. Without this information, the Forest Service is not fully disclosing the ecological impacts of this project.
- Recreation opportunities in the project area include access to wilderness trails, developed and dispersed campsites, and mountain biking. If not properly considered by the agency during their planning process, including adequate buffers, these values could be impacted by logging and roadbuilding.