Federal timber harvest proposal put forth

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing a 16,215-acre management project in the High Cascades Ranger District that ultimately could harvest millions of board feet of timber.

However, officials caution that it is too early in the planning process of the Bybee vegetation management project to determine harvest levels. The project's preliminary goals include improving forest health, reducing the threat of high-intensity wildfires and providing jobs for timber-dependent communities, officials indicated.

The acreage is scattered throughout a block shaped like the state of Oregon between Highway 230 and Crater Lake National Park. The southern tip of the tract is about 15 miles north of Prospect.

District ranger Kerwin Dewberry sent a letter to local residents on Friday informing them of the proposed management project, and asked for comments as part of a required National Environmental Policy Act scoping process.

"We're trying to get a sense from the public what their concerns are about the area before any decisions are made," stressed Paul Galloway, spokesman of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

"There could be a variety of activity happening — we're just trying to get feedback now," he added of the future management of the project.

That feedback is expected to focus on everything from environmental issues to timber harvests.

The area includes 9,112 acres allocated for timber production, 1,901 acres for big game winter range and 552 acres to maintain or enhance scenery, according to Dewberry's letter.

Another 4,402 acres is part of a riparian reserve and the remaining 248 acres are in the federally protected wild and scenic section of the upper Rogue River, the letter noted.

One proposed action contained in the letter includes commercial thinning, a process in which some trees large enough to be harvested are cut to increase the growth rate in remaining trees. Precommercial thinning to remove younger trees from overgrown stands is another tool that is proposed.

"It is anticipated that where economically feasible, trees would be removed through commercial harvest," Dewberry wrote. "The total of these treatments could yield millions of board feet of commercial volume that would be offered in multiple timber sales over the next several years."

Other management activities would occur over the next decade, he added.

However, it's unknown at this point precisely how much timber could be harvested ultimately, Galloway said.

"This is real preliminary," he reiterated. "We don't have anything in mind in terms of timber volume right now."

Planning could take a year or two to complete, depending on what is found in the scoping process, he said.

For more information on the project, contact district employee Jason Herron at 541-560-3441. Comments can be e-mailed to comments-pacific-northwest-rogueriver@fs.fed.us. Include "Bybee" in the subject line.

Comments also can be sent via regular mail to the district at 47201 Highway 62, Prospect, OR 97536.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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