AGNESS — A 3.2-million-board-foot timber sale federal officials said was designed as a landscape restoration project will reap little financial benefits other than the first major repairs in three decades to a popular forest road.
Compared to other sales, the Green Knob timber sale fetched pennies on the dollar from a Brookings mill that will pay $350,000 in culvert replacements so its trucks can use Bear Camp Road ship to its mill enough logs to build 200 homes.
Known on maps as Forest Service Road 23, Bear Camp Road is a one-lane, paved road over the Siskiyou Mountains used by lower Rogue Canyon rafters and others.
It will be closed for up to two months beginning Monday so contractors for South Coast Lumber Co., the sale's purchaser, can begin replacing 22 culverts along a 7.5-mile stretch to return the 30-year-old road to log-truck worthiness for fall logging.
Tina LaNier, the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest's Gold Beach district ranger, said Green Knob was crafted over 201 acres to improve large-tree growth, reduce wildfire intensity and improve habitat for species such as the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet.
"The point of the sale is landscape restoration," LaNier said. "We're increasing resiliency of these stands to fire. We're trying to improve late-successional characteristics."
The sale also was managed knowing that whoever bought it would have to improve the road, where failed culverts lead to sloughs in the pavement and washouts that dump unwanted sediment into the Rogue River.
"We knew it needed repair," said Jim Campbell, the forest's timber-sale contracting officer. "Almost every culvert in that road is rusted out."
Knowing potential buyers would need to recoup the estimated $350,000 in required road improvement through lowered timber costs, the forest set the minimum bid at $10.34 per thousand board feet of timber, Campbell said.
South Coast Lumber was the only bidder and offered just the minimum bid, which is less than 5 percent of the forest's five most recent sales, which garnered $200 to $250 per thousand board feet of timber, according to Andy Hill, a forest resource specialist.
At the sale price, Green Knob's 3.2 million board feet of timber will add $33,088 to forest coffers, making the Bear Camp Road repairs by far the sale's largest financial benefit to the forest.
"When you look at it, that's what it's showing," Campbell said. "But we don't really look at things that way. That (road improvements) was a secondary issue."
About 16,000 board feet of timber goes into the average 2,000-square-foot home. A board foot is a 1-square-foot board of usable timber that is 1-inch thick.
Completed in the late 1980s, Bear Camp Road is seasonally closed by snowdrifts and is the only paved road between Galice and Agness. It has become a staple for rafting companies and private parties shuttling trailers for people rafting the Rogue's Wild and Scenic Section, as well as summer motorists looking for a forest drive that offers spectacular panoramas of largely unscratched backwoods.
It was originally built to safely transport log trucks, but the original corrugated galvanized steel culverts have failed over time, causing regular sloughing of the serpentine soils there and requiring repairs almost annually.
While forest roads are public, upgrades to log-haul quality are the responsibility of those who buy timber sales transport logs on those roads. The Green Knob sale is the first in the area, hence the first with major road improvements built into the sale.
"They are good tools for us to repair the road," assistant forest engineer Paul Podesta said. "(But) we are not going to fix all the issues with that sale."
Campbell said the forest plans more timber sales in that area, with more improvements to Bear Camp Road, but to lesser financial levels than the Green Knob sale.
"It just happened that this sale footed the bill for most of it," Campbell said. "The future timber sales will pay a hefty price to haul over that road."
— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.
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