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BLM plans fire salvage near Trail

Environmental group will appeal the proposal, which includes removing 46,000 trees killed by 2002 blaze

TRAIL ' The Bureau of Land Management announced Monday that it will salvage about 23.4 million board feet from the Timbered Rock fire, enough to build 1,462 homes at 2,000-square-feet each.

But an environmental group vows to appeal the BLM salvage plan with the Interior Board of Land Appeals in Arlington, Va. If that fails, the group plans to take the BLM to court in an attempt to stop the salvage.

Agency officials say the salvage is legal, and will benefit both the burned area and the local economy.

In addition to the salvage, the plan, which was the preferred alternative in its final environmental impact statement, will include restoration and research projects, stressed Tim Reuwsaat, the agency's Medford District manager.

This decision helps us answer some very important questions, he said, noting those questions include, What are the effects of post-fire salvage on wildlife species? What are the effects of varying reforestation levels on the environment?

— And most importantly, this project contributes about &

36;20 million to the local economy and creates more than 500 jobs to help support our communities while accelerating restoration of wildlife habitat, he added in a prepared statement.

Moreover, the project will reduce the buildup of hazardous fuels on some 7,000 acres of the nearly 12,000 acres of BLM forest that was burned, according to Lance Nimmo, the BLM's Butte Falls Resource Area manager.

The 2002 fire burned roughly 27,000 acres in the Elk Creek watershed, including private land. Like most wildfires, it burned in a mosaic, scorching some areas while leaving others lightly singed.

All told, 46,000 fire-killed trees will be salvaged, leaving 301,000 fire-killed trees and 531,000 green trees on the BLM land within the fire perimeter, according to the BLM.

About 8 million board feet of timber will not be salvaged because it has deteriorated to the point where it has lost its commercial value, BLM officials said.

All of the BLM forest burned by the fire was designated late-successional reserve (LSR). Under the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan, the LSRs were created to protect and enhance late-successional and old-growth forest ecosystems.

The fire provides an opportunity to examine LSR enhancement and protection needs, officials said.

While the timber industry has supported the preferred alternative, although lamenting that some of the commercial value has been lost, many members of the environmental community have opposed it.

George Sexton, conservation director for the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center which has led the opposition, said the planned salvage violates the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan.

The entire purpose of this salvage is financial, he said. They are treating the old-growth reserves as piggy banks.

These reserves are only reserves until the BLM decides to log them.

Although the BLM said it will retain some 66 percent of the fire-killed trees across all size classes, Sexton said the salvage will target the larger trees.

We see this as a do-or-die fight, he said. If they can log in the LSRs, they can log anywhere.

We're filing an administrative protest, then we will litigate it and we're going to win.

Research on the salvage project will be conducted by Oregon State University and the Pacific Northwest Research Station. Beginning this year, the research will study the influence of two salvage intensities on flora and fauna in the LSRs.

The burned timber will be offered in two timber sales early in April. The salvage will include helicopter and land-based logging.

Restoration projects will include thinning 1,208 acres of Douglas fir forest to accelerate LSR conditions, thinning 683 acres of pine trees, treating 1,544 acres of oak woodlands and meadows and creating 1,300 acres of fuel management zones to decrease wildfire hazards.

As a result of that activity, more timber will be offered at a later date, BLM officials said.

The restoration work will also entail decommissioning 26 miles of roads, installing fish weirs and logs along eight miles of streams and replacing four culverts to open up five additional miles of fish spawning habitat.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at