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Babyfoot Lake tree restoration takes first step

A U.S. Forest Service proposal to restore 16 acres mistakenly logged in the Babyfoot Lake Botanical Area calls for multiplying the number of rare Brewer spruce trees and expanding the federally protected reserve.

The Forest Service will hold an open house on the plan between — and 7 p.m. Thursday at the Illinois Valley Ranger District Butler Building, 26568 Redwood Highway in Cave Junction.

Forest Service officials could not be reached Tuesday to give details on when a final plan might be adopted.

About 16 acres of fire-killed trees in the botanical area were logged between March and Aug. — after Forest Service employees incorrectly marked the boundaries of the 700-acre Fiddler fire salvage timber sale site about six miles northwest of Galice.

Environmentalists and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, have called for an independent investigation into the error.

— The Fiddler sale was part of the 2002 Biscuit fire, which burned 500,000 acres largely in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

The 353-acre botanical haven was established in 1963 to protect Ice Age Brewer spruce trees, unique to northwest California and southwest Oregon, and other rare plant species. About 144 acres of botanical area are in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

The Forest Service proposal includes planting Brewer spruce seedlings and expanding the botanical area to include clusters of the trees on Hungry Hill, bounded by Forest Service Road 4201-140 on the east and Road 4201-827 on the south.

It also calls for excluding the botanical area from fuel burning operations, leaving slash from logging in place to allow for Brewer spruce regeneration and surveying for invasive species within a half-mile perimeter for at least five years. Cleanup from logging operations would involve removing debris along Road 4201-864, dismantling log decks and a landing and blocking off a temporary road spur.

Environmentalists said the plan does not go far enough to protect the rare species.

Barbara Ullian, conservation director for the Siskiyou Project, a Cave Junction-conservation group, said the botanical area should also embrace a population of Brewer spruce about a mile away on Fiddler Mountain.

Contrary to the agency plan, slash piles in the botanical area should be removed because they are a fire risk, Ullian said. Invasive species should be monitored and removed on a long-term basis rather than just for five years because they will continue to pose a threat to Brewer spruce, she said.

This plan is kind of putting a Band-Aid on what the Forest Service did when the whole area needs a health-care plan, she said.

Dominick DellaSala, program director for the World Wildlife Fund regional office in Ashland, said the plan fails to address the reason for the logging mistake and how the Forest Service plans to prevent it from happening again.

This is an opportunity for the Forest Service to deal with public concerns about logging in the Biscuit fire and put in place a moratorium, DellaSala said. The Forest Service can't put the trees back that were logged in the botanical area, but they could stop logging in riparian (creekside) areas, roadless areas and old growth reserves.

The Forest Service did not return calls seeking a response to DellaSala's comments.

If you go

What: Open house on a restoration plan for 16 acres of the Babyfoot Lake Botanical Area

When: — to 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Illinois Valley Ranger District Butler Building, 26568 Redwood Highway in Cave Junction

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4496 or e-mail Babyfoot Lake tree restoration takes first step"pachen@mailtribune.com.