Salvage: Private vs. Public Land

An AP article appeared in several Oregon newspapers over the last few days, such as this one: “Private forest owners have started salvaging timber burned this summer.”

Excerpt:

Salvage logging on land burned by last summer’s Douglas Complex wildfire in southwestern Oregon is in full swing in privately owned forests, but not in federal ones.

Roseburg Forest Products has cut 8 million board feet of timber from its lands outside Glendale and plans to cut 32 million board feet more, The News-Review reported. One million board feet is roughly enough to build 50 homes.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is still deep in the planning process and has no firm timber targets for the public land.

With that planning process and the likely appeals and perhaps litigation, I reckon no Douglas Complex timber will be salvaged from federal lands. Phil Adams, timber manager for Roseburg Forest Products, is “afraid that burned timber on BLM lands will turn into brush and stands of dead trees unless they are aggressively managed.”

On a related topic, I re-watched a rebroadcast of an episode of Oregon Public Broadcasting’s excellent Oregon Field Guide, Season 23, Episode 2, a portion of which is “Elk at Mount St. Helens.” In the area where forests were blown down or buried by the eruption in 1980, private timberlands were salvaged and replanted, and Weyerhaeuser conducted its first commercial thinning in 2005. On federal lands in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, “the environment is left to respond naturally to the disturbance,” according to the Monument’s web site. The Oregon Field Guide program described the huge increase in the elk population in the Monument — elk like the open space and forage. (The program didn’t say so, but I’d bet that the elk also like the cover they find in the stands of young timber on private lands, since there’s little cover on the federal side.) However, the elk population has grown so large that there isn’t enough forage. Scenes of emaciated elk and rotting carcasses led to a public call for the government to “do something,” and that they did — they brought in hay during the winter. So much for letting the environment “respond naturally to the disturbance.” Now, if wolves had been reintroduced….

 

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Steve, I’m a little confused, and having trouble reconciling this: “The Oregon Field Guide program described the huge increase in the elk population in the Monument — elk like the open space and forage. (The program didn’t say so, but I’d bet that the elk also like the cover they find in the stands of young timber on private lands, since there’s little cover on the federal side.) However, the elk population has grown so large that there isn’t enough forage. Scenes of emaciated elk and rotting carcasses led to a public call for the government to “do something,” and that they did — they brought in hay during the winter. So much for letting the environment “respond naturally to the disturbance.”

    … with this (from the Mount St. Helens Science & Learning Center):
    http://www.mshslc.org/return-to-life/facts-and-research/faqs-on-return-to-life/what-is-the-long-term-outlook-for-wildlife/

    “The winter of 1998 provided an example of the kind of population fluctuations that can occur as the development of forest plantations around the volcano proceeds and the forage supply decreases. A record snowpack (more than three times normal) in the winter of 1998 greatly reduced the forage available for elk and deer. More than 200 elk starved to death in the snow-covered blast zone that winter. The record snow pack of ‘98 had placed an additional stress on a population that had already begun to run up against the limits of the available food supply. The reduction in forage was due in part to the growth of forest plantations on private lands adjacent to the Monument.”

    • Guy, I meant only that feeding the elk wasn’t “natural” — it wasn’t letting “the environment is left to respond naturally to the disturbance.” That it may have been better to let “nature take its course” in this case.

      But perhaps I shouldn’t have diverted from the main topic of the post — salvage and the role of the federal planning process. The article I mentioned says that “Doug Heiken of the conservation group Oregon Wild said that while private timberlands are managed for profit, public timberlands are managed for habitat, clean water and economic benefit.” I suggest that all three goals can be achieved when salvage harvesting occurs.

  2. On Dougco:
    It’s pretty well established by the Forestry Intensified Research studies (FIR) that regeneration in southwest Oregon is hugely complicated by competing brush species. Anyone with eyes can see it, amazing places where the manzanita stands next to OG. Any conifer is going to have a heck of a time making it that first five feet out of the ground without some help.
    As for salvage, the Biscuit pretty much has proved that the salvage has to be timely. Even the sales of big dead stuff had terrible checking issues inside two years.
    On St Helens:
    I’ve been up to St Helens twice since the eruption and am utterly amazed at the difference between the salvaged private ground and the former national forest. Even 30 some years later, there’s not much of what used to be pretty thick woods in the blast zone. Eeeeeeeeerie.
    I have no clue whether elk hunting is allowed in the Monument, but it is also my understanding that road access into the monument is pretty restricted. And given the topography, access is for hunting if it happens is almost certainly limited to licensed guides, and even they are small in number, I’m sure. So without enough hunting, or enough predators, elk will eventually starve. Rocky park is a prime example.
    But yeah, it is ironic that “natural management” and recovery (pshaw, I been there) is being supplemented with hay feedings. Oh, but the visitors like looking at elk?

  3. http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/mtsthelens/faq/q7.shtml

    Looks like hunting has been restricted until fairly recently, which might be a mistake. Like Dave says, hunters and predators (well, hunters are predators, except for folks like the wolf derby types) on the one hand, overpopulation = starvation on the other hand. Around our place, I saw the first pair of wolves about three winters ago, trailing the elk herd. Since that time, we’ve has less problems with the herd taking out our horse fence, crashing through the garden, etc. Anecdotal evidence, of course, and small sample size 🙂

  4. My great-grandfather settled in the Cougar, Washington area in the 1890s, on the southern slopes of Mt. St. Helens when the forests were just coming back from the eruptions of the 1840s. My grandfather was born in 1900. Then in 1902, the Yacolt Fire swept through the Lewis River drainage that contains Cougar, killing (I think) 38 of their neighbors. The family hunted and fished for their subsistence, and my great-grandfather raised packhorses and ran pack teams into the Lewis River headwaters for hunters and fishermen, and for geologists looking for dam sites. In 1918 or so, they spotted the first elk in the drainage, said to have arrived from the Kalama River over a route by the family’s cabins on Lake Merrill. When I was a kid in the 1950s, I’d often see herds of elk from 30 to more than 100 animals in sizes gather in my grandparents fields following bad snowstorms. They are a prairie animal and don’t seem to require much “forest cover” — other than to avoid people.

    These herds had been heavily hunted by (the admittedly small population of) locals since they first arrived, around WW I, and were healthy with a relatively stable population — apparently due in large part by the large scale clearcutting that had been taking place on Mt. St. Helens since WW II. Naturally, the populations of other carnivores also increased accordingly — including cougars (go figure), people, and black bears. The favored habitat of the bears, however, seemed to be the Cougar garbage dump, where they could be spotted more readily than any other area I was familiar with.

    Animals are adaptive. Elk and deer like browse; bears, cougars, and people like elk and deer. All enjoy forest products at one level or another. These things can never live in “harmony”, but there is no logical reason that they can’t coexist — and lots of evidence that they can. Policy is not a logical exercise, though, so there’s that.

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