Telling The Forest Service Side of the Story: Lookout Mountain Project

Banners hung from Bend highways – and on a log deck, state protesters’ view that Deschutes National Forest is removing old-growth trees in thinning project; Forest Service denies claims

This is an example of the FS getting its side of the story out there. Good on them and to KTVZ for publishing it here.

Here’s a quote from the FS side:

The EXF Thinning, Fuels Reduction and Research Project is a collaborative effort between the Deschutes National Forest and the Pacific Northwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service. The project site, in the Lookout Mountain Unit of the Pringle Falls Experimental Forest, is located west of La Pine and about three miles east of Crane Prairie Reservoir.

· The Lookout Mountain Unit of the Pringle Falls Experimental Forest was established in 1937 as a center for forest silviculture, management, and insect and disease research in ponderosa pine forests east of the Cascade Range. Today’s dense forests on Lookout Mountain were established primarily after two stand-replacement wildfires that occurred around 1845 and 1900. The road system was constructed in the 1960s. Over the last 35 years, vegetation research treatments have occurred on 2,534 of the 3,535 acres within the Lookout Mountain Unit.

· Planned research will improve our understanding of how management actions influence forest structure and dynamics over time, including the effects of thinning and fuels reduction treatments on forest resiliency during a period of potential climatic change.

· Planned management actions will maintain growth of trees through thinning, leave forests more resilient to drought, reduce their susceptibility to forest insects, and reduce the risk of significant loss from wildfire.

And from “concerned citizen Jeffrey Kingsley from Milton-Freewater Oregon” (8 miles s of Walla Walla Washington, 272 miles from Bend).

Going up to Lookout after logging operations started was devastating. The forest service claims to be worried about fires but let logging crews leave piles of slash two stories high along with other debris strewn throughout the area creating much more fire risk than the intact forest we saw there before. You can see huge log decks of old growth trees cut to line the pockets of industry at the expense of recreation, wildlife, and the last intact scenic ponderosa pine forests.” said Kingsley.

Hmm. Of course, they will treat the slash, also it appears to me after having a chance to discuss the project with various involved individuals, it is a research project. I’m sure that industry is happy to get it, but that’s not the point. Does Mr. Kingsley really believe that PNW scientists design their projects to benefit the timber industry? Or why else say it?

Another piece of the FS story is that civil servants must always be reasonable and civil. That seems to be a disadvantage in any competition of impugning motives and inflammatory rhetoric.

Here’s another piece, by Karen Coulter, the director of the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, an environmental advocacy organization based in Fossil, Ore.(about 100 miles away)

The court ruling on EXF granted extraordinary deference to the agency because the timber sales are on an experimental forest and did not otherwise address our legal claims regarding the wrongful use of a unique intact block of old growth forest on public lands.

Note the response to the claims in the comments..

But it is really “wrongful” to do experiments on an experimental forest?

And what do the environmental groups in Bend think? Why are only people from far away quoted? I guess the good news might be that there aren’t any questionable projects on closer National Forests, so they have to range more widely to find projects to appeal?

16 thoughts on “Telling The Forest Service Side of the Story: Lookout Mountain Project”

  1. Sharon, These public national forests belong equally to every single American citizen. I continue to be perplexed as to why you continue to make a big issue out of the fact that some concerned American citizens might not live immediately next to a national forest. You appear to be saying that either: 1) they shouldn’t have a say in how their national forests are managed; 2) their concerns and their opinions shouldn’t matter as much if they live 100 miles away from the national forest, compared with 50 miles or 10 miles.

    Sure, Karen Coulter lives about 100 miles away from the Deschutes National Forest. Big honking deal! These national forests belong equally to everyone. I live within 2 miles of some parts of the Lolo National Forest while I also live over 100 miles away from other parts of the Lolo National Forest. Are you saying my opinions about the management of the Lolo National Forest should only apply to those parts of the Lolo that are within a 10 mile radius of my house?

    The fact of the matter is that Ms. Coulter and the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project have been actively engaged in the management of the Deschutes National Forest for over a decade, if not closer to two decades.

    Again, I just have to shake my head and wonder where you are going with all this “They live x miles away from the forest” non-sense. I live 2,290.7 miles away from Washington, DC. Perhaps my opinions and concerns about the federal government shouldn’t matter as much as someone living in Maryland?

    • OK, Matthew, I’ll bite.. we were just talking about principles… here is one of IUCN’s

      “Indigenous and local communities are rightful primary partners in the development and implementation of conservation strategies that affect their lands, waters, and other resources, and in particular in the establishment and management of protected areas. ”

      Now why would that be true internationally but not nationally, or do you disagree with this IUCN principle?

      • What’s IUCN? And besides, I’m not sure this “principle” (where ever it comes from or whatever it applies to) means that American citizens who live 10 miles….50 miles….100 miles….or 1500 miles really shouldn’t have as much of a say in federal public lands management.

        • IUCN is the International Union of Conservation Organizations.
          Here’s another quote from this page:

          Conventional protected area approaches dominant over the past 100 to 150 years have tended to see people and nature as separate entities, often requiring the exclusion of human communities from areas of interest, prohibiting their use of natural resources and seeing their concerns as incompatible with conservation. While some kinds of protected areas (e.g. those corresponding to IUCN categories V and VI) are assumed to accommodate human communities, more prestige seems to have been attached to those designed to exclude them both as residents and decision-makers (usually corresponding to IUCN categories I, II and III). Since most protected areas in the world have people residing within them or dependent on them for their livelihoods, the conventional exclusionary approaches have engendered profound social costs. This is particularly true when the affected indigenous peoples and local communities were already, even before the protected area intervention, among the most marginalized groups.

          Are some communities in the Interior West and elsewhere “marginalized”?

          • Again Sharon, I’m not trying to be dense here, but I have no idea how the quote pulled from the International Union of Conservation Organizations applies is an “apple-to-apple” comparison with how America’s federal public lands are managed. I mean, do local communities, local people and local elected officials have no say in how our national forests are managed? Is anyone trying to actively suppress their participation in national forest management? On the flip side is anything trying to actively suppress the participation of other Americans in national forest management by doing things like pointing out the miles they live from a forest? Or suggesting that they be required to post a bond to appeal a timber sale, etc? Seems to me that with very few exceptions, local communities and local elected officials have had, and continue to have, a much greater say in national forest management than most people.

            • My own “modeling” indicates that, generally, the farther you are away from a given project, the less you know about the purpose and need of said project. *smirks*

  2. I’m some years out of the loop now, but as I understand it this current Lookout Mountain operation on the Pringle Falls Experimental Forest continues (perhaps pursuant to updated terms of reference) silvicultural studies initiated on the Lookout Mountain Unit (added to that experimental forest in 1937 for such studies) conducted by Ed Mowatt, Walt Dahms, Jim Barrett, Ken Seidel and others as described in my July 2007 “Ponderosa Promise: A History of U.S. Forest Service Research in Central Oregon” published by the Pacific Northwest Research Station as PNW-GTR-711 which I hope provided background for discussion of the issue.

    • Jerry, as part of the FEIS (which was not that easy to find) here, there is the study plan for this study. Here is a link. 41 pages of why this is an experiment on an experimental forest. Maybe you haven’t looked at it?

      It seems to me that Experiments on Experimental Forests are relatively rare, and not “every project.”

      Here are the appeals from 2010.

  3. I also have to take some exception to the fact that this original post didn’t include this information, also from the Forest Service, according to the link to the TV news coverage:

    • The Forest Service claims the ponderosa pine stands on Lookout Mountain are approximately 165 years old. However, Forest Service basically claims 165 year old trees ‘ain’t really no big thang’ since ponderosa pines potentially can live 600 years. So basically trees that started growing a few decades before the US Civil War aren’t really that old because they could live even longer….if we didn’t cut them down that is!

    • According to the Forest Service, on average 9 trees per acre will be cut down that measure over 21″ dbh. Hey wait, hasn’t the Forest Service and timber industry “experimented” enough with cutting down old-growth? Apparently not, since here we are in 2012 and taxpayers need to let the Forest Service and timber industry “experiment” with more logging of old-growth forests.

    Also, it’s telling that the original post didn’t provide much of this information below from concerned citizens, which was also provided in the KTVZ link. Seems like if we are to have a good discussion about this “experiment” the following information should be included front-n-center as well. Thanks.


    Concerned citizens of Oregon drop banners around Bend to tell the forest service to stop logging the last intact old growth forests in the Deschutes. “We are appalled by the forest service’s elimination of the last intact old growth forests in the Deschutes and the hypocrisy of calling this an experiment. Science has shown for decades that thinning does in fact increase radial growth in trees. However in this area of Lookout Mountain there are already the kinds of trees such thinning is usually intended to create.” said concerned citizen Jeffrie Kingsley from Milton-freewater, Oregon.

    We are doing this to inform the citizens of Bend and all of Oregon that the Deschutes is exterminating old growth trees there for wildlife habitat and recreational values. All the legal possibilities of saving this sale were exhausted and logging had already started so we wanted to inform the public about what is going on right in our back yard. There have been numerous timber sales just in the Deschutes such as Five Buttes, EXF which are currently being logged or have already been logged, Popper, West Bend, Ogden, Rocket, and Rim-Paunina and there will be many more to come. As concerned citizens from Oregon this action intends to pressure the Deschutes forest service to stop the extermination of old growth trees on the eastside of the cascades.

    As the first experimental forest in the northwest Pringle Falls was established in 1931 and Lookout Mountain, a 3,535 acre unit, was added in 1937. This area of the forest is maintained and administered by the Pacific Northwest Research Station in cooperation with the Deschutes National Forest. In 1845 a stand replacement fire resulted in the establishment of mostly ponderosa pine forest at lower elevations and mixed conifer (Douglas fir, grand fir, sugar pine, western white pine, and mountain hemlock) forest at higher elevations. Small portions of Lookout Mountain was thinned in the 1970’s and 80’s. This part of the experimental forest is located about 25 miles southwest of Bend.

    The Deschutes National Forest is currently liquidating approximately 2,554 acres of healthy old growth ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forest in the Lookout Mountain unit. This means removing 72% of the old growth tree, over 2/3rds of the Lookout Mountain unit, under the guise of an experiment. 1,840 acres will resemble a clear cut with only widely spaced seed trees with little to no ground cover. Of the total sale only 342 acres are to be left alone for future research, intact wildlife habitat and natural forest recreational use.

    The Lookout Mountain timber sale (EXF) will affect nesting and foraging habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl, potential habitat for the Pacific fisher and California wolverine, as well as existing habitat for the white-headed woodpecker, the Lewis’ woodpecker, neo-tropical song birds and the Johnson’s hairstreak butterfly. Many of these animals require mixed conifer forest, old growth logs, snags, and down wood to protect their livelihood. These species are all threatened by the EXF timber sales.

    “Going up to Lookout after logging operations started was devastating. The forest service claims to be worried about fires but let logging crews leave piles of slash two stories high along with other debris strewn throughout the area creating much more fire risk than the intact forest we saw there before. You can see huge log decks of old growth trees cut to line the pockets of industry at the expense of recreation, wildlife, and the last intact scenic ponderosa pine forests.” said Kingsley.

  4. An informative photo. Take a look at the stand of timber behind the log deck and sign. I’m guessing that its basal area is well over 100 sq.ft./ac. and, from the look of it, urgently needs a bold hand on the paint gun.

    The F.S. response, while technically sound, is not calculated to win hearts and minds. Sounds like it was written as an introduction to a research paper. Until the FS folks learn to write with fire and flair they’re going to lose the battle in the media. A before and after photo would give make clear why thinning is needed and give dramatic support to the project. Lacking also is emphasis on the fact that this is a work in progress, that the slash will be disposed of, and that the fire hazard will be reduced.

    As for Jerry’s comment – Hey, this is an experimental forest not a national park, and this is a research project.

    Finally, I must agree with Matthew on his comment. I’m making this comment from Florida, some 1500 miles away and I’ve never set foot on the Pringle Falls Experimental Forest.

  5. Well, you said this is what “concerned citizens” are thinking. but only one citizen is quoted. The fundamental point is that it is a scientific project to determine “the best science” based on empirical studies. After all, empirical studies are what the legitimacy of scientific information is based on.

    If you are going to thin old trees, some trees removed will be old, but the ones that are left will have more water and potentially be able to grow better and live longer. I am sure that the piles are going to be burned.

    Does anyone really think that Dr. Youngblood planned his study to “line the pockets of timber industry?” Here’s a link to him and some of his research.

    IF it is a thinning project, I don’t see how that could be “liquidating”.. perhaps just a language problem.

    And if we know this isn’t true, should we believe the numbers thrown out?

    I really don’t want to read the FEIS, so would appreciate any corrections of those numbers from those who have. Perhaps some retirees who are in the neighborhood?

  6. The EXF Project has questionable scientific underpinnings.

    1) The FS received several letters of support for this project from scientists who mostly said it was important to do the logging to protect existing small-scale studies from the effects of potential future fires. This could have been accomplished with much smaller, more focused treatments, instead of the 2500 acres of aggressive logging that was approved.

    2) This project logs in mature Ppine forests which are rare in this area. Younger black-bark pine is much more common and it would be a much more compelling research objective to determine appropriate restoration treatments in the over-abundant black-bark pine stands instead of in rare mature Ppine stands.

    3) One of the more significant effects of this project it to capture mortality and deprive the future forest of dead wood habitat. The EIS for this project (and the scientists involved) mis-state evidence on the adverse impacts of commercial logging on species associated with dead-wood. The EIS makes the common mistake of assuming that thinning that increases growth on a few larger trees somehow compensates for the loss of dead wood caused by thinning that exports far more than half of the trees from the stand. Stand modelling contradicts the “common sense” of most foresters (and many scientists) who are trained to think about live trees and can’t think straight about dead wood.

    • Tree- I would tend to go with someone who has been studying the ways trees grow for his career on the subject of whether the scientific underpinning are “questionable” or not.

      1) Because scientists wrote letters that doesn’t mean that the purpose and need of the original project is wrong.
      2) I really wonder about what you state about rarity. When I worked there, private timber companies used the pick and pluck system which made sure there were always large trees.
      3) There is no policy of “no net loss” for dead wood Because if we remove it or fires do there is still going to be loss and growing back.
      4) It’s an experimental forest, and there will always be environmental impacts of doing treatments to find out what happens in reality..
      5) Models are not reality. Models are tested in their ability to predict reality by using empirical data. Experimental forests produce empirical data.

      It is very interesting to me that of all the groups that so strongly fought for different terminology about the use of “science” in the planning rule, none have jumped forward to defend actually obtaining good “science” (hopefully to be used in planning!) on this project. Does anyone else wonder about this?

  7. I just wanted to chime in a little bit, here. It is less about old trees than it is about sizes of trees. No one blinks when we cut a 200 year old tree that is 14″ dbh.

  8. In my experience a Ponderosa Pine Forest that has not had a fire or significant thinning in over 75 years is going to be over stocked and threatened by stand replacing fires. Fire return intervals on Ponderosa stands can be 15 to 30yrs, not greater than 75 years. Most of the Old Growth Ponderosa Pine that has been lost in the last 20 years has been from wild fire not logging. The levels of dead wood in stands with frequent fire intervals is low, as the frequent (15 to 30 yr) fires consume down logs and snags. That’s why they had those nice open park like stands of of big Yellow Pine, frequent low intensity fires..


Leave a Comment

Discover more from The Smokey Wire : National Forest News and Views

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading