CONSERVATION COMMITTEE UPDATE
July to December of last year was a very difficult time for me. Along with the ongoing pandemic, life presented many personal challenges that distracted me from the work I love. As such, my time and contribution to Umpqua Watersheds were not all I hoped they would be. However, I am happy to report that I have made some positive, and dare I say, brave, changes in my personal life that will allow me to focus on the work I love with Umpqua Watersheds.
In October of last year, as many of you know, we filed a complaint against the United States Forest Service for utilizing a categorical exclusion to support its record decision to remove alleged hazard and danger trees along USFS roads. Standing with Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands as co-plaintiffs, our challenge was successful. While details cannot be forthcoming until the proposed settlement is formalized, we are excited that a favorable agreement that halts the indiscriminate harvesting of roadside trees within the Archie Creek Fire area has been reached.
Our Conservation Committee remains watchful of the proposed Blue and Gold Harvest Plan. In December 2019, the BLM proposed “regenerative harvesting” of approximately 2100 acres of 40 to 140-year-old stands in the Upper Umpqua River, Elk Creek, Calapooya Creek, and Lower North Umpqua watersheds. In July 2020, the BLM proposed an additional 1418 acres for treatment – mostly in the Upper Umpqua River and Elk Creek watersheds. We diligently submitted scoping comments articulating the need for a full environmental review and the completion of an Environmental Impact Statement. Specifically, we asserted that the unprecedented amount of acreage burned in recent years far exceeded the modeling used to support the Resource Management Plans applicable to the Blue and Gold. As such, the effects of recent wildfire events on the Northern Spotted Owl and other wildlife must be fully understood before a final decision can be made. We are anxiously waiting for the Environmental Assessment and stand ready to challenge a Finding of No Significant Impact.
We are also watching the BLM’s 42 Divide Stand Management Plan. The BLM is proposing aggressive commercial and non-commercial treatments within Late Successional and Riparian Reserves alongside the Harvest Land Base of over 5000 acres in the Olalla Creek- Lookingglass Creek, Middle Fork Coquille River, Lower Cow Creek, and West Fork Cow Creek watersheds.
In addition to meeting its Allowable Sale Quantity, BLM claims there is a need to address fuels reduction concerns and improve spotted owl habitat. We are gravely concerned that proposed treatments of stands in this area, some up to 200 years old, are counterproductive to ensuring spotted owl habitat and fire-resilient forests. Again, we anxiously await the agency’s Environmental Assessment.
Finally, our Conservation Committee has teamed up with the Living Downstream radio program on 99.7 KQUA. We are now airing a Climate Radio Show every other weekend to discuss the science, the consequences, and the keys to addressing the climate crises we face. During these episodes, we will bring on notable experts to help us understand the complexities and uncertainties of what our climate-impacted future may look like, and how we can mitigate the worst climate change impacts and adapt to inevitable changes. We will discuss effects on our local watershed and communities, and how individuals can make small changes that will result in positive impacts. These issues will be discussed on the UW Climate Change web page in the near future.
So let us move forward together! Join us for Living Downstream! Come be a part of our Conservation Committee and help us work together toward conserving, restoring, and protecting the ecosystems of our Umpqua Watersheds… and beyond.