Dedicated to the protection and restoration of       the ecosystems of the Umpqua Watershed and beyond through education, training, advocacy and ecologically sound stewardship.

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Jan 2010

Fifteen Years of Collaboration in the Belly of the Beast

Ken Carloni

The history of involvement in “collaborative” groups by representatives of Umpqua Watersheds began in the early 1980s and continues to the present. We have invariably chosen to be at the table, no matter how badly tilted, rather than to sit on the sidelines have no influence on the outcome of the deliberations at that table.

There have been successes and shipwrecks, but we’ve learned from both, and remain committed to engaging the broader community to further scientifically sound management of our public lands. What follows is a brief record of the trials and errors or that journey.

In the early 1990s, we were involved in an informal group that included the 2 biggest timber companies in the Umpqua, a USFS District Ranger and Susan Morgan, now a Douglas County commissioner. Although we met for a year, this effort failed to produce any breakthroughs.

We were again at the table during the Umpqua Land Exchange Project, an attempt to arrange land swaps between the federal agencies and willing private owners. After 3 years of meetings and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, the project only served to enrich an OSU engineering professor, and promises to the community were broken.

A notable success in collaborative ventures was the formation of the Umpqua Basin Watershed Council (now the Partnership for Umpqua Rivers). During the negotiations with Governor Kitzhaber and local stakeholders, we held out for important procedural safeguards (like consensus decision-making) that allowed the council to thrive and grow into one of the most effective stakeholder groups in the state. We have had continuous representation on this council, and one of our board members currently chairs this group.

In an attempt to demonstrate our willingness to develop real ecological restoration solutions and to support local communities in the process, our members have also been engaged in a collaborative forest restoration project within Umqpua National Forest late successional reserves plantation stands. Partnering with the South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership (chaired by one of our board members) and the Lomakatsi Restoration Project, we demonstrated on the ground, with a group of project trained ecoforesters, practical forest restoration through stewardship contracts with the Forest Service. Despite resistance by agency personnel and meddling by local industry hacks, there are now some beautifully restored forests on the Umpqua, and we stand ready to do more.

We were at the table 3 years ago for the formation of the Douglas County Forest Council, convened by Douglas County Commissioner Joe Laurance. After two years of attempting to create a true collaborative process, the conservation community walked away from that table after it became clear that our presence only served to “greenwash” the same old get-the-cut-out agenda.

Most recently, Umpqua Watersheds was well represented on the Roseburg BLM’s Collaborative Forestry Pilot, designed to bring stakeholders into the scoping process much earlier than usual. Because of the biological expertise and persistence of Umpqua Watersheds along with that of our regional partners, new, more ecological sensitive alternatives for thinning in several Coast Range second growth stands are being proposed in their NEPA documents.

Although the BLM collaborative has concluded, two new “tables” are being proposed that will need our participation.

The first comes as an outgrowth of the BLM collaborative and proposes to build a stakeholder group modeled on the successful local watershed council that will take on issues outside the riparian areas where no collaboration currently exists. A small group of committed conservationists, agency personnel and other stakeholders are beginning the political groundwork to bring that important collaborative to fruition.

The second is much more immediate, and represents both a threat and an opportunity for the forests of the Umpqua.

In August 2009, eminent forest scientists Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin proposed a set of ecological principles for restoring “moist” and “dry” forests in Oregon. Recently, they flagged several stands in southwest Oregon -- including 4 stands on the Umpqua -- based on those ideas. They then lead field trips that were well attended by UW forest and wildlife ecologists, our policy experts, and those of our sister organizations.

We applaud their willingness to wade into the fray (including politics, steep slopes and poison oak), and we believe them when they say that their primary goal is not extraction but forest restoration. However, we suggest that before starting to “restore” our forests, we need to have more dialogue on what exactly we think they should look like when we’re done.

The reality is, with climate change, extinctions, catastrophic industrial logging and exotic species invasions, no amount of management can bring the quilted forests of the Umpqua back to their pre-Euroamarican conditions. But we can make management decisions based on the historic range of variability of local ecosystem patterns and processes through time. We believe a deep knowledge of the influences of past and present climatic and cultural forces on local forest ecosystems is essential before moving forward with any broad scale restoration efforts.

Umpqua Watersheds has completed a draft reconstruction of the historical ecology of the ~130,000 acre Little River watershed, a major tributary to the North Umpqua River. Using over 4000 tree ring counts sampled in 180 plots collected for two Oregon State University-directed studies, Current Vegetation Survey data, aerial and satellite imagery, historic images and documents, and recorded archaeological sites, we conducted a GIS analysis to document the patterns of the Aboriginal, Euro-agrarian and Industrial footprints on the landscape.

A key finding of this study is that local forests experienced numerous, frequent, mixed-severity fires that maintained a patchwork of multi-age, structurally diverse stands interspersed with savannas and open parklands. The massive conversion of so many of these diverse forests to highly flammable, even-aged monocultures has moved the current landscape well outside of the range of historic extremes of both structure and function.

These findings and other recent research leads us to the conclusion that the Johnson/Franklin approach ignores too much of the unique diversity of Umpqua forests at both stand and landscape levels by a) dividing all of the forests of Oregon into two only types (moist and dry), b) prescribing too much heavy thinning in mature native forests, c) paying minimal attention to dead wood recruitment critical for wildlife, d) concentrating on stand-level restoration without factoring in the landscape-level effects of industrial management, e) overestimating the danger of wildfire to forests and the wildlife they support, and f) relying too much on chainsaws and not enough on fire itself to remodel Umpqua forests.

While we agree that the myriad tree plantations across the landscape are in need of restoration work, we believe that the knowledge gaps in our understanding of wildlife responses to proposed management activities in mature stands are too great, and that not enough local expertise has been called on to fashion site-specific treatments. Therefore, we believe that more analysis of the most current research, and further experimentation in local forests needs to be done before wide-scale restoration is undertaken, particularly where the responses of Northern Spotted Owls relative to the invading Barred Owl are concerned.

Umpqua Watersheds’ experienced scientists, technical advisors and policy analysts will be demanding a place at this new table, and we’ll be bringing our wealth of local knowledge with us to collaboratively shape the restoration of our damaged watersheds.

Post WOPR BLM Collaborative: Progress or Deja Vu

Cindy Haws

For the past year Umpqua Watersheds participated in a collaborative effort with Roseburg BLM. It was based on a post WOPR push by Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Peter DeFazio to “break the log jam” on BLM and other federal lands. Wyden and DeFazio asked Dr. Norm Johnson and Dr. Jerry Franklin to come up with a reason to get more timber to the mills. Norm and Jerry then produced a proposal that lumped mature forests into wet and dry with timber harvest proposals.

The Roseburg BLM set up the process to look at a few stands in “wet” forest and a few in “dry” forest and give alternatives that would: 1) develop spotted owl and marbled murrelet habitat, 2) reduce likelihood of catastrophic fires, 3) provide timber volume to support the local economy through employment, income and public services.

Umpqua Watersheds encouraged our conservation community to join staff and board at the table of this collaboration. Through UW’s restoration program an amazing group of knowledgeable local citizens offering insight from ecological, biological, and socio-economic standpoints came together. We worked hard, met regularly, discussed issues and coordinated information. Umpqua Watersheds turned every unsound element of “chainsaw magic” into sound restoration proposals and refused to be used for a “green wash”. We attended every evening meeting and weekend/weekday field trip, all of us unpaid. On the contrary, with the exception of one person, and we thanked him frequently, the timber industry and county commissioners were mostly absent after the first few meetings (unless the media or politico’s were present). So much for collaborative listening, learning, mutual respect!

Yet something different happened at that collaborative that I have not experienced in my 30 plus years as a member of the Douglas County community. There was a major shift in critical mass at the collaborative table with a large community of environmental advocates that devoted their time and knew their stuff. THIS IS VERY SIGNIFICANT. We can bring permanent cultural change.

Jay Carlson’s pilot collaboration process ended in October. Recently Congressman DeFazio held a meeting at Douglas County Fairgrounds with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar present to again try to break the log jam and push to apply Norm and Jerry’s forest management proposals.

I have been invited as Umpqua Watersheds representative along with one each from other Oregon conservation organizations, representatives of the timber industry, and county commissioners to dialogue on western Oregon forest issues with Secretary Salazar on Wednesday, December 8th, 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM in Washington, DC. The meeting will primarily focus on the proposals of Professors Johnson and Franklin on ecological forestry.

Jan 2010

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