What a Difference 25 Years Make

Today the US Forest Service announced a set of projects for the Willamette and Mt. Hood National Forests to be funded under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. One of those projects is entitled “Ramsey Creek Fish Passage Enhancement” and will cost $18,580.

That really takes me back. You see, 25 years ago I personally rebuilt the fish ladder on Ramsey Creek. It was attached to the small dam and pond on Ramsey Creek located at Camp Baldwin, the Boy Scout Camp west of Dufur in Wasco County, Oregon. When the Boy Scouts built the dam they included a fish ladder, but debris had plugged it and broken the step boards.

The Camp manager and I hauled a gas-powered air compressor down to the dam. I cleaned out all the debris and set new boards so that fish could again get over the dam. Although the Dufur District of the Mt. Hood NF was notified (as was the Oregon Dept. of Forestry, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife), none of those agencies gave a crap nor lent a hand. Total cost to the taxpayer: zero, zilch, nada.

I note this as a matter of historical record only. You can draw your own conclusions.

Fixing the fish ladder was a peripheral project to the restoration of the Camp Baldwin forest [here]. The forest there had become choked with dead fuels which we cleared out, leaving widely spaced older trees at a park-like density. We thus saved the camp from total incineration by severe fire, and maintained all the program activities the Boy Scouts enjoyed.

We also saved the habitat for a pair of spotted owls that nested there. The owls continued to nest at Camp Baldwin and fledge young for at least ten years.

Fours years after the restoration project, spotted owls became a listed endangered species. The USFS had a map of where all the owls were, but on the map the Camp Baldwin owls were located in the middle of severe burn on Fed land, not where they actually were at the Camp. I pointed out this error to the wildlife specialist at the Dufur District headquarters. She told me that she “could neither confirm nor deny” the owls real location. Of course, I could do exactly that, but what the hey.

I will always remember that bit of bureaucratic doggerel and obfuscation. However, I only note that it happened; you can draw your own conclusions.

This year I proposed similar restoration forestry treatments on the Willamette National Forest to be funded under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. The Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) rejected my proposals. The Forest Supervisor of the Willamette NF was quite upset with me for even making the proposals. He wanted me to make it quite clear to the RAC that the Willamette NF wanted no part of restoration forestry, had not contributed nor collaborated in any way, shape, or form, and were dead set against it.

You can draw your own conclusions.

One of the RAC members is a retired USFS official, at one time the Director of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area [here]. We have a personal history.

His staff promulgated a Management Plan that required private landowners to leave trees when conducting harvest operations. The minimum number of trees to be left was 400 trees per acre 25 feet tall or taller. I pointed out (in a series of letters and testimonies) that 400 trees per acre is 10-foot spacing. Trees 25 feet tall at 10 foot spacing constitutes a thicket so dense as to be unnatural. No existing stand in the Mid-Columbia even came close to the minimum density required under the Plan.

You see, the USFS staff had no foresters nor anyone who had an inkling of what 400 trees per acre looked like. At Camp Baldwin we thinned down to 40 to 50 trees per acre. That’s what saved that forest from immolation and saved the owl habitat, too.

To my knowledge the Plan was never altered despite my protests. I bring this up only as a matter of historical curiosity. Conclude what you will.

That official (now retired and sitting on the RAC) had come the Gorge from the Los Padres NF. In 2007 and 2008 the Los Padres NF was swept by the two largest and most expensive fires in California state history, the Zaca Fire and the Basin/Indians Fire. One cause of those fires was build up of fuels in the absence of any fuels management or restoration of any kind.

That’s the kind of legacy that results from unmanagement, in my professional opinion. But you are more than welcome to draw your own conclusions.

Today Obama’s new Forest Czar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, shut down all management projects in “roadless areas” that comprise 58.5 million acres of our National Forests [here]. He called a “time out.” Unfortunately, he did not call a time out to catastrophic forest fires that denude, degrade, and convert forests to tick brush, much to the detriment of spotted owls, fish, people, and other living things.

Twenty-five years is a long time. Look at all the progress we’ve made. But who am I to criticize? Please draw your own conclusions.

29 May 2009, 9:15am
by Forrest Grump

And THAT’s a small part of the history that happens and is lost when ignored. 400 sticks an acre? Nuts!

29 May 2009, 1:12pm
by Larry H.

I’ve seen “Ologists” before refuse to disclose the locations of special areas like nest trees and archeological sites before. I fnally had to ask them this one question; How am I supposed to protect the site from loggers if you won’t tell me where it is?!? After a little thinking, they finally decide to put it on a map and give it to me. some of them think that I would go out there and shoot the birdies or plunder their cultural sites. However, when they weigh the issues, they have to decide that protection is better than secrecy.



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