Ripping Up History

The Middle Fork Watershed Restoration and Road Closure Project Environmental Assessment (EA) is now available for public review.

The Legal Notice starting the 30-day public comment period appeared in the Eugene Register-Guard this morning, Nov. 29. See attached letter [here] for details.

Musings From Long Ago

by Bear Bait

I worked with a yarder engineer in the late 1960’s who was raised in the Dexter area. He related a story about he and his older brother and their summer job.

He was maybe 10 or 11, and his older brother was 14 or so. The date was pre-WWI. They would take a team with barrels and salt, and their camping outfit, and drive up the Willamette River on the old military wagon road that skirts the south side of Diamond Peak. Way up the Willamette, which he said had lots of horse graze and great camping spots. Their job was to catch fish and salt them. Fill the wagon. And then drive home with a wagon full of salted fish.

He said salmon trout and salmon, mostly. I was not smart enough to ask how they caught them. He said they picked apples all the way home, from trees along the wagon road.

My Uncle Carl, now 82, attended the Boy Scout camp at Camp Lucky Boy, which is now submerged under the Lookout Point Reservoir. He said his favorite activity was fly-fishing for cutthroat trout, which were mostly about a foot long to maybe 16″.

In those days, before dams, the cutthroat migrated seasonally in river. Down river in the spring to feed in the mainstem, and up river in the fall, and then up small tributaries to spawn from January through April. I can remember walking down to the fish ladder on the Mary’s River at Corvallis, in spring, to see the big cutthroat going up the fish ladder to spawn in the upper reaches of the Mary’s River.

The dam was there at the mouth to make the log pond for the Corvallis Lumber Company, a division of Willamette Ind. They had a rail dump, and then later trucks only. The rail came in from Beaver Creek and out the east face of the Coast Range south of Corvallis.

One day early in my log buying career, I was looking at some Starker logs due south of the Mary’s Peak turnoff, across the highway, and the logger’s landing was set up where the last rigged tree for Willamette still stood, hayrack and squirrel and the works. Loading trucks under a rigged tree. They left the tree rigged when the job was done. Probably about the time the mill closed.

I also was looking for a BLM sale on Prairie Mountain one afternoon, late, in the rainy season, and I came around a corner in the road, and there was a rigged tree with a hayrack and a loading bitch over one side of the landing, and the yarder on the other, and rain drops were still making steam hitting the still warm exhausts of the two donkeys. But nobody there. I had missed the crew, I suppose because they were on the Hull-Oakes private road.

I think I was looking for some Pope and Talbot wood for sale. Or BLM… But that was the last full rigged tree and loading pot I ever saw in the woods. I worked on lots of rigged trees in my life, but always we had a shovel loader with tongs… until grapples… which lasted about 15 years, and then all hydraulic loaders after that. Man, some of the grapple runners could put those grapples anywhere. And pitch a cull over the side, and it looked like the shovel actually was holding its nose like something smelled bad…

Musings from long ago… bear bait

2 Dec 2010, 8:13am
by bear bait

You do wonder, you know, how much history there is for the old Oakridge Ranger District. The Econazis arsonistas burned the ranger station and history to the ground. All the maps, notes, old contracts, photos, the history of the District, were incinerated. And that after the Rigdon RD was shut down. Just another gift from the radical left, who it appears are going to get less from public employee paycheck checkoffs as Oregon is slowly facing the reality that public employee pay and benefits are no longer affordable. The private sector jobs pay less, and pay less taxes accordingly, all of which will downsize payrolls one way or another.

You talk about a geriatric work force. As the union seniority system consumes its young, the rolls of disgruntled, rumpled career bureaucrats will appear larger, which in fact it will be by comparison but not in numbers. First we have to get really old, then it will be all rookies and very young. Hang on, because the rodeo is going to get a lot rougher.

As the USFS tears up assets, I see commodities are selling for more and more. $7.50 a bushel wheat futures. Oil gaining 6% in a week. Copper right at $4 a pound. The meeting of two forces are producing economic waves. Supply and demand have bet the US Debt, our bond selling and money printing, and the now daily devalued dollar is reflected in dollars per pound, barrel, bushel, in commodities traded world wide. Grease the wheels of your wheel barrow, so you can haul you dollars to the grocery store. Cause and effect? A government spending money it does not have on tearing out roads that have real and intrinsic value over long periods of time. Ideology has trumped reality, and bureaucratic insanity is now the law of the land.

Or, WE CAN’T AFFORD TO TEAR OUT ROADS BECAUSE WE DON’T HAVE THE MONEY!!!! capiche? unnerstan’? And closing roads because they can’t afford a road grader, the payroll, and diesel is just a part of the deal…institutional sloth is no excuse.

3 Dec 2010, 2:14pm
by Tim B.

Well, as someone who started working at the Oakridge Ranger District in 1975 (and I’m still there in more or less that same location, though now under the Middle Fork name) and was there when the original Ranger Station burned, I can say for sure that a lot of inforamtion was lost; some irreplaceable, some that was replaced, and some which was not missed.

While there are still a few older curmudgeons like myself around, what we have really lost the most of, and that really cannot be replaced in any reasonable amount of time, is a lot of personal expertise and most importantly, accumulated knowledge of this particular corner of our ecosystem. We’ve picked up a lot of younger, very sharp folks that are fun and refreshing to work with in the last several years, but without exception all have been specialists who see this three quarters of a million acre landscape through a pretty narrow slot.

Can you believe that for this amount of land and a thinning and restoration program that is supposed to produce about 25 or 30 MMBF per year (oh, we could produce twice that with no ill effects if we had more staff and better management support) there are now only 2 practicing foresters here? Few people are left with any memory of how things used to be, let alone the insights and understanding that one gets from working on a piece of ground for three decades.

Now all our analyses and a lot our our planning is done from computer databases; databases that are, of course, incomplete at best and inaccurate more often than not. Effects calls are made from textbook perspectives (all roads are bad, any reduction of biomass is bad, any type of harvest — even helicopter yarding! — will result in sediment entering streams, ad nauseum). No one looks back at past practices and resulting conditions (or lack thereof) anymore; no one even looks at the forest anymore to see how it developed of the last couple of centuries. No one considers that the watershed I get my water from (the City of Westfir, some of the purest water you can find in a ‘metropolitan’ area, and we can prove it with numbers) has been at least 30% logged with no large ill effects; we still have spotted owls, elk, and a wild and scenic river. But here we are closing flat-graded roads that have been stable for the last 30 years because some guy or gal in the University has determined that if you have more than X miles of road/square mile, you have a problem. Everywhere, apparently, regardless of soils or slope

It drives me crazy, spending money to close a perfectly good, well-built road (built when the timber we harvested had some considerable value, so we could afford to build good roads) and then having to spend money again to reopen it, and having to support that expenditure with a much lower value thinning sale. Used to be I was required to put into an environmental assessment that each road built provided for dispersed recreation opportunities. I figured I traded my share of that patch of old-growth for additional road access, which is somewhat of a benefit if you need to find a down tree for firewood every year. Now I feel I got cheated in that bogus swap.

Its hard to be optimistic about this situation; here I sit, about 3 or 4 years away from retirement, with no young forester to train up, and a comprehensive knowledge of this great big district. I would be able to plan the next decade’s worth of timber sale from my head — at least in terms of where to go to start looking hard at the stands and the ground — and I know all the places we should stay the hell away from. When my remaining forester colleague and I finally retire (probably about the same time, too) I can’t imagine how all that will continue. I can say that whatever happens, it will all be done with Google Earth, ARCView, and data sets that aren’t worth printing out to read them. When that time comes there will be some pretty poor timber management projects offered, and I doubt there will be much commercial interest in them; they’ll have to pay more to maintain and reopen roads than the timber will be worth. If there’s a timber management program at all; so much for multiple use and renewable resources

4 Dec 2010, 8:47am
by bear bait

Tim: institutional memory purposefully erased by administration because that is what the NGOs wanted. And they got it.

YOU care. I care. And maybe 500 other people care. A distinct minority. And when an ignorant majority runs the place, our country, I am moved to NOT care. There is no longer anything I can do about it. All the nonsense about public inputs is window dressing for political solutions. The Clinton Administration in its third year lost the House, with all those committees run by majority staff for over 40 years. A career. And if you ever looked at how the pompous asses in the Democrat party ran the House and the committees, subcommittees, you would know that a subcommittee would have 7 to 15 staff members, 6 to 14 of them hired by the Majority, and the Minority got a staff legal counsel and sometimes a staff minority administrator. When the Republicans took over the House, all those now unemployed committee staff for the past Majority Democrats just went across the street and went to work for the agency that their subcommittee or committee had jurisdiction over. People went from committee administrator to deputy asst. under sec. of whatever, and they continued to write the administrative rules and run the agency as if they had never lost their power, which they did not.

The Republicans had very little expertise due to five decades of being in the minority, and having no farm team, and the power went from the committees to the agency administrative appointees. They wrote the administrative rules and deflected opposition to Clinton Admin Policy, and you got the USFS you have. And I pretty much guess that we will see the very same thing now that the Republicans have regained control of the House. Nothing will change. The Clinton appointees are still working at the agencies, and now there will be Obama appointees from the very same committees doing the same. Nothing will change, nothing will get better.

The USFS is hell bent to becoming part of Interior, and when that happens, you will really see how land management can become a political pawn and gift. Losing the reputation and history of the USFS to technocrat computer geeks who don’t spend five percent of their time in the brush is a foregone conclusion. And losing the agency to Interior will happen because that way the Congress can again gain control of land management decisions. The agency won’t be a part of Ag and looking for money after the corn subsidy is met. It will have to go up against Parks, Indians, Wildlife, Dams, and other Interior departments. The ability to fund Interior will then be the struggle. And only one agency will have to go to court.



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