BLACKS FORK LOGGING: WILL THEY NEVER LEARN?
The Evanston/Mt. View Ranger District, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is in the earliest- scoping- stage of proposing a set of timber sales on the Blacks Fork drainage of the North Slope of the Uintas. A DEIS is expected later in the year.
The proposal would include salvage timber harvesting (primarily dead or dying trees) on over 3 dozen units on an astounding 1,880 acres near the mouth of the West Fork and Middle Fork and all the way up East Fork Blacks Fork. Three major harvest units would be near the primitive, quaint East Fork campground and Trailhead. Another 1,000 acres would be burned to stimulate aspen and willow growth on the main Blacks Fork.
Once again, instead of proposing a major timber sale within the forest plan’s Timber Growth and Yield Management Prescription (MP 5.2), the district continues timber harvesting on management prescriptions not intended for timber harvesting! During the forest planning process (2002-’03), we were assured this would be the exception. It has become the rule in the never-ending charge to find timber to harvest on the North Slope. (Over a decade ago, the forest admitted to meaningful over-harvesting on the developed portions of the North Slope and to over estimating the volume of “timber” on the roadless portion of the forest.) It is disingenuous for this proposal to carry out extensive timber harvesting in management prescriptions that do not envision such massive harvesting proposals, salvage or not.
Of course, we expect this concern to be dismissed, again.
On the other hand, we fully expect the forest to explore the ecological issues surrounding properly functioning condition, the historic range of variability, and how the proposal will meet those conditions.
These forests are defined by fire and natural disturbance regimes and clearly become dysfunctional when disturbed and managed by forest management techniques. Beetles are a natural component of the forest systems in this project area including high levels of beetle infestations and the resultant conifer mortality.
We are sure the forest will honestly discuss the impacts of twelve miles of proposed temporary roads by noting the roads will likely be accessible and on the ground for numerous decades while timber sales are made and harvested, making them far more than temporary!
We are sure the district will discuss the unique value of dead and dying forest stands to ecosystem function and to so many forest critters from birds to wildlife to insects.
We are sure they won’t try to convince us that harvesting mimics fire disturbance!
We are sure the forest will clearly note that timber harvesting undermines many ecosystem benefits, removes important biological legacies, and runs counter to inherent forest ecosystem health.
We are sure the forest will clearly note the impacts of additional fragmentation to terrestrial and avian wildlife species.
We are sure the forest will recognize that goshawk and a host of other species survive perfectly well in natural forest settings and have no inherent need for timber harvesting to survive.
We are sure the forest will recognize the values of unmanaged forests.
We are sure the district will recognize the harvesting on the East Fork Blacks Fork and the mouth of the Middle Fork will significantly alter the sense of a primitive setting important to recreational users in the drainage as they wind up the road to the trailhead(s) and its rustic campground.
We are sure the forest will not overstate fuel loads in a forest system dependent upon and defined by fuel loads as the forest itself is a fire dependent and disturbance dependent forest. We are sure they will recognize there is no inherent risk associated with fuel loading in these forests since such a condition is inherent to these forest systems.
Wouldn’t it actually be nice to be sure the forest will do a meaningful review, not just get out the cut?