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March 14, 2013
Conservationists oppose Crater Lake timber sale

A proposal by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to thin about 4,000 acres of forest on the western border on Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park has prompted opposition from conservation groups, who believe the project would eliminate some trees that are 300 to 400 years old and endanger critical wildlife habitat.

The USFS is expected to make a decision on one of four alternative actions in April 2013. 
Formed when a volcano collapsed 7,700 years ago, Crater Lake is the center of the nation’s fifth oldest national park.  At its deepest point, the lake is over 1,900 feet deep, making it the deepest lake in the United States and the ninth deepest in the world.

USFS’s proposed action, called the Bybee vegetative management project, would occur along approximately 3 miles of the park’s western boundary.  According to the service, the project is necessary to decrease overstocked tree stands, reduce susceptibility to insect and disease outbreaks, produce more productive stands, create commercial timber output and other commodity outputs, and reduce the risk to forest resources from high-intensity fire. 

Preferred alternative

The USFS included four alternatives in its environmental assessment and expressed its preference for Alternative 2.  That proposal comprises:

  • 3,622 acres of commercial silvicultural timber harvest treatments (in several separate timber sales) on 78 units, producing approximately 45 million board feet of commercial volume that would be offered in multiple timber sales,
  • 467 acres of natural fuels reduction treatments on 15 units,
  • Constructing 12.9 miles of temporary roads (in 28 segments), 8.8 miles of which are located on existing nonsystem road templates,
  • Decommissioning 5.4 miles of existing system roads (in 21 segments), and
  • Implementing several other postharvest treatments (e.g., soil restoration, planting, wildlife enhancement).

No alternative proposes clear cutting, says USFS, which adds that thinning as contemplated in three of the four alternatives would “remove trees of different sizes to create a stand that has a natural appearance and retain or promote vertical and structural diversity by leaving trees with varying crown positions (as opposed to a grid like spacing of similar sized trees) and variable density (gaps and clumps for diverse horizontal structure).”

Clear cutting?

While the USFS states that the project was designed to avoid impacts to old-growth forest ecosystems, the objective of removing trees that the USFS considers diseased will result in cutting some trees that were standing when the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock.  Conservation groups refute USFS’s assertion that clear cutting will not occur under any alternative.  The groups say they have delivered more than 10,000 public comments in opposition to the project.

Click here for USFS’s environmental assessment for the proposed Bybee project.

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