Editor’s Note: To keep SAF members informed of state society policy activities, Policy Scoreboard is a regular feature in the Western Forester. The intent is to provide a brief explanation of the policy activity. You are encouraged to follow up with the listed contact person for detailed information.
Categorical Exclusion for Salvage and Juniper Removal Expanded
In December 2020, the United States Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published new rules for the use of Categorical Exclusions (CX) for salvage and juniper removal. The new CX affects most timber salvage projects smaller than 3,000 acres and allows BLM to forgo the preparation of Environmental Assessments (EA) or Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) for qualifying salvage sales. However, Endangered Species Act consultation will still be required, and certain “extraordinary circumstances” may still require the BLM to prepare an EA. This change will hopefully allow salvage sales to be offered before decay substantially devalues the logs.
Before this rule making, BLM could only use the CX for salvage up to 250 acres. This change puts the BLM more in line with the US Forest Service who uses CXs and can salvage projects up to 5,000 acres. Another driver for this rule change is that the agency found removing encroaching pinyon pine and juniper vegetation from areas up to 10,000 acres has no significant effects. Oregon SAF worked with the National SAF office to prepare comments during the public comment period Timber Sale Planning Regulations Revised Also in December 2020, BLM published new rules regarding the EA preparation/review/decision process for timber sales, and timber sale contract provisions. Notably the BLM eliminated the post-decision 15-day public protest period and gave management the discretion to implement sales with “full force and effect” upon decision. The public retains the right to participate during project “Scoping” and NEPA process and can still appeal decisions to Interior Board of Land Appeals and/or pursue relief in federal court. The new rules also allow for the sale of timber at or below appraised price where justified; allow the use of scale and weight sales at the discretion of the Authorized Officer; and allow the Authorized Officer to grant a purchaser’s request to extend the operating time under a contract under certain circumstances, without reappraisal. Oregon SAF worked with the National SAF office to prepare comments during the public comment period
Oregon SAF Comments on Santiam State Forest Fire Salvage and BLM Archie Fire Salvage
The Oregon Society of American Foresters submitted comments regarding the Draft Implementation Plan revision to address recent wildfire effects on the Santiam State Forest. On September 7, 2020, easterly winds fanned the Beachie Creek fire into the state forest where it burned about 25,000 acres of the 47,000-acre state forest. OSAF’s comments addressed timely salvage harvest, reforestation efforts, and aquatic habitat restoration. Insect infestations, increased fire risk and loss of value were all cited as reasons for rapid assessment and action. Our recommendation is to reforest the burn, even those areas not scheduled for salvage harvest. Fifty-four miles of streams are within the high-severity burn, and active restoration is encouraged to stabilize soil and stream banks, and restore fish and wildlife habitat.
Comments were also submitted to the Roseburg BLM regarding their proposed salvage plan for the Archie Creek Fire. BLM manages approximately 40,000 acres of the 130,000 acres within the fire perimeter. The fire severity was largely severe or moderate, and wasn’t the more typical mosaic fires of southwest Oregon. Around 25 percent of the BLM land is in the Harvest Land Base, and BLM proposes salvaging over 6,000 acres. Additionally, the BLM proposes to conduct hazard tree removal along roads, within and adjacent to recreation sites, and adjacent to other public and private infrastructure. OSAF is concerned that considerable fuel loads will be left untreated on the checkerboard landscape, risking both BLM and private ownership in the future, and firefighters. OSAF encouraged the BLM to harvest even marginally profitable units to reduce fuel loads and to find ways to treat fuels wherever possible. We supported BLMs plans to remove roadside hazard trees and recommended that treatment be expanded. We also encouraged the BLM to mount a robust reforestation plan for all lands regardless of land use classification. Eastern Oregon National Forest Considering Changes to “21 inch rule” OSAF continues to participate in discussions to modify the current “Eastside Rule” which restricts cutting to trees less than 21 inches.