Oregon foresters say federal policy has slowed clearing of beetle-killed timber in Fremont-Winema National Forest's 300,000-acre red zone, describe area as 'tinderbox waiting to explode'

Lorena Madrigal

Lorena Madrigal

Oct 3, 2011 – Forestweb

LOS ANGELES , October 3, 2011 () – Oregon foresters are worried that the 300,000 acres of pine bark beetle-killed trees in the Fremont-Winema National Forest remain a significant wildfire threat, despite being spared from lightning storms in August, Oregonlive.com reported Oct. 2.

Associated Oregon Loggers Executive VP Jim Geisinger compared the red zone to “a tinderbox waiting to explode,” saying danger signs were not being attended to because environmental study documents are being written up instead.

According to the industry, federal policy has slowed down initiatives that would have stopped the infestation earlier, and salvaged any timber destroyed by the pine beetle.

Forester Rex Storm described the red zone as a symptom of a larger disease, which he said was broken federal policy.

Wildlife expert and former reforestation contractor Bob Zybach said the U.S. Forest Service should be removing about 10,000-40,000 acres of beetle-killed trees per year instead of its current patchwork timber removal system.

According to Deputy Forest Supervisor Rick Newton, the Forest Service is pursuing a so-called safety corridors program that clears damaged timber to a width of 150 ft. on both sides of selected roads, to a total of about 7,500 acres. Private landowners will receive timber-clearing assistance through the agency’s Deuce Project, Newton added.

Oregon Wild spokesman Sean Stevens promoted a less intrusive management plan that would leave the area to nature rather than intervening with thinning projects, citing the Forest Service’s limited funding.

The Oregon Board of Forestry toured the red zone on Sept. 8, and the timber industry has now requested that the board and Gov. John Kitzhaber intervene with federal agencies to address their concerns.

The primary source of this article is Oregonlive.com, Portland, Oregon, on Oct. 2, 2011.

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