Local environmental group might file legal challenge to sale of five large timber tracts in Oregon's southern Wallowa Mountains, wants 691 acres excluded

LOS ANGELES , July 11, 2012 () –

A legal challenge might be filed to the Snow Basin project, which is designed to lower the risk of wildfires on 28,500 acres in Oregon’s southern Wallowa Mountains, reported The Baker City Herald on July 11.

The Hells Canyon Preservation Council (HCPC) is considering its options, after failing to resolve an appeal of Wallowa-Whitman Supervisor Monica Schwalbach’s approval of the Snow Basin project in late March, said David Mildrexler, HCPC’s ecosystem conservation coordinator.

The local environmental group wants 691 acres of “multi-story, late and old structure” forest excluded from the plan, Mildrexler said, noting that he had thought the two sides were close to a compromise, The Baker City Herald reported.

The Wallowa-Whitman approves of logging most of the grand firs, which represent the predominant species of trees in these old-growth forests. Removing the grand firs will invigorate the remaining pines and tamaracks, according to the Wallowa-Whitman

The project is especially noteworthy in that it proposes to sell five parcels that could produce 35 million board feet to 50 mmbf of timber and would cut down some live trees larger than 21 inches in diameter, reported The Baker City Herald.

HCPC and environmental groups are urging the Wallowa-Whitman to continue to comply with the “Eastside Screens” policy in which the U.S. Forest Service agreed not to cut live trees bigger than 21 inches in diameter in national forests east of the Cascades in Oregon.

Most of the trees marked over 21 inches in diameter that are marked for cutting are grand firs, but trees older than 150 years will not be cut, regardless of species, according to the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project, The Baker City Herald reported.

Grand firs are more susceptible to insects, disease and fire than are pines and tamaracks, and cast shade over sun-loving aspens, according to the Wallowa-Whitman. However, Mildrexler said that some animals rely on multi-story forests, which also tend to be less susceptible to fire.

The Snow Basin project includes not only logging, but cutting trees too small to sell and prescribed burning on thousands of acres. Several of the pre-commercial thinning areas will be set aside for cutting firewood, according to the EIS, reported The Baker City Herald.

The primary source of this article is The Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, on July 11, 2012.


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