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USFS's Hash Rock Salvage Harvest proposal appealed

A proposal to salvage trees cut down while building fire trail during last summer's Hash Rock Fire has been protested
For some time, officials of the Prineville Ranger District have been working on setting up a series of salvage harvests of downed trees in the Hash Rock Fire area of the Ochoco National Forest. One of the harvest proposals is already being appealed.
   Last week, Forest Service officials had announced the Environmental Assessment (EA) analysis of a harvest and planting proposal for one section of the burned over forest. Public testimony on those activities will be accepted through mid-June. A second, smaller harvest, known as the Pick-Up Salvage Harvest is the one being appealed.
   The goal of the proposed Pick-Up Salvage Harvest is to harvest merchantable trees that were felled during fire suppression operation. District Ranger Art Currier explained that the salvage harvest would pick up downed trees ... about 55 of them.
   In the appeal filed with the regional forester, the appellants (League of Wilderness Defenders; Oregon Natural Resources Council Action and American Lands Alliance) state they are "concerned that the large diameter trees at issue ... were felled with a salvage timber sale specifically in mind and not for 'firefighting purposes'" as claimed.
   The appellants urge, in their appeal, that the Regional Forester conduct an immediate investigation into why the trees in the harvest were logged for firefighting purposes in the first place.
   District Ranger Art Currier responded by explaining that the trees were cut down for fire suppression purposes. Taking the trees out, Currier explained, was part of building a fire line.
   Among the other points listed in the appeal, the appellants point out that no economic section is included in the EA.
   They also question whether the timber from the project would be milled in Crook County or exported, and whether loggers for the harvest would be hired locally.
   Currier responded to that question by pointing out that timber in a harvest goes to the highest bidder. The only provision is the standard export restriction; the timber cannot be exported out of the United States.
   Apparently the aim of those filing the appeal is to have the timber left on the ground. Within the text of the appeal is the statement that the Forest Service's "... the ability to 'produce timber and forage' is dependent upon maintaining slope stability and high water quality and the need to 'recognize big game habitat needs' implicitly requires the Forest Service consider leaving downed trees in place ..."
   Currier said once he received information about the appeal, he pulled the proposal and made "appropriate changes" in the planned harvest. That reopened the public comment period.
   In February, the EA for the Pick-Up Salvage Harvest was completed and in March the decision was made on how to proceed. A few days after that decision was announced, Cathy Lund, Timber Management Assistant with the Prineville District, withdrew that notice stating that certain information had inadvertently been omitted from the economic assessment.
   "Since the purpose of the Pick-Up Salvage Harvest project is to recover the economic value of downed trees," Lund said about the withdrawal, "I believe it is important to provide an opportunity for comment on the economic assessment."
   Comments on this proposal will be taken until July 2. For comments from the public on the proposed action to be considered, they should be in writing and must be postmarked no later than July 2. For further information, contact Cathy Lund, Prineville Ranger District, P.O. Box 490, Prineville, OR 97754.