ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - A Timberline Helicopters Kaman K-Max works on the Sax Stewardship Sale in the Jazz Thinning Project area of the Mt. Hood National Forest on Friday, June 19.You may have seen helicopters flying over the Mt. Hood National Forest near Estacada, but public affairs official Laura Pramuk is assuring the public that there are no forest fires in the Clackamas River Ranger District at this time.

Rather, the helicopters are part of the logging efforts in Jazz Thinning Project areas within the Clackamas and Collawash River drainage systems.

The Jazz Project will thin second-growth plantations of 30- to 60-year-old trees dispersed throughout approximately 2,053 acres in the Collawash Watershed in the Clackamas River Ranger District of the Mt. Hood National Forest.

The Bass, Drum, Sax and Tuba Stewardship Sales are in the Jazz Thinning Project area.

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Floyd Walker, a timber sale administrator for the Clackamas River Ranger District of the Mt. Hood National Forest, inspects a load of logs gathered by Timberline Helicopters crews. Currently, helicopter logging is taking place in the Sax stewardship sale area and will be utilized in the Bass stewardship sale area later this summer.

Dale Phelps of the U.S. Forest Forest estimates helicopter logging is roughly three times as expensive as other logging methods, but there are a number of environmental benefits that justify the extra cost, such as minimizing the environmental impact of logging projects on fish and wildlife habitats.

In the case of the Jazz Thinning Project stewardship sales, forest officials emphasize that the use of helicopter logging eliminates the necessity of reopening closed roads in certain areas.

“The Forest Service... looks at what would be the most appropriate tool in that particular area,” Pramuk said. “They talk to the loggers and timber companies as well, but the forest service makes the decision as to what is the most appropriate tool, ultimately.”

The Jazz Thinning Project proved controversial with some environmentalists. Bark, a Portland based Mt. Hood National Forest watch-dog group, unsuccessfully challenged the project in court. Bark claimed the environmental analysis falsely down-played the environmental impact logging would have in the project area.

However, Michael Krochta, Bark’s forest-watch coordinator, said the group never sought an injunction against the helicopter logging aspect of the project.

Helicopter logging is currently underway on the Sax Stewardship Sale area of the Jazz Thinning Project.

Timberline Helicopters, an Idaho company, is handling the helicopter logging operation there with a team of 18 loggers, a mechanic and pilot. (Truck drivers are not included in the number.)

A Kaman K-Max helicopter piloted by Timberline Helicopters President Brian Jorgenson hauls an average of about 4,800 pounds of timber per trip, though the helicopter is capable of hauling a maximum of 6,000 pounds.

The flight, approximately a half-mile from the logging area to the loading site, takes a little more than two minutes round-trip.

A full-time mechanic is employed to service the helicopter.

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Forest Service Representative Dale Phelps, left, Timber Administrator Floyd Walker, Timberline Helicopters Pilot and President Brian Jorgenson and mechanic Brad Hathaway examine the Kaman K-Max one-man helicopter being used to haul logs for the Sax Stewardship Sale.Officials estimate Timberline Helicopters are assisting with the thinning of approximately 100 acres in the Sax Stewardship Sale, and will fly nearly a million board feet. The logs will go to mills operated by High Cascade Forest, the Washington company awarded the contract for the Sax Stewardship Sale.

Jorgenson said the Timberline Helicopters crew arrived at the Sax Stewardship Site on June 14 and will remain on the project another 2-3 weeks.

Helicopter logging via a different company is expected to commence later this summer on the Bass Stewardship Sale, another Jazz Thinning Project area contracted to Interfor, a North American company headquartered in Canada.

Pramuk warned the public to expect to see helicopters flying logs from remote sites to designated landings on the Forest Road 63 network and other roads throughout the summer.

Some roads may be temporarily closed due to the helicopter work.

She advised motorists to check the Road Conditions page on the Mt. Hood National Forest website for more information.

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