Editor’s note: Although it is our policy to issue corrections and clarifications in a more timely matter, this response to a story published March 29 on Page 16 of the Chieftain is being printed to correct an editing error, which erroneously termed Mr. Kelly’s original comments “misguided” without attribution.
My comments for the news story about the Lower Joseph Creek project included a statement that the U.S. Forest Service has decided to “allow logging in remote forests located in wilderness-quality, un-roaded, canyon lands.” My statement is based upon information provided by the Forest Service in their report for the project.
I am referring to 3,549 acres (5.5 square miles) of “other undeveloped lands” scheduled for “harvest.”
The Forest Service report states that these forests “have no history of harvest activity, do not contain forest roads and are not designated as a wilderness area or inventoried as a potential wilderness area.”
Additionally, the Forest Service did not consider most of the Joseph Canyon Inventoried Roadless Area to qualify as potential wilderness because parts of Joseph Canyon were “salvage” logged after a wildfire in the ‘80s. Therefore, “undeveloped lands” located next to most of Joseph Canyon were not considered to be potential wilderness and thus fair game for “harvest.”
This logic creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of ever-increasing logging. Whether these lands are ever designated as wilderness is not the most important point. As more forests are logged, there are fewer remaining unlogged forests and unfragmented lands.
Science shows us that unfragmented and connected wild landscapes are becoming increasingly important as a changing climate affects our watersheds, our native forests and grasslands, and the habitats they provide for fish and wildlife. Unfortunately, these intact ecosystems are becoming increasingly rare.
There is a valid case to be made for active restoration of previously logged forests as part of an effort to repair the effects of past logging, fire management and road-building. The Lower Joseph Creek project area contains thousands of acres of these forests located within an extensive historic road system.
This is where forest and road treatments can provide positive benefits — ecological, economic and social. However, the Forest Service’s decision to apply this type of management to canyon lands that “do not contain forest roads” and with “no history of harvest” will unfortunately create significant impacts to soils, watersheds and wildlife.
Hells Canyon Preservation Council worked hard to forge a consensus on this project with the Forest Service and other diverse members of the community. Broad agreement was established for active management in previously logged forests within the historic road system.
However, agreement was not reached about authorizing logging of undeveloped lands or about how to manage the forest road system.
And despite years of analysis, the final decision does not deal with the problems created by an excessive and unmaintained road system. The Forest Service decision allows road densities to exceed the agency’s own standards in seven sub-watersheds.
These road-density standards exist to protect clean water, fish and wildlife. Elk and steelhead are of particular concern.
The next time you travel to the Joseph Canyon Viewpoint and look across the canyons, you’ll get a sense of why this wild landscape is so important. Joseph Canyon is a magnificent place and it deserves the best stewardship and protection that we humans are able to provide.
Brian Kelly is Restoration Director of Hells Canyon Preservation Council.