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Trout Creek plans include boosting wildlife, harvest

 

August 9, 2016



The Sweet Home Ranger District Thursday unveiled a variety of proposals for managing the Trout Creek Planning Area, including commercial logging, road improvements and restoration projects.

The planning area includes approximately 34,500 acres, with actions planned for about 2,400. The majority of the projects will take place in “adaptive management areas,” with work on about 500 acres of “matrix” lands and 14 acres on late successional reserves.

Adaptive management areas are forest lands where the U.S. Forest Service can test a variety of different techniques to achieve its goals on the landscape. Matrix lands have an emphasis on timber production, while late successional reserves are old growth areas.

“We started out with a proposal, and we got feedback on that,” said District Ranger Nikki Swanson. In 2014, the district began with a “knowledge transfer,” where those with information about the resources in the planning area shared what they knew.

Following the knowledge transfer, the district hosted field trips and public meetings in 2014 and 2015 to help develop proposals for the area, which includes the Moose and Trout creek basins and a portion of the Canyon Creek area.

Going forward, the district will complete “public scoping” by December and a draft environmental impact statement by May, with a final decision on the plan in February 2018.

The project’s objectives are to encourage stand health, vigor, species diversity and structural complexity in the matrix and adaptive management areas; to contribute a variety of sustainable forest products to local markets; increase structurally rich early seral habitat mimicking mixed severity fire; improve fire resiliency and manage hazardous fuels in high-risk areas; increase quality, availability and access to traditional resources for Native American tribes, such as huckleberry, camas and bear grass; and enhance and create hardwood habitat and specieis diversity.

The plan includes about 17.4 million board feet in commercial thinning and firebreak projects primarily on units of 50 acres or less.

Thinning projects are primarily aimed at improving stand health and vigor, said silviculturalist Allan Brown. Thinning around Cougar Rock will help improve access to tribal resources. Other projects are designed to mimic natural fires historically moved through the area.

Some stands are dense and slow-growing, Brown said. The thinning will promote growth in those areas.

Fuel breaks will break up the canopy and provide light to the forest floor, he said. In some areas, the Forest Service will plan hardwoods, like maple and alder, which are more fire-resistant compared to the dominant conifers.

That will help provide habitat for a number of species that prefer hardwoods, he said.

The district also proposes non-commercial treatment on more than 530 acres in three different areas, Brown said. In one area, the treatment will consist of cutting back shrubs, primarily vine maple, and increasing the number of tree species by planting shade-tolerant cedar.

Another area will include snag creation with a goal of promoting the growth of oak and madrone, he said. A third will provide fuel breaks in an area with red tree voles, which prevent commercial harvesting.

Ken Loree said that the Ranger District’s production target is 8 million board feet per year. These sales will be offered in 2018 and 2019, with a seven-year harvest period.

The South Santiam River, Moose Creek, Trout Creek and Canyon Creek are all key rivers for winter steelhead, said hydrologist Lance Gatchell. The South Santiam River is important to spring Chinook salmon.

His job is to monitor the projects and make sure they don’t impact fish negatively, he said. Habitat improvement projects are already underway in the project area along Moose Creek. Two weeks ago, the South Santiam Watershed Council tipped trees into Moose Creek to help improve steelhead rearing habitat.

He’s also looking at issues associated with dispersed camping in the Moose Creek area, Gatchell said. He has found refuse such as laundry detergent boxes in the creek.

The Trout Creek Planning Area is home to a large variety of wildlife species, said biologist Esmerelda Bracamonte. They include peregrine falcons, red tree voles and owl species. Similar to Gatchell, she looks for ways to mitigate the impacts of projects in the area.

Based on their findings, the project has already changed substantially since 2014, Bracamonte said.

Archaeologist Tony Farque outlined how the area has been in use by Native Americans for 11,000 years.

“We’ve found stuff every place,” he said. “The South Santiam Canyon was the primary travel way to the east side. This was I-84.”

What is now known as the Trout Creek Planning Area was an area of overlap for the Willamette Valley Calapooia and the Santiam Calapooia Native Americans, he said. Their descendants live among the Grand Ronde, Siletz, Warm Springs and Klamath people.

They want important sites in the planning area to be protected, Farque said, and other historic trails, such as the Santiam Wagon Road, will be protected.

The tribes have a right to use traditional resources based on their treaties with the United States, Farque said, so the planning area includes projects to help provide access. The tribes already burn and harvest a camas field in the planning area.

Other important resources include salmon, Farque said. The salmon return was the biggest event for the tribes historically.

“It’s my job to take the puzzle after all this is over and put it into a contract,” Loree said. Contracts in the area will require skyline and ground-based logging, and timber revenue will help pay for non-commercial activities. Sales will range from 1 to 6 million board feet.

Funds generally stay in Oregon, Loree said. In addition to non-commercial projects, they provide cash to the county, treat slash and fix roads.

For more information or to view documents, visit the Sweet Home Ranger District at 4431 Main St. or call (541) 367-5168.

 
 
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