Sweet Home Ranger district’s Toll Joe project nears final OK

Scott Swanson

The Sweet Home Ranger District has completed a draft decision notice for the Toll Joe Project in the Three Creeks Old Growth area along Highway 20 about 30 miles east of Sweet Home.

The Ranger District is proposing the project, which includes approximately 954 acres of commercial timber harvest, 139 acres of hazardous fuel reduction, and about 1.3 miles of temporary road access development and 2.7 miles of re-opening existing non-system spur roads to access harvest units.

District Ranger Cindy Glick said the project is expected to produce 6.2 million board feet.

Ninety-five of the proposed harvest acres are in two plantations (45 and 47 years old) that would be thinned in the Three Creeks Old Growth Grove, which would require a Forest Plan amendment.

Stated reasons for the thinning project include fire hazard along the highway, dense growth that is impacting the health of existing trees, and improving growth and production of timber products from that area of the forest.

“Above the highway we’ll be doing a fuel treatment, so it will be thinned,” Glick said. “In other places trees 7 inches and less in diameter will be harvested to reduce fuels. We want to try to improve the health of the forest and create some snags and woody debris for animals and plants that thrive in that environment.”

A 45-day objection period began last week for those who have already submitted specific written or oral comments during the 30-day public comment period.

According to U.S. Forest Service documents, the 37- to 105-year-old stands proposed for treatment are a combination of plantations and fire-regenerated areas.

The plantations were previously clearcut, planted, precommercially thinned and often fertilized and pruned to increase growth and future wood quality. The fire regenerated stands resulted from a 3,000-acre fire in 1911 and a 600-acre fire in 1936, both human-caused.

According to the Forest Service, both the plantations and the fire-regenerated stands are densely stocked with limited understory species and structure. The stands are dominated by a single conifer species, Douglas fir, noble fir or western hemlock, depending upon the stand.

All stands have a dense overstory canopy cover that blocks out light to the forest floor and limits understory development, leaving trees competing for sunlight, water, and nutrients. The undergrowth is mostly shrubs with few small trees scattered throughout resulting in single-storied stands.

A similar project in the Canyon Creek area that was approved in 2011 has produced some 25.3 million board feet from 1,856 acres, Glick said. A companion project to Toll Joe is being planned for the Cool Soda area, to the northeast. An environmental assessment for Cool Soda is due out later this summer, she said.