The Children's Forest and the Future of the
Eastern Region State Forests
The Klamath-Lake District of the Oregon Department of Forestry in their proposed Siderod Timber Sale, driven by their perception that they have to maximize revenue, has made inadequate provisions to deal with the presence of a pair of nesting northern goshawks, and are planning to cut some of the district's best and last old growth habitat. Their conduct here points to the need to examine the question of old growth habitat and the creatures dependent on it, not only in regard to this sale but across the Eastside State forests.
This proposed Siderod Timber Sale, which we call The Children's Forest because it belongs to the school children of Oregon in a special way as a Common School Fund land, covers 552 acres in Sunpass State Forest approximately 15 miles northwest of Chiloquin, Oregon in Klamath County. It includes stands of lodgepole pine, and also some magnificent old growth habitat with giant ponderosa pines, white firs, and sugar pines, some of which are 200 years or more old. This Sale is projected to produce 5.6 MMBF worth $1.6 million.
The Eastern Region State Forests cover 42,070 acres, of which 20,804 are in the Sunpass State Forest. The District under its Eastern Region Long-Range Forest Management Plan, created three Forest Connectivity Areas covering 2000 acres, which have already been chosen. They have the purpose of providing wildlife habitat continuity with the late successional reserves of the Winema National Forest and with Crater Lake National Park. Within these connectivity areas are to be included three goshawk management areas of 80 acres each, as yet undesignated. The plan chose both the goshawk and the pileated woodpecker as the indicator species to determine the success of these connectivity areas.
The Northern Goshawk
Given these provisions of the plan, we could easily imagine that the District has wildlife, old growth and landscape issues well in hand. But the real test of any plan is how it actually operates on the ground. The test of this plan came when a pair of nesting goshawks were discovered during timber marking in The Children's Forest.
After this discovery, the District provided background information for its decision-making process about the goshawks to the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff members. This information covered revenue expectations and goshawk biology issues.
It called The Children's Forest the "crown jewel" of the Common School Fund Lands, not because of the nesting goshawks or the magnificent old growth that exists there, but because of its significant revenue producing potential. It had singled out this piece of land for special viewing by the Division of State Lands, and had pointed out to the Division its importance "in the revenue generating potential of the Klamath Common School Lands." This part of the background letter concluded: "In summary, it has always seemed to me that Common School Land carried a higher revenue generating obligation than BOF land. Partly for that reason we eliminated these stands from consideration for the FCA's."
This kind of perception of The Children's Forest set the stage for the decision that was going to be made about the northern goshawks.
The other part of the background letter discussed goshawk biology issues and the placement of the current Forest Management Areas. It concluded that there were two basic management alternatives. "Manage a nest stand around the existing nest site." Or, "Move the Goshawk Management Area for the Southeast FCA to the Siderod sale area." (See Appendix I for how to obtain the full text of this letter.)
Here is what the Oregon Department of Forestry's own wildlife biologist had to say about these choices:
"Like you, I don't think we should continually move the FCAs/GMAs as we discover nest sites over time. I also realize that a lot of thought was put into the location of these areas. However, it is still pretty early in the process of establishing these special management areas. Some considerations include: 1) the GMA's have not yet been established; 2) the FCA's are recently established and no activities have yet been proposed within them; 3) relocation or modification of the FCA could be viewed as adaptive management.
"One of the ideas behind the forest connectivity areas, as I understand them, is that pileated woodpeckers and northern goshawks were chosen as indicator species to monitor the effectiveness of the Forest Connectivity Areas. We do have pileated nest sites in 2 of the FCAs. However, we have no goshawk sites in the current FCAs. Hopefully, we will in the future, but we have no way of knowing if and when this will happen. An advantage of establishing one of the FCAs and/or GMAs to include this nest site would be to ensure us the opportunity to monitor the effectiveness of our management strategies for the goshawk as well (assuming the goshawks use this site again in the future, which may or may not be a safe assumption). This is an opportunity that we do not otherwise have in the current FCAs.
"Another option I thought of is that instead of moving the entire FCA, the current southeast FCA could be modified to include the goshawk nest site. The nest site is only 1-1.5 miles from the current FCA boundary, and this FCA is already somewhat discontinuous relative to the other 2 FCAs, although all parts of it are connected. What I might suggest is moving the SW 160 acre piece to include the goshawk nest site and leaving the rest of the FCA intact. The advantage of this approach would be that the GMA could include the known goshawk nest site, while the FCA would still include the known pileated nest site and be located in good proximity to the federal LSR. One disadvantage to this approach is that the FCA would be more discontinuous. I encourage you to consider this "modification" option as well as the options of moving the entire FCA and not moving the FCA at all.
"From a biological standpoint, my recommendation would be to consider modifying the current FCA to include the known goshawk nest site because of the opportunities it offers for monitoring the effectiveness of the FCA/GMA strategies."
There are two more points we need to look at before we examine the decision the District made.
The northern goshawk is not only a State sensitive, and a Federal Candidate 2 species, but it is the subject of a long and continuing legal battle that claims that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has failed in its duty to place the goshawk on the threatened and endangered species list. Therefore, the northern goshawk is not only an indicator species chosen by the Eastern Region Long-Range Management Plan, but its treatment is undergoing close legal scrutiny.
Secondly, the goshawk has been subject to numerous studies to determine the impact of harvesting around nest sites. (See Appendix II.) Let's just look at a summary of nest protection strategies described in northern California U.S. National Forest Goshawk Management Plans:
The Oregon Department of Forestry biologist suggested 160 acres. These studies show a range between 150 to 300 acres. Current research seems to suggest that something in the range of 200 acres is not excessive.
The District Decision
The District decided it was not going to move the proposed Goshawk Management Area. Instead it was going to protect the nest site, and it would do this by creating a 1.6 acre no-cut zone around the nest, and a modified cut zone of about 5 acres more. This decision is so out of touch with current goshawk research that we have to ask where it came from. We will come to that in a moment.
Old Growth Habitat
The question of the goshawks leads us naturally to the question of the old growth habitat they prefer, and old growth issues in general across the Eastern Region State Forests. There are no provisions in the Eastern Region Long-Range Management Plan to preserve any old growth. The Forest Management Areas will be managed for larger tree size and greater canopy closure. But "these stands will be managed for timber production." (Plan V-26.) For the Goshawk Management Areas, the Plan admits that "the standard uneven-aged management prescription in the Forest Connectivity Areas may not automatically provide this nesting habitat," but does not specify what is to be done. (Plan V-27.)
Not only are there no provisions for old growth habitat, the District Office has no clear idea of what old growth habitat they had in the past, what remains, and what the future in this regard looks like. At least we have been asking them for this kind of information for about ten years, and have never gotten a response. Still less, do they have any idea of what has happened in the private and federal forest lands that surround the State holdings. Without this kind of information, how can they manage for the goshawk, or any other creatures dependent on these kinds of forests?
A number of years ago we put together an informal survey of old growth in Klamath County (see Appendix III), and even this unscientific survey shows that across the County less than 5% of the original old growth still exists. What has happened in the forests surrounding the Children's Forest is painful to see. Since the 1980s there has been wide-spread cutting of these old growth forests by private, State and Federal managers, without coordination, and this cutting has drastically changed the whole character of the forest.
With this background in mind we come to the question of the old growth habitat on The Children's Forest. The District has counted 6,043 trees over 21.5"DBH and plans to cut 3,380 of them. What these figures do not show is that among these
3,380 are enormous ponderosa pines, white firs and sugar pines 200 or more years old, and thus part of the original forest that have for the most part vanished from this area. Some of these trees slated to be cut are shown in the pictures on our website, as well as in the photos accompanying the printed version of this report.
In short, the District plans to cut more than one-half of the old growth trees on The Children's Forest with no provisions to save any of the big trees in the future, and this remains the plan despite the discovery of the nesting pair of northern goshawks who need this kind of forest in order to survive. When we asked them whether they would consider saving 100 of the giant trees, they said they could not because it would set a precedent. The example they used was the next time a big timber company might ask them to cut 100 more of the big trees, and they would already have set a precedent by listening to outside parties.
The Maximization of Revenue
Now we have to look at the District's motivation to act this way in regard to both its decision about the goshawk's nest and its lack of commitment to old growth habitat, and it turns out to be something we have been seeing all along. It is their perceived mandate to "maximize revenue", especially for the Common School Fund Lands. This motivation appeared clearly in their own background to the discovery of the goshawks, and it appeared equally clearly in their last letter of Dec. 7, 2000:
"The Eastern Region Long-Range Forest Management Plan contains a discussion in the Guiding Principles section about the "primary standard of management". For Common School Forest Lands, this standard is the "maximization of income for the Common School Fund ... consistent with cost-effective and ecologically sound forest resource management". The discussion goes on to clarify that the "Department will ... emphasize the long-term compatibility of growing and harvesting timber with other forest uses" and that the "Land Board may take management actions that reduce present income if these actions are intended to maximize income over the long term". This stated direction in the plan is driven by state law and administrative rule."
This has always been their bottom-line argument when we have discussed with them saving some of the old growth habitat in the Eastside State Forests. Would the preservation of some old growth unduly impact the revenues from these forests? It would certainly not do so in regard to The Children's Forest. Further, the Common School Fund already has $800 million in it, and it is estimated by the Fund Managers that it will soon reach $1 billion. There is no economic
reason, still less any ecological reason, which says that some of this vital habitat could not preserved. Forest health could be improved, revenue could be generated, and old growth habitat could be preserved.
New Directions in State Forestry
Another important issue is whether this treatment of The Children's Forest is out of harmony with the new direction in State Forestry that is now coming out of the Oregon Department of Forestry, itself, and the Board of Forestry, as illustrated by the newly approved Northwest and Southwest Forest Management Plans. The very issues we have pointed out as being problematical in the District's proposal for The Children's Forest have already been modified at the State level. Let's look briefly at them.
In these new plans the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Board of Forestry have moved away from the old timber/revenue type plans to a broader and sounder vision of what the State Forests should be like in the future. They envision a future that will provide "greatest permanent value across the landscape and over time," in the form of "a full range of economic, social and ecological values," which includes ecosystem restoration under the heading of habitats for native wildlife. "State forests will contribute to ecological goals at the landscape level to the extent that such contributions are compatible with administrative rules defining greatest permanent value." (Board of Forestry Intent Statement on Adopting the Northwest and Southwest Forest Management.)
The revisions of the Northwest Forest Plan done under the supervision of the Board of Forestry give us some indications where this new direction is headed. An earlier draft of the Northwest Plan, for example, stated, "Existing old growth in the planning area occurs as widely scattered individual trees, and occationally as small isolated patches. Because the occurrence is limited, the Department of Forestry's intent is to retain all existing old growth to provide this element of diversity in present and future stands." The final version of the draft reads: "the Department of Forestry will retain all existing old growth " Elsewhere the revised draft adds "retain all existing old growth patches and individual old growth trees."
When dealing with the Common School Fund Lands, the draft adds the language that the
lands are managed: "with the object of obtaining the greatest benefit for the people
of this state, consistent with the conservation of this resource under sound techniques of
land management," and deletes the language that reads: "to generate the greatest
amount of revenue in the long run for the Common School
The Plan goes on to say: "The intent of the plan is to adopt management strategies that contribute to providing for the survival and recovery of currently listed threatened and endangered species, and assist in preventing future listings of other species. The fact is recognized, however, that northwest Oregon state forests are one part of a larger landscape, and cannot by themselves provide sufficient habitat to guarantee the survival or recovery of a species. When managing habitat conditions on northwest Oregon state forests, planners should consider conditions on other public and private lands, in order to ensure that state forest lands contribute to species recovery goals." (26/60)
Is what is being planned for The Children's Forest in accord with the new spirit of State Forestry? If not, this Plan should be reevaluated, and this new direction should be applied to the Eastern Region State Forests as a whole.
We have discussed the issues of The Children's Forest with the District Office, and found them to be consistently courteous, helpful and professional. The problem is that they are working out of an out-moded paradigm that ought to be replaced.
Here are our proposals:
In final analysis, we cannot allow ourselves to cut down the giant trees of The Children's Forest and drive away the goshawks in the name of the children whose future is being taken away from them.
James Arraj for The Children's Forest, LLC
We have created an extensive website on these issues:
For the letters cited in the text and our whole correspondence with the District Office, go to http://www.innerexplorations.com/foresttext/disc.htm
For a summary of goshawk research, go to http://www.innerexplorations.com/foresttext/ng.htm
For the survey of old growth in Klamath County, go to http://www.innerexplorations.com/foresttext/old.htm