Three million board feet of burned, dead timber from last years Carrol Creek fire has been organized into a proposed timber sale by the U.S. Forest Service.
The proposal, which calls for helicopter logging and makes allowances to leave some dead snag trees standing for wildlife, has run into a hurdle, however, in the form of appeals by two Oregon environmental groups.
You can read between the lines and hear the frustration in Wallowa Valley Ranger Meg Mitchells position. As a Forest employee in Alaska, Mitchell said she had successfully included groups early on in the harvest planning process and avoided appeals.
Not this time. Welcome to Oregon.
Mitchell did reach out to the groups involved, the Hells Canyon Preservation Council and the Oregon Natural Resource Council.
The groups still found reason to object to the sales.
And good for them. A government process without the opportunity for redress isnt a good process.
We are concerned, however, that these appeals are, in part, not about the particulars of the proposed sale but about delaying the sales to a point where they cease to be viable.
The sale makes provisions to mitigate environmental concerns; ecology is an imperfect science, however, and there is room to quibble over two snags per acre or three.
What isnt up for debate is that the clock is ticking on the value of that timber and its ability to not only fuel the local economy, but the budgets of county schools and roads and the Forest Service itself.
Those trees are rotting right now, becoming worth less and less. Within months or maybe a few years at most, theyll be just plain worthless.
Not as biological material, certainly, but as economic material.
However, it doesnt make sense to just let the logs rot on the ground when they could be put to good use.
Restoration efforts afterwards can move ahead at a natural pace, but with a little help from tree planters instead of waiting for the land to recover from its own ravishes.
As stewards of the land, humans are imperfect, but we are learning. The particulars of the Carrol Creek sale reflect modern sensibilities about environmentally and economically ethical use of our forests.
We trust the appeals process will proceed swiftly and that the HCPC and the ONRC will work close enough with the Forest Service in the future to reveal that the boogeymen and timber beasts they see lurking in the shadows are really just responsible practitioners of modern biology and forestry.