Conservation groups are employing litigation and emotion to stop the D-Bug timber sale, while ignoring the environmental benefits.
Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild say they will sue if the U.S. Forest Service finally goes ahead with plans to thin some 7,000 acres around Diamond and Lemolo lakes.
The Forest Service has been planning the timber sale for five years in response to the growing fire hazard in the popular recreation area within the Umpqua National Forest.
A mountain pine beetle epidemic and years of fire suppression have left the area stocked with dead wood and chocked with excess vegetation.
Conditions are ripe for a catastrophic fire that would burn down the scenery and trap vacationers.
The Forest Service, which scaled back timber harvest plans to try to appease environmentalists, proposes removing enough trees to give firefighters a chance.
Secondarily, thinning bug-infested stands would curb the spread of beetles, preserving mature and healthy trees.
The Forest Service acknowledges trade-offs. Timber harvests would diminish the view in places and downgrade 1,195 acres of spotted owl habitat.
Nevertheless, the agency has concluded the D-Bug timber sale is the best option for the environment.
The logging wouldn’t jeopardize the survival of the spotted owl and would leave less of a mark than unchecked fire or beetle infestation.
For the most part, the D-Bug timber sale calls for removing smaller trees, leaving larger, more fire-resistant trees. The exception would be in lodgepole pine stands, where some larger trees would be removed to give the remaining ones a better chance to withstand disease and catastrophic fire.
In rallying opposition to the D-Bug timber sale, conservation groups seek to harness the passion people have for the area. They employ images of Crater Lake and warn about tall pines reduced to stumps.
Passion for the area is precisely why the D-Bug timber sale should proceed.
The area includes two resorts, eight campgrounds and more than 100 vacation homes. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Crowds and lightning strikes make the area prone to human-caused and natural fires in the summer.
Fires in the Umpqua National Forest are becoming more destructive as the forest grows thicker. The great fear is that an out-of-control fire around Diamond and Lemolo lakes will cut off evacuation routes. Vacationers wouldn’t be able to escape, while firefighters couldn’t get in to battle the blaze.
Conservation groups complain the D-Bug timber sale would require new logging roads into pristine backcountry. The Forest Service plan calls for 3.7 miles of new roads. When the timber harvests are finished, the roads would be obliterated.
A safer and healthier forest would remain.