Conservationists have expressed outrage over a proposed access road to be constructed on public land in the forested Susan Creek area east of Roseburg.

But according to Roseburg-based Lone Rock Timber Management Company, the road is a legal way to allow the company to access 40 acres of its own timberland.

For Francis Eatherington, Umpqua regional advisor for conservation group Cascadia Wildlands, the prospect of cutting down old-growth trees on the proposed road makes her upset.

“It’s very rare to find old-growth forests like this, and it’s going to be cut down for a senseless road,” she said.

Lone Rock CEO Toby Luther said a few large trees will need to be cut in order to gain access to the company’s property, and Lone Rock staff worked with the Bureau of Land Management to design a road that leaves the least amount of impact to resources.

Eatherington said many bird species, including the endangered northern spotted owl, are nesting in the area this time of year.

“If they go in and cut these trees down, those baby birds won’t be able to fly away. They’ll be splattered on the ground,” she said.

According to Luther, more than just wildlife resources need to be taken into account for any road project.

“The conservation groups are sensationalizing this issue by focusing on the few large trees in the road project, whereas responsible forest management companies are concerned with the resources of the entire forest landscape like soils, hydrology, fisheries and botany,” Luther said.

Right-of-way agreement

Land ownership in Western Oregon is divided into a checkerboard-like pattern, where one square on the board could be public and the one next to it could be privately-owned. If a timber company wants to access the “square” it owns, it has to cross through a different square to get there.

That’s why Lone Rock and the BLM say they adhere to the O&C Logging Road Right-of-Way Agreement set up in the 1960s to allow landowners this type of access. In this case, Lone Rock plans to begin logging trees to construct a 1,440-foot-long road through the Swiftwater area managed by the BLM, in order to start a logging project on its own land.

Barbara Machado, the BLM Swiftwater field manager, said the right-of-way framework is a key component in being able to effectively access and manage both public and private forestlands in the checkerboard.

“It is important that the BLM upholds the legal rights of adjacent landowners to access their lands according to the agreements that are in place, as we expect private to provide access for the management of public lands in the O&C,” Machado said.

Cheyne Rossbach, a spokesman for the Roseburg BLM, said Lone Rock will need to pay the BLM fair market value for the timber it logs to make way for the road. Luther said the BLM will follow the same process and procedures in determining the volume and value of the timber that it does with other timber sales.

Eatherington said she questioned if the price will really be fair, as it will be negotiated without the public’s knowledge.

Building the road

Plans for the proposed road will include an area for trucks to turn around.

“The road starts from an area where two to three roads meet, where trucks could turn around,” Eatherington said. “That adds to the appearance that this is just a timber grab and not necessary for Lone Rock Timber to access their unit.”

Joseph Patrick Quinn of Camas Valley, the vice president of conservation group Umpqua Watersheds, added he expects Lone Rock to extract much more in terms of timber value from the road and truck turnaround than it will from the timberland the company is trying to access.

Luther said his company’s business model does not include buying federal timber when it can avoid it, as it no longer operates a mill.

Quinn said he thinks there is a lack of transparency regarding the proposed logging.

Quinn said it doesn’t make any sense why the BLM would allow Lone Rock to log a number of very large, precious trees during owl nesting season, and he said the road is unnecessarily wide.

According to the Luther, the road construction engineering and procedures follow the best available science and management practices to minimize impacts to the forest’s ecosystem, and to minimize soil erosion, degradation to water quality and other resources.

“The clearing limits, which define the trees that need to be cut in order to construct the road, are as narrow as possible to build a safe and stable road,” Luther said. “This is the same practice we apply to any road construction project.”

Wildlife review

The right-of-way agreement allows BLM staff to survey the proposed road area to mark any trees they’re concerned about, or to provide recommendations to the road builders. While the review contains no concerns regarding archeology, botany, fisheries, fuels, hydrology or recreation, the BLM did note some concerns about wildlife.

The BLM's review suggested that in order to avoid removing suitable habitat structures and/or nest trees for the spotted owl, Lone Rock should avoid logging large trees with broken tops, cavities, large limbs or nest platforms. It also recommended the company leave behind large snags or large downed wood for habitat, and flagged three Douglas firs with pink “wildlife” flagging, indicating they should not be cut.

The review also recommended the company implement seasonal restrictions during the owls’ breeding season from March 1 to Sept. 30. Rossbach said Lone Rock can begin construction at any time during the dry season, May 15 to Oct. 15, but it was allowed to start as early as this week.

Luther said the trees marked by the BLM wildlife biologist contain no current or previous nest for any species of concern. He declined to say when the company will begin logging and road construction, due to what he said is the conservation groups’ “past behavior of tree sitting, vandalizing equipment or driving spikes in trees with the intention of hurting people.”

Eatherington said she talked with a representative of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who told her private timber companies are legally required to consult with the service when they impact spotted owl habitat, but the agency does not enforce that requirement. She said when she asked him to enforce it this time, the representative replied he would discuss it at a meeting in Portland on Monday.

Quinn said he doesn’t think the right-of-way agreement should trump the Endangered Species Act and other protections for species like the spotted owl.

“We have judicial evidence the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declared the 1872 Mining Act, for example, does not trump the Endangered Species Act,” Quinn said.

Possible objections

Rossbach said the road construction is a non-discretionary action, meaning the BLM is very limited in what it can object to when a landowner wants to build a road.

According to the agreement, approved by the federal government on March 30, 1966, the BLM may object to the proposed construction only if it is not the most direct route to the landowner’s property, the road would interfere with existing facilities or improvements, or create excessive erosion.

“We determined none of those three fit in this situation, so that’s where Lone Rock gets the clearance to go ahead with that road segment,” Rossbach said.

Other reciprocal right-of-way agreements may include the option for other objections, such as “an existing road is available and suitable for removal of timber tributary to the proposed road,” or if the construction “may affect a species listed as ‘threatened or endangered’ under the Endangered Species Act,” but this particular agreement does not include those options.

Facebook activism

Christopher Pond of Dillard created a Facebook page called Rare Old Growth Public Forests Threatened By BLM, which shows photos of old growth trees in the proposed area.

Pond said he created the page because he believes what BLM and Lone Rock are doing is brazen.

“Lone Rock could easily cut the patch they desire to cut with men and chainsaws, but they require this road through BLM to specifically allow one machine to do all the work,” Pond said. “That’s less jobs and more profit.”

“Your public lands are being handed away behind closed doors without your say so, and regardless of protest,” a post on the Facebook page reads.

Luther said the page uses deceptive statements and half-truths to elicit strong emotional responses from the public.

“In this case they claim that BLM has embarked on a ‘back-room deal with Lone Rock Timber to log ancient forests,’ when the truth of the matter is that Lone Rock Timber has the legal right under our reciprocal right-of-way agreement with the BLM to construct the road to gain access to our property,” Luther said, adding some of the trees in the posted photos are outside of the proposed logging area.

In response to claims that the road will run through the center of an old-grove grove, Luther said the road is designed to avoid large trees where possible, and the surrounding forest contains hundreds of other trees of similar types and sizes.

Reporter Emily Hoard can be reached at 541-957-4217 or ehoard@nrtoday.com. Or follow her on Twitter @hoard_emily.

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Business, Natural Resources and Outdoors Reporter

Emily Hoard is the business, outdoors and natural resources reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4217 or by email at ehoard@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @hoard_emily.

(21) comments

Creeksend

OSU RESEARCH CONFIRMS THAT BIG TIMBER IS THE LEADING SOURCE OF GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS IN OREGON
April 30, 2018 by John Talberth
A new study by researchers based at Oregon State University and the University of Idaho corroborates Center for Sustainable Economy’s 2015 and 2017 research demonstrating that logging is by far the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon and that changes in greenhouse gas accounting rules are urgently needed to ensure that the climate impacts of logging are accurately reported. Both the new OSU study and CSE’s 2017 research estimate annual logging-related emissions to have averaged over 33 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent per year (Mmt CO2-e/yr) since 2000. This makes logging by far the largest source of emissions in the state, far larger than the 23 Mmt CO2-e/yr attributed to transportation – the leading source presently accounted for by the Oregon Global Warming Commission (OGWC) and the State’s Department of Energy.

Logging related emissions are not counted in the state’s annual inventory of greenhouse gases because the OGWC relies on a methodology that was “written by loggers for loggers” according to non-governmental organizations monitoring international meetings that birthed the accounting rules almost two decades ago. Rather than disclosing logging related emissions, these rules mask the damage by burying the information needed to isolate logging emissions within broad calculations of changes in carbon stocks on forestlands of all types and all ownership categories. The emphasis of the adopted rules is on “carbon flux,” which is merely a measure of the ins and outs of carbon on the landscape during any given period. The assumption is that if the ins and outs are roughly balanced – something that can be achieved by regularly mowing a lawn, for example – then there is nothing to worry about and the forest sector as a whole is considered carbon neutral.

But regardless of carbon flux across the landscape, logging-related emissions are substantial and must be part of annual emissions reporting so that appropriate policy interventions can be designed to ramp such emissions down on par with other sectors being considered for regulation. As noted in the OSU study, “transparent quantification of emissions from the wood product process can ensure realistic reductions in forest sector emissions.”

The level of agreement between the two studies was somewhat remarkable considering that both used the same basic data sets but applied two very different methodologies to that data. The OSU study calculated emissions associated with burning wood for fuel, the manufacturing process, and the net decay of wood products after taking into account the potential carbon savings associated with making these products with wood rather than more carbon intensive substitutes like concrete or steel. The CSE study took into account wood products decay, emissions associated with the decay and combustion of logging slash, and the loss of sequestration associated with clearcutting. Despite the different methods, having two studies pointing to the same level of emissions should be worrisome to those who insist on leaving Big Timber out of Oregon’s climate agenda.

The study also highlights four practices that have high potential for significant emissions reduction and increased sequestration including afforestation, reforestation, long rotations and protection for existing high-density carbon stocks. Each of these practices was also highlighted in the 2017 CSE report as an example of climate smart forestry alternatives to short rotation clearcutting and industrial tree plantations. CSE also advocates for thinning of dense tree plantations on state and private lands to expedite their development into climate resilient late successional and old growth forests and other techniques to log commercially valuable timber but leave a healthy forest behind. In contrast with highly mechanized logging of industrial tree plantations, such climate smart practices are labor intensive. Having a skilled workforce in the woods with this kind of know-how would help make Oregon a global center for climate smart practices and produce forestry jobs in communities that now suffer the boom and bust cycles of unsustainable logging. With so many workable alternatives on the table at a time when humanity needs fast action on climate enacting legislation to make these practices the norm and not the exception is more urgent than ever.

The OSU study represents a milestone in CSE’s efforts and those of its partners over the past three years to convince climate policy makers to fold the timber industry into the state’s climate agenda. Governor Brown, legislative leaders, and the OGWC itself have all resisted various options for doing so, including a system of forest carbon taxes that will raise badly needed funding for investment in climate smart practices or capping the timber industry on par with other sectors in the cap-and-invest legislation expected to be reintroduced during the 2019 legislative session.

Other options include legislation requiring long term climate resiliency plans for the largest landowners that commit these owners to long term targets for rebuilding forest carbon stocks on the land toward natural levels and to stop managing so much of the land base as monoculture tree plantations cut on increasingly short rotations. If managed sustainably, Pacific Northwest forests can capture and store more carbon per hectare than almost any other ecosystem on earth. But tragically, these carbon stocks have been severely depleted by industrial scale clearcutting and now exist at a mere fraction of nature’s baseline. For example, carbon densities in some of Oregon’s remaining old growth has been shown to exceed 1,200 metric tons per hectare, while plantations forests now store less than 400 metric tons per hectare.

Enacting legislation to require corporate owners to develop and adhere to long-term climate resiliency plans can be a vehicle for reversing this situation and restoring a landscape that is now more susceptible to fires, insects, disease, water shortages, floods, landslides and heat stress than one dominated by the complex, natural forests that nature built over tens of thousands of years. With so much anti-science sentiment in Trump’s America it is incumbent on Oregon decisions makers to embrace the science firmly and respond to the challenge of transforming Oregon’s timber industry from a major climate threat to one of its most promising climate solutions.

Resources:

CSE (2017). Oregon Forest Carbon Policy: Scientific and technical brief to guide legislative intervention.
Law, et al. (2018). Land use strategies to mitigate climate change in carbon dense temperate forests.
Law, et al. (2018). Supporting data including logging emissions table.
Dominick DellaSala (2018). Our forests can make Oregon the first carbon-neutral state. Oregon Live (4/21/18).
Categories Climate Justice, Wild and Working Forests

OR-Trail

So often, the "environmentalists" are from the East Coast where they should return to plant some trees. Whole states in the east have nary a tree left standing, but they like to come here and make us feel guilty and/or try to take our land and give it to the federal government.
WHY DO THEY IGNORE THE TREELESS EAST COAST?
THEY HAVE A LOT OF WORK TO DO THERE. IT AFFECTS THEIR WEATHER.
I suggest they move back or just take up a new plan of action.

voyager1

This issue is of genuine concern to OREGON residents.
It has nothing to do with the East Coast.

Francis

Prmr: Not true. We cry over the loss of rare old growth forests, not “a few logged trees”. We are not complaining about Lone Rock Timber logging their private land, only their reach into our public old growth forests. And if you want something good for the local economy, then tell Lone Rock to hire people to cut Lone Rock’s forest. We are only objecting to the use of a mechanical harvester. Cutting down this rare, public old growth is only needed for a mechanical harvester access to Lone Rock’s timber. They could hire loggers to do it instead. Here are pictures of the actual BLM trees to be cut down: https://flic.kr/s/aHskvJ7H4Q

PLH1234

What about the loss of work for the road construction crew? Also how does a mechanical harvester not involve hiring loggers? Does it run itself? Does it yard the trees to the landing, process the trees, and load them on the truck itself? I'm just curious if they aren't hiring loggers how they will log it? From my understanding a mechanical harvester is used to cut the trees, but still has an operator. It is also much safer than putting a sawyer on the ground. From what I understand they will still need to move in a yarder and rigging crew to yard the logs. I could be wrong and this could be a magical logging machine please correct me if I'm wrong.

Also the comments are vague but are their actual spotted owls nesting in the trees that are to be cut? I'm under the impression that if that were the actually true then this project would not happen. Just food for thought.

Francis

No wildlife surveys have been done. So there could be nesting birds. Lone Rock was required to consult with the Fish and Wildlife service over cutting endangered species habitat. But they did not, and the FWS will not enforce their requirement.

OR-Trail

REMEMBER THE PAUL WINTER "OLD GROWTH" CONCERTS WHERE EVERYONE WAS STONED ON POT AND/OR HALF-NUDE?

OR-Trail

I'M SORRY, BUT I'VE BEEN TO YOUR PARTIES IN THE OLD GROWTH WHERE PEOPLE WERE SMOKING POT AND COULD CARE LESS ABOUT OLD GROWTH. A PROFESSOR AT OREGON STATE URGED ME TO ATTEND FOR EXTRA CREDIT.
HOLY COW. YOU PEOPLE REALLY ARE THE PHONY CROWD THAT TRIES TO TAKE EVERYTHING FROM THE LOCAL PEOPLE.

voyager1

Old growth forest is not being taken from a phony crowd, it is being taken from local people, to enable a private company to make a profit.

prmr

It appears to me that these forests are "public" only as long as they are locked away, but as soon as they are to be utilized for the local economy then it becomes a ecological tragedy. This is the problem with the enviromental extremists, they will not accept anything less then a total ban on any type of logging and refuse any compromise. The extremists cry over a few logged trees, but where were their cries when fires ravaged these lands because of lack of management? I'm sure they were just preparing legal cases to keep us from salvaging all that burnt timber. This insanity must stop!

Francis

Lone Rock Timber will cut down dozens of centuries-old trees, many as fat as 6’ across. The road will be a huge 70’ wide. I've seen the road stakes going right through the biggest old growth grove. All this so Lone Rock can bring in a mechanical harvester instead of hiring loggers. Clearly, Lone Rock will get a lot more public timber from the new road than they will get from their land. Their land was clearcut 40 years ago without building this BLM road, and they could do it the same way now. Mechanical harvesters were not even invented when this 1966 contract was signed so the BLM certainly does have discretion to say NO to this public timber grab. Let Lone Rock Timber harvest the old fashion way by hiring workers.

ralpho

The BLM is Trump. Trump and his supporters are Evil. Evil people cannot be changed. The destruction of the earth results from the atheistic denial that there is even such a thing as good and evil. It will take time, but sooner or later, the evil people will destroy themselves as a result of their competition for dominance. Big pigs eat little pigs. In the meantime, congratulations to the people who stand and fight the Bureau of Logging and Mining. My suggestion: we all know where the BLM lives.

OR-Trail

WHY AREN'T YOU BACK EAST URGING THOSE STATES AND COMMUNITIES TO PLANT A TREE?

bohica48

Which evil little pig are you?

scole

What isn't addressed in the article is the fact that Lone Rock already has access to the property from the south side and has previously completed activities on the property. How can it be financially more viable to punch a 1,300 foot long road through large diameter trees on federal land when you can access the same point by building a 600 foot road on your own land through trees only 80' tall? It doesn't make sense unless the point isn't about the trees on your property. This is exploiting the rules to log old growth.

S

Good point. Perhaps contact the Reporter and share the information and documentation.

S

"In a single tree, there are four or five ecosystems." Agnes Baker Pilgrim, Takelma Siletz, Grants Pass, Oregon. Well done Lone Rock and BLM, another great tragedy in the name of greed. May Karma be swift in her dealings with your as organizations and the individuals promoting this destruction.

OR-Trail

Why aren't you planting TREES in the Eastern US?
Why are you in one of the most forested areas of the US crying about OUR trees?
Go cry back East and make them PLANT more trees.

st paddy

i thought susan creek was east of roseburg

Mogie

st paddy you are correct. "Susan Creek Falls is located 12 miles east of Glide along the North Umpqua Highway (SR 138)."

st paddy

no wonder people get lost locally, they read the news review

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