Since wildland firefighting crews extinguished the 56,000 acres of lightning-sparked fires across the Umpqua National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service has been busy completing post-fire work before the winter.
Alice Carlton, forest supervisor for the Umpqua National Forest, is prioritizing ecological repair, roadside safety and economic support for local communities through several projects.
The Forest Service is auctioning off the decks, or piles of logs cut during the fire suppression efforts, which Carlton said provides business and job creation for local mills.
“Trees deteriorate rapidly once a tree is killed, so the primary urgency and importance is to get the trees out of the forest and into the mills as rapidly as possible,” Carlton said.
The Steamin sale, named for the nearby Steamboat and Medicine Creeks, sold last week to Springfield-based Future Logging Company. Two more piles are expected to be sold by the end of November — the Blitz deck of 790,000 board feet near Blitz Creek and the Falcon deck of 605,000 board feet in the Falcon Complex of the forest.
In commercial sales like this in the Umpqua National Forest, 25 percent of the timber receipts go to the Douglas County government, which primarily uses it to fund law enforcement.
Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman, also liaison for federal forests, recently met with the Forest Service and industry representatives to tour the fire area and discuss priorities for getting the most value out of the post-fire work.
“We appreciate the Forest Service understands the connection between the trees and their value to county services,” Freeman said. When he looks out over the acres of burned trees, Freeman said he sees sheriff’s deputies, not just snags.
Freeman said the current U.S. Forest Service post-fire projects are improvements compared to the work done after the 2015 Stouts Creek Fire.
“If they would’ve salvaged logged or roadside logged, the dollars generated from that value of timber would have paid for all the replanting and made money for county services,” Freeman said. “The day after the fire they’re worth just as much as after the fire, we’re talking millions and millions of dollars of dead trees were left to rot after the Stouts Creek Fire.”
As of this time, the Forest Service doesn’t have an estimate of what the total receipts will be for the 2017 fires, as that will be determined after the logs go to auction.
Another project is removing the trees along the roadsides that could potentially fall and cause hazards. These trees will be at least 10 inches in diameter, and the Forest Service is currently assessing the number of sales, and their location and volume.
“The fires burned through 750 miles of roadways open to the public, and where the roads intersect patches of fire-burned trees those can become danger trees,” Carlton said.
Carlton said the U.S. Forest Service also needs to take advantage of the sections of the burned areas that have commercial value by preparing them now for sale in the spring. While many of the trees in these sections are dead, there’s a mixture of green trees up for sale within the areas.
Road and culvert maintenance and riparian stabilization is another immediate priority, according to Carlton, because it needs to be completed before snow covers these burned areas.
Cheryl Caplan, public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service, said this work is not only meant to keep the roads safe, but to keep the water in streams under the culverts clean and fresh for the fish that swim in it and the people who recreate in it.