Threatened & Endangered: Little Applegate Valley
The beautiful forests
of the Little Applegate River Valley,
and B.L.M. forests in the greater Applegate and across western Oregon,
have suffered a "surprise attack" from our representatives in Congress,
who introduced a bill transferring over 1.6 million acres of public forests
to a "Timber Trust" with the mission to maximize revenue
for O&C counties by clear-cutting 23,000 acres annually.
In November, Sen. Wyden unveiled his Senate bill, which would
double logging on BLM forests in western Oregon by legislating into law
the controversial logging prescriptions mis-named "Ecological Forestry"
showcased in the Pilot Joe and other pilot projects on BLM lands.
Even the well-respected forestry professors who developed EF disagree
with the concept of legislating it into law, where the law must be changed
any time new information warrants adaptation and changes in EF.
One of the minimal concessions to conservation in the Wyden bill for
S.W. Oregon is the proposal to create a series of Primitive Backcountry Areas,
the largest of which is the proposed 21,200 acre Dakubetede Primitive Backcountry Area
that includes the wild Little Applegate River canyon, home of the popular
Sterling Mine Ditch Trail system, over 30 miles of accessible hiking trails.
Other proposed Primitive Backcountry Areas in S.W. Oregon include
Wellington and Mungers Buttes in the Applegate, and Grizzly Peak near Ashland.
Conservationists who have been tracking the issues believe
Sen. Wyden will introduce a terrible bill that will greatly increase
clearcutting of B.L.M. forests in the Applegate.
We who love our
Applegate forests must take action to make sure
this anti-environment legislation does not become law. Read on!
Photo:© Chant Thomas
Below Wagner Butte, the Little Applegate River runs through a narrow canyon filled with old-growth forests
managed by B.L.M. and the U.S. Forest Service. These invaluable forests are threatened by legislation recently
introduced inthe U.S. House, and by legislation introduced in the Senate by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.
Photo:© Chant Thomas
This massive clearcut up Yale Creek, an important tributary of the Little Applegate River,
is where 160 acres of old-growth forest owned by the State of Oregon was converted to
a fire-prone homogenous tree plantation under the rules of the Oregon Forest Practices Act.
Yes, this outrage is legal under Oregon law, since we have the weakest such law in the country.
After cutting, this wound was subjected to repeated applications of herbicides sprayed from
helicopters to kill the native plants that were attempting to heal the site and naturally regenerate
a new forest. These terrible forest practices will be applied to our public federal forests
if the new legislation becomes law, denying we the people of our ability to protest, appeal,
and litigate as is our right under federal law to protect the lands we all own.
Which picture represents your desired vision for the future of B.L.M. forests
in the Applegate and throughout western Oregon? If you prefer the first picture
that conveys the vision of intact old forest ecosystems that produce clear air,
clean water, and sequester tremendous amounts of carbon to ameliorate
climate change, then you have some work to do because all the powers that be
are lining up to make the second photo typical of what we will find as the future
for our invaluable federal forests in western Oregon.
The "O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs Act", which was introduced last year in
the U.S. House of Representatives, was written and introduced by three Congressmen
representing Oregon: Republican Greg Walden, and Democrats Peter DeFazio and Kurt
Schrader. Like too many federal programs (remember Bush's "Healthy Forests Initiative"),
this new O&C legislation will do the opposite of its name: destroy more and better jobs in
the service sector than it creates in the timber sector, consume rather than conserve
crucial forests and the natural amenities they provide, and destroy the trust that has
been slowly building among diverse stakeholders dealing with forest conservation and
If this O&C Trust Act becomes law, or if a somewhat less disastrous law is enacted
after a compromise with what Sen. Wyden introduced in the Senate, then our beloved
forests in the Applegate and throughout western Oregon will be clear-cut and replaced
with thousands of acres of fire hazards in the form of dense uniform plantations or, as
likely here in hot dry southern Oregon, brush-fields where reforestation efforts fail no
matter how many times they are replanted and sprayed.
Express your love for the Little Applegate
by getting involved and TAKING ACTION!
You can get involved and take action in several effective ways, most of which utilize
communication. You can communicate your thoughts and feelings to our representatives in Congress
through your letters. You can write letters to the editors of newspapers, where you can reach more
people. Most importantly, you can actively speak with your friends, neighbors, and colleagues about
what you think and feel about these threats to the Little Applegate, the entire Applegate, and Western
Oregon. Show those people you know the letters you have written and the websites you have found
useful to learn more about these threats and their potential impacts to the places and lifestyles we
love and cherish. Encourage them to write and speak in defense of our forests and all they provide.
First, involve yourself by learning about the O&C Lands and the issues surrounding them.
yourself about the potential impacts of the proposed legislation and about the common sense
alternatives being proposed to fund the O&C counties.
Next, think about the issues you've learned about, and feel which ones are really important to
you personally. Learn some more about those important issues you care about most.
Next, figure out how to concisely describe your thoughts and feelings, so you can communicate
them effectively via letters, conversations, and other opportunities.
1. Educate yourself about the issues surrounding O&C lands in the Applegate and
Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center has published a position paper, which is one of the best
concise descriptions of the complex issues around O&C lands, easily digested in one sitting. It can be
accessed on their website at: http://kswild.org/ks-wild2019s-o-c-position-paper
Oregon Wild has published a much longer, more academic and detailed critique of DeFazio and
Walden's O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act, which was introduced the House in 2013. This 77
page "white paper" would provide even more information to anyone whose appetite was whetted from
reading the KS Wild piece. Find the Oregon Wild paper here:
http://www.oregonwild.org/oregon_forests/old_growth_protection/westside-forests/Western Oregon BLM Backyard Forests/O-C_Trust_Act_White_Paper_FINAL_6-5-2012_w_DeFazio_response.pdf
Long-time activist Andy Kerr, who is based in Ashland and D.C., has published a detailed foray
into the history and issues surrounding management of B.L.M. forests in western Oregon. Andy's
conversational style, intelligent critique, wry humor, and links to other sources he quotes, all combine
in an adventurous journey into the life and impacts of a government land management bureaucracy.
Find Andy's work here: http://www.andykerr.net/western-oregon-blm
2. Think about which issues feel important to you personally, which ones you resonate
with, and then learn even more about them so you find yourself thinking and speaking
from a more informed place. Here's some issues to consider.
is a growth industry in the Applegate and throughout southwestern Oregon. River running,
sport fishing, hiking, trail running, mountain biking, hunting, horseback riding, bird watching,
botanizing, hang/para gliding and scenic drives all depend on beautiful landscapes with functioning
ecosystems. When added to winery tours, Shakespeare and other theatres, film festivals, Britt and
other music festivals, our local recreation amenities round out the Applegate and SW Oregon as
choice places to live and visit. The DeFazio bill would clearcut much of the lower elevation forests that
provide the amenities which drive the expanding service economy in our region, and particularly in
The Outdoor Industry Association reports that in Oregon alone, outdoor recreation generates
$12.8 billion in consumer spending, $4.0 billion in wages and salaries, $955 million in state and local
tax revenue, and 141,000 direct Oregon jobs. According to the Bureau of Land Management, in 2010
there were a total of 6,811 jobs on Oregon BLM lands associated with recreation, accounting for a total
of $662 million in output. Also, the most recent data from 2011 shows about 5.5 million visits were
recorded on Western Oregon BLM associated with recreation.
What do you think? Would you, your friends and colleagues, want to live in or recreate in a
location where the impacts of industrial forestry on the landscape make you wince? Think about
where you hike or hunt or fish; which scenic views make you feel good; which back-roads provide that
relaxing drive. Think about what you can say about your favorite places to relax and recreate, and
how your experience would be diminished if the forests were cut
Photos:© Chant Thomas
Left: Air tanker after dropping retardant on the Cantrall Fire July 1987.
View is from near Tunnel Ridge looking down through the mouth of the Little Applegate River Canyon.
The little valley at Yale Creek lies under the thickest smoke.
Right: Quartz Fire plumes up behind Trillium Mountain in 2001.
FIRE HAZARDS will increase locally as more forests are clearcut or overly thinned under the
direction of the O&C Trust Act and Sen. Wyden's leanings, which plan to use logging prescriptions
developed for the Pilot Projects in the Applegate and elsewhere. For details, here are some excerpts
from comments Chant Thomas wrote to the author of Senator Wyden's initial "O&C Legislative
"One of the primary challenges of any forest stand is to be resilient against the dangers of wildfire,
pests, disease, drought and extreme weather. In SW Oregon, fire and drought are the primary natural
threats to forest stands surviving long enough to be sustainable sources of timber. Building resilience
against fire and drought should be a top priority for silvicultural prescriptions in the dry forest zones
of SW Oregon.
Unfortunately, the prescriptions designed by Franklin and Johnson in the Applegate’s Pilot Joe
project decreased stand resilience to fire and drought for the harvest units and all the unentered and
previously entered stands in the project area. Norm and Jerry are unwittingly priming the landscape
for forest fires of the future.
To be resilient against fire, stands must have adequate structure to retain ground and vegetation
moisture as long as possible into the fire season. These pilot stands, harvested or retained, will suffer
decreased resiliency as the new forest openings will let increased sun (solar insolation) into the forest
understory and floor, evaporating essential moisture earlier in the summer and lengthening the
amount of time the fine fuels are tinder dry. Dry summer winds blow up the Applegate’s drainages
each afternoon, desiccating those stands that have been excessively opened. Fuel loads will increase in
addition to the untreated activity slash as increased sunlight stimulates the rapid growth of shrubs and
fine fuels on the floors of the opened stands. Between the increased fine and medium fuels and the
stands prematurely drying out, fire hazards have increased dramatically over pre-treatment levels.
As evidenced by fire behavior across the west, and especially this summer in southern Oregon,
when wildfire moves into closed canopy stands with higher moisture retention, it tends to underburn
slowly as the wind cannot penetrate far into a closed canopy stand. When wildfire moves into
plantations and opened stands it tends to blow up and burn intensively as it consumes the higher
volumes of drier fine and small fuels, driven by winds that penetrate the opened stands. Such fires are
often quickly drawn up through canopy openings like chimneys, where they then begin to spread
through the canopy. Such fires generate winds and often burn so erratically with elevated flame
lengths that it becomes unsafe to place fire crews near the fire.
In the dry forests of interior SW Oregon, rather than reducing swaths of fire resilient forest to
ragged openings with increase fire hazards as occurred in Pilot Joe, stands should be thinned from
below with understory thinnings, including floor and ladder fuels reduction, while keeping the canopy
intact. Retaining large older trees and an intact canopy layer during understory thinning will be the
most effective treatment to increase stand resiliency to fire, pests, and disease, and will promote long
term site productivity and sustainability. The best method for ensuring that large canopy trees are not
harvested is to employ an upper diameter limit on trees to be cut."
According to the section on Wildlife Habitat written by a BLM biologist in the Little Applegate
Watershed Analysis, between 1947 and 1993, 70% of the 72,000 acre watershed’s older seral stage
generally over 120 years old) forests were cut; a total of 24,000 acres. In the last 20 years, thousands
more acres of forest have been cut. Of less than 10,000 acres left, much is too fragmented to fill the
habitat needs for interior forest species.
The Little Applegate has already dedicated too much forestland to industrial strength
management and replacement of complex diverse fire-resilient older forests with young flammable
plantations susceptible to insect and pathogen damage. Not only do we need to conserve ALL the older
forests in the watershed, we also need to conserve the bulk of the medium aged (mid-seral)forests from
80-120 years old to grow into older forests to replace the ones cut during the last 65 years. It is
exactly these forests 80-120 years old that the Timber Trust would clearcut.
The way BLM maps forests, thousands of acres of Applegate forests are aged for their most
numerous trees at 80-120 years old, even though most canopy trees are over 120 years old, often with
scattered old-growth trees over 150 years old. Thousands of acres of Applegate forests, wild and never
cut or roaded, would be clearcut under the O&C Trust legislation.
LEGAL & CONSTITUTIONAL
FISH & WILDLIFE
We hear a lot about jobs and the necessity of providing jobs "in the woods" to "timber dependent"
communities. This concept is a cornerstone of Sen. Wyden's "O&C Legislative Framework. However, a
conflict exists as the forest lands the O&C legislation wants to dedicate to clearcutting for county
revenues are the same forests that provide the amenities that drive the new service economy. This
diverse economic engine provides far more good jobs and economic opportunities than an economy
based on natural resource extraction.
Following is a section of comments Chant Thomas wrote about Senator Wyden's O&C
Framework, containing extensive quotes from two important economic studies of rural western
Protected lands are also an essential engine for economic growth and diversification in rural
western counties. Studies of 325 non-metropolitan counties in eleven western states show a
direct correlation between formally protected areas and job growth and economic growth and
From Lorah & Southwick: Environmental Protection, Population Change and Economic
Development in the Western United States http://www.southwickassociates.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Env-prot-pop-change-in-western-us-RLPAreas.pdf
”The presence of protected lands is correlated with relatively rapid population growth and with
relatively rapid income and employment growth.”
“The counties most able to rebound from the loss of extractive industries are typically those that have
the environmental amenities needed to support growth in the service sector and to attract new residents who
bring income derived from dividends, interest, rent, and social security payments.
“In counties where the shift to services is most advanced, the relationship between the environment and
local economic security has fundamentally changed. Economic security no longer depends on exporting raw
materials. Instead, the presence of natural amenities --pristine mountains, clean air, wildlife, and scenic
vistas--stimulates employment, income growth and economic diversification by attracting tourists (and
their credit cards), small business owners (and their employees), and retirees (and their stock portfolios).”
Another study finds that on average, western non-metro counties in 2010 had a per capita
income that was $436 higher for every 10,000 acres of protected public lands within their
boundaries. On average, from 1990 to 2010, income grew $237 faster per person and
investment income grew $175 faster per person for every 10,000 acres of protected public
From Rasker, Gude, Delorey of Headwaters Economics:
The Effect of Protected Federal Lands on Economic Prosperity in the Non-Metropolitan West
Peer reviewed and in press in the Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy, 2013.
“The study finds that, on average, counties with national parks, wilderness, and other forms of
protected public lands benefit through increased economic performance.”
“One reason for these positive relationships may be that in today’s economy, a premium is placed on
the ability of communities to attract talented workers, and the environmental and recreational amenities
provided by national parks and other protected lands serve to attract and retain talented people who earn
above average wages, and have above average wealth, such as investment income. This explanation would
be consistent with the non‐metro West’s transition into a service‐based economy, which constitutes 61
percent of all employment. It is also consistent with the rapid growth of non‐labor income in the non‐metro
West, including retirement and investment income, which comprised 65 percent of net total personal
income growth in the last decade."
QUALITY OF LIFE
How do you describe your quality of life, especially how that quality depends on the beautiful
BLM forests and wildlands that characterize the Little Applegate, Applegate, and dozens of other rural
valley communities in western Oregon?
How do you measure the peace and quiet, the clear air and clear waters, beautiful scenic vistas,
local hiking and riding trails, special places to camp, hunt, and fish? What do all these things mean to
Economically, these natural amenities mean that more people with the means to live anywhere,
choose our beautiful Applegate valleys because of our quality of life. People move here to raise families
and start businesses, to retire and build a house, to invest in local communities.
Our quality of life is directly threatened by the plans for increased logging on BLM lands to levels
higher than ever experienced in the Applegate. As the forests are stripped from the mountains, log
truck traffic, with its noise and dust, would increase far beyond anything seen since the 1980s. New
logging roads cut into the steep mountainsides would increase landslides and erosion, causing serious
sedimentation to our streams and harming our local populations of salmon, steelhead, trout, lamprey,
and otter. Under the O&C Trust rules, all this public forest would be re-opened to herbicides sprayed
by helicopter, even though this practice was deemed illegal by the Supreme Court in 1984.
As the quality of our lives is diminished by the industrialization of our wild forests, the
increasingly damaged views and ecology would reduce property values and contribute to community
SOLUTIONS... THE APPLEGATE EXAMPLE
The Applegate River Watershed, where the proposed Dakubetede Wilderness is located, clearly
exhibits the evolution of the local economy from dependence on resource extraction to a vibrant
service-based economy. Over the last 40 years:
· all 4 of the valley’s large sawmills closed down, yet a lively milling business continues on a
local level with smaller, sometimes portable, mills in many rural neighborhoods, utilizing local
logs; providing lumber to local markets;
· work in the forests became more focused on restoration than traditional logging.
· many old unprofitable hay ranches became valuable vineyards, and wineries have sprouted
drawing tourists from Jacksonville and providing local employment;
· other old ranches became niche ranches raising organic grass fed beef; others became organic
farms, seed growers, and goat dairies;
· national and international hang/para gliding events use the B.L.M. launch facility on Woodrat
Mountain above Ruch, and bring hundreds of participants and spectators from around the
· waves of retirees and people with location-independent income have moved to the Applegate,
attracted by its high quality natural amenities (scenic vistas, hiking trails, clean water, peace
and quiet), many of which are provided by B.L.M. lands adjacent to rural neighborhoods and
· these “amenity-driven in-migrants” have stimulated a diverse service economy including:
architects/builders/landscapers, medical and veterinary, attorneys/CPAs/tax consultants,
real estate/insurance/banking, domestic household/gardeners/animal care, motor vehicle
and equipment sales and service, markets/stores/restaurants, and more.
For a detailed and well-written description of a solution to funding O&C counties that involves equal
lifting by federal, state, and county governments, see "SHARED RESPONSIBILITY: The Conservation
Community's Recommendations to Equitably Resolve the O&C County Funding Controversy",
prepared by a group of seven conservation organizations including GEOS, KS Wild, and The Larch
Company, all of Ashland.
3. Now you're ready to take action! You've studied up on the background of the threats to
our local BLM forests. You've examined the issues and your thoughts and feelings about
them. Now you figure out how to describe your thoughts and feelings in the letters you
write and the conversations in which you express your concerns. It's good to make some
notes as you read and think about the issues. Practice getting your thoughts and feelings
into a concise format, maybe as short as a bumper sticker or a few sentences that will
make people hear you and think about what you're saying. Other ways of taking action
include coming to local meetings of the Applegate Neighborhood Network (ANN), and
participate in petition drives, public protests, and teach-ins.
For specific communication ideas, please visit our Letter Writing Guide.
The Little Applegate Dakubetede Wilderness Roadless Areas
Take Action! Letter Writing Guide Join and Donate to TELAV!