Klamath National Forest is set to auction away critically important forests for pennies on the dollar
Yreka, Calif. – On Thursday, May 5, the Klamath National Forest is set to auction away critically important forests for pennies on the dollar. The agency will accept sealed bids on two Westside Project timber sales, Whites and Middle Creek, for the lowest price in recent memory. At $.50 per thousand board feet, a full log truck would be valued less than a cup of coffee. The auction comes amid protests delaying operations and an active lawsuit challenging the post-fire logging project.
“There is no other way of looking at this, Klamath National Forest is giving away our public forests,” said Kimberly Baker of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). “The public and future generations will pay the real cost, including lost wildlife and even more dangerous fire conditions.”
Because of the rock-bottom prices, Klamath National Forest will lose money on the sale—it will cost more for the agency to issue the sale than will return in revenue. In effect, taxpayers will subsidize private timber companies to log on public land above critically important salmon streams in the Klamath Watershed and remove northern spotted owl habitat. At 50 cents per thousand board feet, the agency cannot cover the costs incurred in cleaning up residual debris or “slash” after logging operations, necessitating that taxpayers bear the burden.
“The Klamath National Forest is selling old-growth trees to their buddies in the timber industry for $2 a log truck load,” said George Sexton, Conservation Director at the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “That doesn’t even cover the cost of cup of coffee the Forest Supervisor sips while she signs the decision to clear cut our public lands.”
To date, four of 14 timber sales that comprise the controversial Westside Project have been awarded for prices as low as $6.00 per thousand board feet, once thought to be record low prices for public land timber sales. Siskiyou Cascade Natural Resources, who purchased two of the sales, started logging and hauling last week, before legal claims could be adequately heard in court.
“Klamath salmon and clean rivers are worth much more than this,” said Kerul Dyer of Klamath Riverkeeper. “The Forest Service has no business liquidating forests for the timber industry – especially when the deals will degrade water quality in the Klamath River and its important tributaries.”
The record low prices come at an extreme ecological cost. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service projected that the Westside Project may resulting in the “take” of up to 103 Northern Spotted Owls—as many as two percent of the species of owls listed under the Endangered Species Act for protection. Logging on steep slopes above tributaries in the Klamath River will also increase sediment pollution, and could result in a local extinction of Klamath coho salmon according to the Karuk Tribe’s Fisheries Department.
“We could have had an economically viable project had the Klamath National Forest worked with, instead of against, the Karuk Tribe,” said Leaf Hillman of the Karuk Tribe. “The Karuk Tribe submitted a plan, with support from the conservation community, to the Forest Service that would have produced revenue for the local economy and protected the environment. These giveaways have shown the Forest Service’s true intentions: subsidizing big timber interests.”
The Karuk Tribe and their allies are taking their case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to seek an emergency stay and preserve the status quo while legal questions can be resolved. The Karuk Tribe and conservation groups are represented by the Western Environmental Law Center and the Environmental Protection Information Center.
photo “Stop Westside Coalition”
Blockade Disrupts Klamath Watershed Salvage Logging
by Dan Bacher
In the early morning hours before daybreak on May 2 in the fire-impacted conifer forest near Seiad Valley in the Klamath River watershed, 27 people including Tribal youth, river advocates and forest activists blocked the road leading to the Klamath National Forest’s Westside salvage logging project.
Demonstrators held banners that read ‘Karuk Land: Karuk Plan,’ recited call and response chants, and testified to the timber sales’ impact on ailing salmon populations. Work was delayed for approximately four hours, according to a news release from the river advocates.
The protesters said the Westside Salvage Logging Project would clear cut more than 5,700 acres on steep slopes above Klamath River tributaries and along 320 miles of roads within Klamath National Forest. Post-fire logging and hauling began in late April, before legal claims brought forth by a lawsuit led by the Karuk Tribe could be considered in court.
“The Forest Service should follow the Karuk Plan on Karuk Land. Traditional knowledge of fire helps everything stay in balance because it’s all intertwined,” said Dania Rose Colegrove of the Klamath Justice Coalition. “When you destroy the forests, you destroy the rivers.”
The protesters said the Westside plan, unlike the Karuk Alternative, calls for clear cut logging on steep slopes right above several of the Klamath River’s most important salmon-bearing streams, at a time when returning salmon numbers are reaching record lows.
Members of local Tribal youth councils who participated in the protest see Westside salvage logging as a threat to their future.
“Today I showed up and stood up for what is right for future generations,” said Lacey Jackson, a 16-year old Hoopa Tribal Youth Council member. “My cultural and traditional livelihood is being threatened, and the way they are going about this logging is a big part of that. I will continue to stand up for me, my people and future generations.”
River advocates say the Forest Service plan to clear-cut thousands of acres above the Klamath River disregards the reasonable Karuk Alternative and hurts at-risk salmon and river communities. They believe a healthy Klamath River requires sensible forest restoration that addresses the needs of both fish and people, like that laid out in the Karuk plan.
Federal and state fisheries agency scientists estimate that there are only approximately 142,200 Klamath River fall-run Chinook salmon in the ocean this year, based on the returns of two-year-old salmon, called “jacks” and “jills.” The salmon from the Klamath and Sacramento River make up the majority of salmon taken in California’s ocean and inland fisheries.
The low numbers of Klamath and Trinity River fish expected to return to the river and tributaries this year will result in more restricted seasons for both the recreational and commercial fisheries on the ocean and recreational and Tribal fisheries on the rivers this season.
During a meeting on Klamath dam removal in Sacramento in March, Thomas Wilson, a member of the Yurok Tribal Council and owner of Spey-Gee Point Guide Service, described the dire situation that the salmon fishery is in this year.
“This season will be devastating for fishermen and people on the river. Usually we get around 12,000 fish for subsistence on the river and what’s left goes to the commercial fishery. This year our entire Tribal quota is only about 5900 fish,” he explained.
“The people are praying that the science predicting the low numbers is wrong. If we don’t protect the fish now, it will hurt us down the road. As Yuroks and natives, we are conservationists. We want make sure enough to keep seed for the all of the resources for future generations,” Wilson said.
The last thing that the watershed needs, at a time when the fishery is in crisis, is a Forest Service-approved clear cutting plan that further threatens salmon and steelhead habitat.
For information about the lawsuit by the Karuk Tribe and conservationists challenging the U.S. Forest Service and the Klamath National Forest’s Westside plan, go to: http://www.indybay.org/…
A wider campaign is building and everyone’s support is needed. More information about the Karuk Tribe’s Alternative can be found here: http://www.karuk.us…