Bark Alert: Sandy and Salmon River Ecosystems Threatened

Why does the Forest Service propose to undo years of restoration? 

21 years ago, the sound of chainsaws and fellerbunchers quieted in the Zigzag Ranger District on Mt. Hood National Forest. In the ensuing years, the District turned away from commercial logging and focused on successfully restoring habitat for threatened fish and tending its amazing recreation areas. Now, after a decades-long moratorium on logging, the Forest Service is under pressure to meet the Trump administration’s increased timber volume quotas with the proposed Zigzag Timber Sale and proposes to log mature forests in the upper reaches of the Sandy and Salmon river watersheds.

Sandy River

These two river systems are recovering from the impacts of a century of heavy logging and represent some of the best strongholds for steelhead, coho, and Chinook salmon. Even without proposed logging, however, both river ecosystems are threatened by the rapidly changing climate. As more precipitation falls as rain rather than snow, the snowpacks and glaciers that keep summer water temperatures cool enough for salmon are becoming unreliable. Intact, never-logged forests along the edges of these rivers and their tributaries are ever more important to shade the waters and keep them cool.

The Forest Service has invested millions of public dollars into restoring the Sandy and Salmon River Watersheds to support imperiled fish. Since 1990, the agency decommissioned 17.8 miles of road and supported over 100 stream restoration projects. In stark contrast, the new Zigzag Timber Sale proposes to build 10.5 miles of roads and log 642 acres of Riparian Reserves, undoing years of watershed restoration. 

Trillium Lake

Like all recent Forest Service projects, the agency’s public documents claim “[a] primary purpose of this project is to improve the health and increase diversity of forested stands.” But in earlier conversations, which garnered accolades from the timber industry, Forest Service employees candidly stated that this sale is planned to meet increasing timber volume quotas. They can’t have it both ways: managing west side forest for timber production directly conflicts with managing it for watershed restoration.

Remember the last time the Zigzag District tried to log? We stopped the Horseshoe Timber Sale in 2013 and with your help, we can do it again! Right now, the Forest Service is in the first round of public comments for the Zigzag Project. 

Submit your comments today! 

We encourage you to write your own comments using the talking points provided and your stories about these special places and recommendations for better management.  

For the forest,

Brenna Bell, Policy Coordinator/Staff Attorney 

P.S. The Sandy & Salmon Rivers aren’t the only beloved places at risk of being adversely affected by this project – the sale area includes, and could impact, areas like Trillium Lake, Ramona Falls, Burnt Lake, Old Maid Flat, Top Spur Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail. Write your comments today or join us next Wednesday (February 5) to write comments together at the Bark Office from 6-8 pm.