Text Box: Bark
PO Box 12065
Portland, OR  97212
503-331-0374
info@bark-out.org
www.bark-out.org

 

June 12, 2007

 

Cindy Enstrom

Bureau of Land Management

Salem District Office

1717 Fabry Road S.E

Salem, OR 97306

 

E-mailed to Cindy Enstrom at cindy_enstrom@blm.gov

Mailed via USPS overnight tracking # ___________________

 

RE:  Protest of Final Decision Documentation and Decision Rationale for the Annie’s Cabin Thinning (Environmental Assessment Number OR080-04-20)

 

Dear Cindy,

 

Pursuant to 43 CFR 5003, please consider the following protest of the Final Decision Documentation and Decision Rationale for the Annie’s Cabin Thinning that you signed on May 30, 2007.

 

Decision Title:  Final Decision and Decision Rationale for Annie’s Cabin Thinning.

 

Project Description:  The project will log 571 acres of 50-100 year old forest in matrix, riparian reserve, and the Molalla River Shared Use trail system.

 

Project Location: Township 6 South, Range 3 East, Sections 7, 18, 19, 30, 31 and

Township 7 South, Range 3 East, Sections 5 and 6, Willamette Meridian.  Clackamas County, Oregon.

 

Date of Decision:  May 30, 2007

 

Name of Deciding Officer:  Cindy Enstrom, Field Manager, Cascades Resource Area, Salem BLM.

 

Introduction:

Bark’s mission is to bring about a transformation of Mt. Hood National Forest (and surrounding BLM forests) into a place where natural processes prevail, where wildlife thrives and where local communities have a social, cultural, and economic investment in its restoration and preservation.  Bark believes that the Annie’s Cabin Thinning (Annie’s Cabin) will cause unnecessary damage to the Molalla River Shared Use trail system.  In addressing this critical resource, the BLM excluded any analysis on the impacts that logging would have on the visual quality of the trails.  It also did not analyze the increased staff and volunteer resources that will be needed to handle the additional trail maintenance needed from windthrown trees over the trail.  Bark also believes that numerous terrestrial and aquatic resources are threatened by the selected action.  This protest is timely because the legal notice advertising the sale was published in Molalla Pioneer on May 30, 2007. Bark commented on the 2006 Thinning EA in a timely and substantive manner.

 

ANNIE’S CABIN PROTEST

 

SCOPE OF ANALYSIS AND ALTERNATIVE DEVELOPMENT

NEPA requires the BLM to analyze a range of alternatives and disclose the results of that analysis. 42 USC § 4332, 40 C.F.R § 1508.9  Bark and Oregon Wild (formerly ONRC) both raised concerns of using one EA to cover four different, and publicly contentious actions.  The EA covered Annie’s Cabin, Missouri Ridge, Snakehouse and Round Mountain timber sales.  In the Decision, the BLM states,

All stands proposed for thinning that are “older” have been previously thinned or originated as plantations, pastures, or natural regeneration after harvest. All aspects of the proposal are consistent with an existing EIS (RMP). Though the EA analysis covers four project areas scattered over a large area, any decision for individual project areas is independent of the others. DR 43, 44 emphasis added

 

Based on the three-sentence response to the concerns raised about this method of analysis, the BLM highlighted “older” stands that have been manipulated in the past as the common thread for analysis.  Bark has documented what appears to be native (un-thinned and not otherwise manipulated by logging) stands in at least one unit of the Annie’s Cabin Timber Sale (southeast corner of Unit 25).  There are no stumps, and there are large legacy trees (conifers and hardwoods).  This leads Bark to be even more resigned to our concerns over district-wide analysis of what is easily the most impactful activity that the district undertakes (logging).  Even though the acreage of the undocumented native forest is small (2-8? acres), the impacts are significant.

 

In addition, as the population of species found in the project area continue to decline (Oregon slender salamander and northern spotted owls), it would seem that the BLM would put a higher priority on thorough analysis, not necessarily just more efficient analysis.  Bark is supportive of the federal government saving money, but not at the expense of the landscape.  Of course another option would be to not proceed with extractive activities that require analysis at all.

 

In general Bark is pleased to see more than one action alternative presented in the EA.  Too often the public is given a choice between no-action and action.  This rarely results in no-action, making the “choice” seem like less of one.  In the EA the public is presented with a helicopter alternative to address concerns over impacts to recreation (for more detail on Bark’s concerns about recreation see below).  In response, at least four parties asked the BLM to drop either all or some of the proposed logging to address recreation concerns.  For anyone who has been hiking, impacts to the experience is not restricted to hiking through an active logging operation or the physical damage done to the trail.  The impact is primarily the visual experience off the trail.  Thus it would have been expected that the alternatives included an action that actually buffered the trails, instead of simply changing the yarding system from ground-based to helicopter.  It is likely that this alternative would have resulted in much more support from those who use these trails regularly.

 

BLM and Bark do not have a long history of working together to achieve similar interests, it seems that the Molalla CPO and Molalla River Watch do.  That is why it seems strange that the concession that the BLM made in response to those groups’ concerns was to switch from ground-based yarding to helicopter and increase the size of the units overlapping the trail system.  In Bark’s history these kind of concerns have been dealt with through the creation of no-cut buffers (Eightmile Meadow Timber Sale, Mt. Hood National Forest), albeit narrow buffers.  Instead, the BLM has made no changes to what is clearly its primary goal: timber volume.  In fact, the number of acres in the selected action is more than the total of the proposed action in the EA.  Bark did not understand why the BLM was so resistant to make concessions to strong community partners by creating trail buffers, yet so quick to forward helicopter logging as the solution to the problem.  After reviewing the Decision Rationale, the reason is quite evident.  If the BLM were to have moved forward with its proposed action, it would have had to consult with NOAA Fisheries because of the culvert replacements associated with road building activities.  This additional step would have taken extra time.  It would also probably improve fish habitat through decreased sedimentation and reduction of risk to habitat from road blowouts caused by failing culverts.  Instead, the BLM realized that it could utilize public concerns over trail impacts to promote a helicopter alternative, avoiding any culvert repairs and ESA consultation.  Bark is disappointed in this approach to public lands management, and believe that it is another example of giving recreation interests the short end of the stick when it comes to the selected action.

 

THE SELECTED ACTION IS ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS

 

As an agency of the federal government, the BLM shall not act in an arbitrary and capricious manner.  5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A).  While this somewhat vague statute seems lost on a single decision such as a 500+ acre timber sale, in reality the individual actions of the federal government can not be separated from their cumulative impact.  District Managers (BLM and Forest Service) are responsible for large areas that could be considered some of the most sensitive socio-political, and ecological, landscapes in the United States.  Decisions made by District Managers impact the quality of American’s drinking water, their home’s safety with regard to forest fire, and their quality of life by providing recreational opportunities (like hiking).  Rarely will the mayor of a city have as grave a responsibility in their day to day management.  Furthermore, the management of federally owned land (BLM and Forest Service) costs taxpayers $5.87 billion in 2007.  (Whitehouse)  Most Americans would agree that decisions made by those with such significant responsibilities should be scrutinized.  This should begin with a review of the Purpose and Need provided for Annie’s Cabin.

 

From the 2006 Thinning EA, the purpose and need provided for Annie’s Cabin, and the three other timber sales (Missouri Ridge, Snakehouse, and Round Mountain) is:

 

· Matrix Land Use Allocation (LUA) (RMP p. 20-22): To manage developing timber stands in the Matrix LUA in order to:

o Maintain the health and growth of developing stands;

o Achieve a desirable balance between wood volume production, quality of wood, and timber value at harvest (RMP p. D-3);

o Providing a sustainable supply of timber as described in the RMP (p. 1, 46, 47);

o Develop timber sales that can be successfully offered to the market place;

o Retain elements that provide ecosystem diversity (snags, old growth trees, etc.) so that a healthy forest ecosystem can be maintained with habitat to support plant and animal populations (RMP p.1, 20)

o Increase protection for the public, facilities and high-value resources from large intense wildfires in rural/urban interface and high-use recreation areas in accordance with the National Fire Plan’s Healthy Forest Initiative and Restoration Act.

 

· Riparian Reserve, Late Seral Reserve (LSR) and Matrix/Connectivity LUA (RMP p. 9-15): To apply silvicultural practices in some dense conifer-dominated sites within the stands of the Riparian Reserve LUA in order to:

o Develop future large coarse woody debris, snag habitat, in-stream large wood and other elements of late-successional forest habitat. (RMP p.1);

o Develop structural and spatial diversity of the forest ecosystem on a landscape level in the long term.

 

· Roads: To maintain and develop a safe, efficient and environmentally sound road system (RMP p. 62)] in order to:

o Provide appropriate access for timber harvest, silvicultural practices, and fire protection vehicles needed to meet the objectives above;

o Reduce potential human sources of wildfire ignition by controlling access;

o Reduce environmental effects associated with identified existing roads within the project areas (RMP p. 11).

 

Bark believes that it is a serious flaw in the purpose and need to not even mention the role of the BLM in providing for recreation demands in the Molalla River Shared Use trail system. The area experiences high use for hiking, biking, horse riding, and water sports.  Given that recreation is the dominant public use of this area (far more individuals recreate in the area than receive direct or indirect benefit from logging, see recreation section below), it would be a suitable purpose and need.  Furthermore, given the significant impact the selected action will have on the human environment, it is one of the reasons that Bark believes an EIS is justified (see below).

 

The vast majority of purposes provided for the four projects, of which we can only assume all apply to Annie’s Cabin, are geared specifically toward providing wood products.  Bark does not argue that the selected action meets this purpose.  However, one of the purposes is to “retain elements that provide ecosystem diversity.”  This is also a requirement of the Salem BLM RMP, and must be taken seriously when proposing such a large action.  Bark is appreciative of the BLM’s slow move away from logging native old-growth.  It is a move that makes sense now that there is such a large number of acres of forest in a young plantation stage.  But we cannot support a ‘transitional’ phase in which projects are purported to be plantation thins, but include the logging of native and key habitat features.  In the Butte Creek Timber Sale, it was the logging of two of the remaining 4 (50%) of the legacy old-growth Douglas firs.  In Clear Dodger, it was the heavy markings for western red cedar.  And in Annie’s Cabin it is the logging of large, and infrequently found (in the project area), big leaf maples and red alders.  Bark addresses this issue in more detail below, but it is raised here because it clearly violates the purpose and needs stated in which diversity is to be retained.

 

Lastly, the BLM has a responsibility to maintain and mitigate the harm caused by the network of logging roads it has built.  The final purpose stated in the EA specifically calls for the BLM to, “Reduce environmental effects associated with identified existing roads within the project areas.”  It is unclear how this is happening as a part of the selected action.  The BLM outlines in the EA the clear need for road repairs, in particular stream culverts.  But upon choosing the helicopter alternative, it seems to assume that the environmental damage associated with failing culverts is no longer.  This is a false assumption, and one that we believe is contrary to the purpose and need and the RMP.

 

CUMULATIVE IMPACTS

 

Bark has two primary concerns about cumulative impacts from the Annie’s Cabin decision.  First, our concerns regarding the project exceeding the 10% watershed threshold for impervious area of a watershed were not addressed in the Decision Rationale.  Bark suggested that the BLM was focusing inappropriately on the 10% threshold in the project area, and not in the rest of the severely altered Mollala River watershed.  The response in the Decision Rationale, “The main impervious surface areas in the vicinity of the Annie’s Cabin units, outside of the project units are the roads. Since timber hauling is limited to periods of dry road conditions, road related sediment inputs to streams are expected to be negligible." Decision 36  The fifth field watershed in which Annie's Cabin has significantly more impervious surfaces than those roads proposed for log haul: other roads, trails, bridges, private land and roads, parking lots, etc.  The response in the decision does not address the concern mentioned.

 

In order to provide an opportunity for the BLM to address the original concern, it is rewritten below.

 

The six watersheds encompassed in the 2006 Thin comprise prime anadromous fish habitat.  Many threatened anadromous species depend on the quality of these watersheds for survival.  UWR Chinook salmon and steelhead trout, both federally listed threatened species, inhabit channels downstream from project areas that will be affected by increased sedimentation.  Increased sedimentation due to management activities has been a likely contributor to categorizing these fish as Threatened and must be severely limited under future management activities.  According to the Lower Molalla River and Milk Creek Watershed Assessment (LMRMCWA), the "total impervious surface area of a watershed exceeding 10% can result in an altered hydrologic regime and degradation of physical habitat" (LMRMCWA, page 51).  The proposed action includes developments that increase total impervious surface area up to 10% of the units, without taking into consideration impervious surface areas outside of the units, which could amount to more than 10% of the watershed.  The effects determination for Threatened anadromous fish populations must consider the impervious surface areas outside of project units and factor in sedimentation from this surrounding land.  However, the EA/FONSI fails to do this and instead assumes the sedimentation occurring as a result of the project activities will be the only contributors in the watershed.  This is clearly not the case, a prime counter-example being Weyerhauser plantations on the adjacent slope of Annie’s Cabin units whose sediment-loaded runoff flows into some of the same threatened fish-inhabited channels.  Sedimentation from surrounding development must be factored into the effects determination.  Until this is accounted for, project activities cannot proceed.  Many channels in the Molalla River Watershed are also “highly sensitive to disturbance,” indicating a small amount of sedimentation may have a much higher effect than would be predicted otherwise (LMRMCWA, page 31).  The LMRMCWA classifies 41% (105.6 miles) of the stream reaches within the watershed as “highly sensitive to disturbance,” and “more than half of the total watershed channel length classified as highly sensitive to disturbance was classified as FP1 or FP2, indicating that large floodplain channels occurring in the lowland areas of the watershed represent a large proportion of the most sensitive channels occurring in the watershed" (LMRMCWA, page 31).  The LMRMCWA admits the lack of knowledge concerning the health of streams, recommending that “more intensive field-based surveys be performed to examine stream channel conditions to both produce baseline information and to better quantify channel conditions in various areas of the watershed for restoration prioritization" (LMRMCWA, page 33).  Nowhere does the EA/FONSI quantify channel conditions in order to reach a truly accurate effects determination.

 

HARDWOOD LOGGING IS THREATENING BIODIVERSITY

 

“Vine maple and California hazel would be cut in selected areas to enhance or initiate understory conifer regeneration” (EA, page 15). Any and all hardwood needs to be protected. It is well known that hardwoods (and alders in particular with their nitrogen fixing) play a vital role in forest ecosystem diversity.  The USGS Biological Science Report USGS\BRD\BSR – 2002-0006 “Managing for Biodiversity in Young Douglas-Fir Forests of Western Oregon” (MB 2002) repeatedly highlights the role played by hardwoods and shrubs in promoting diverse and healthy forest ecosystems. 

 

Hardwoods were found to play an important role in nearly every ecosystem aspect studied in this overview; specifically, they were found to be important to maintaining healthy populations of epiphytic lichens and bryophytes, moths, and birds. Tall established shrubs were the main factor when examining macrolichens and bryophytes.

 

Epiphytic lichens and bryophytes play a vital role in forest nutrient cycling. As discussed (MB 2002, page 17), these epiphytes “…are important components of these ecosystems. They serve as nitrogen-fixers (e.g., Lobaria oregano), providing important inputs of plant-available nitrogen to ecosystems; as hydrological buffers, absorbing, storing, and releasing water (e.g., moss mats); as part of food webs (e.g., in the diet of arthropods, flying squirrels, deer, and elk); as nesting material for marbled murrelets, flying squirrels, and other birds and mammals; and as habitat for insects and other arthropods…Communities of lichens and bryophytes develop slowly…Because of their importance in forest ecosystems, and the association of many species with old-growth forests, epiphytic lichens and bryophytes are increasingly being considered in the practice of forest-ecosystem management (FEMAT 1993, USDA and USDI 1994).” With that in mind, the results of the study were unequivocal and resulted in the following conclusion and recommendation for management:

·         “Hotspots [i.e., hardwoods] supported more rare or unusual macrolichens, and a higher diversity and abundance of cyanolichens, than did other stand types.”

·         “Retain a legacy of hardwoods and shrubs, and favor the old shrubs on a site. Hardwoods provide important habitat for macrolichens, possibly because macrolichens grow during the wet season, when hardwood leavers are not present. In particular, many nitrogen-fixing species are hardwood-associated, for reasons that are not yet well understood.” (page 28)

 

Similar results were found for the role hardwoods played in moth populations.  As noted, “The biodiversity of moths is linked to the ecosystem through their influences on nutrient cycling, plant population dynamics, and food-web dynamics (Miller, 1993)…If the plant species is lost from the forest, then the moth and the function that it provides are lost as well. Thus, patterns in the biodiversity (i.e., species richness and relative abundance) of moths are related to the biodiversity of host plants in the forests” (MB 2002, page 18).  With their importance in mind, the study was once again unequivocal: “Hardwoods were responsible for most of the species richness in every stand type. In fact, 46 percent of the species collected across all stand types were associated with hardwoods.” (MB, page 34)

 

The study had a very similar result when they examined the relation of hardwoods to forest birds: “Bird species richness was positively associated with hardwood components of stand structure, which indicates the important contribution of hardwoods to stand-level diversity.” (MB, page 39)

 

It is not surprising then that a portion of the project conclusions and “proposed thinning guidelines” were focused on retention of existing hardwoods within Douglas-fir plantations:

·         “Hardwoods are important for many species, whether through providing habitat substrate (e.g., for epiphytes), food sources (e.g., for moth larvae), or foraging substrate (e.g., for birds) – other habitat conditions…”

·          “Favor hardwood trees across a range of size classes, including large trees that occupy midcanopy and higher positions.” (MB 2002, page 41-42)

 

“Favor hardwood and shrubs” is at the top of the list of general thinning prescriptions for biodiversity enhancement within Douglas-fir plantations (MB 2002, p.46).  Similar finding/conclusions/recommendations were documented for shrubs, especially tall shrubs (MB 2002, pages 20, 24-25, 28-32, 38- 42, etc.).

 

The following scientific studies report that a high density of hardwoods is key in promoting healthy populations of a diverse array of species:

 

Hagar and McComb, 1993.  Bird Communities in Commercially Thinned and Unthinned Douglas-fir Stands of Western Oregon. COPE Report, October 1993, p. 6-9, found that the number of bird species in a stand was positively correlated with hardwoods >12" dbh, conifers >22" dbh and snags >20.5" dbh.

 

Science Findings, January 2004, issue 60, “Tree squirrels in the Pacific Northwest are part of a keystone complex that includes ectomycorrhizal fungi, Douglas-fir, and spotted owls…” This study had as a “Key Finding” that “the flying and Douglas’ squirrels and the Townsend’s chipmunk consume truffles as a major part of their diet. They also consume a variety of mushrooms, lichens, maple seeds, poplar catkins, and salal fruit, many of which are more nutritious than truffles. Thus retention of diverse hardwoods is important for biodiversity.”

 

The Forest Ecosystem Study: Background, Rationale, Implementation, Baseline Conditions, and Silvicultural Assessment (Andrew B. Carey, David R. Thysell, and Angus W. Brodie), May 1999, PNW-GTR-457 notes that, “the coniferous overstory species and other ectomycorrhizal understory species are hypothesized to “preserve ectomycorrhizal fungi during periods of rapidly changing above ground community structure and that mycorrhizal links between hardwoods and conifers facilitate conifer establishment by providing a ready source of inoculum, nutrients, and water” (page 68).

 

The aforementioned scientific findings make it clear that preserving as many hardwoods as possible is key to preserving and enhancing biodiversity.  The proposed action would involve the commercial harvest of hardwoods, contributing to an overall reduction of hardwood density.  This is unacceptable and does not comply with the project’s stated goal to “To protect and enhance stand diversit and wildlife habitat components” (EA, page 3).  If this projects aims at the enhancement and restoration of biodiversity, all hardwoods standing must remain undisturbed.  While there are certainly large patches of forest that have a high density of hardwoods; they are still much more rare in the planning areas relative to the conifers present.

 

The Molalla River WA states that only about 2% of the watershed is populated with hardwood species. This makes the presence of hardwoods in this area an important and unique feature to consider.

 

Red Alders

Red alders are marked as “take” trees in Unit #9. We question the assumption implicit in this project that alders are bad and must be replaced. It may in fact be good to get some more conifers going in those alder stands to take over when the alder drops out, but the NEPA analysis fails to consider alternatives to clearcutting the alder stands in riparian reserves. Certainly there are more creative and less destructive ways to introduce some conifer diversity into these alder stands.

 

Alder also provide valuable habitat in riparian areas. Compared to conifer stands, alder provides more nutrient input to streams and boosts the aquatic food chain. Alder also supports more variety and abundance of insects that provide food for fish. See CFER 2002 Annual Report.: Contributions Of The Riparian Community To Forested Coast Range Streams: A Focus On Terrestrial Invertebrates And Leaf Litter, Alyssa M. Doolittle and Edward E. Starkey; Influences Of Riparian Vegetation On Food Availability And Diet Of Cutthroat Trout, Nicolas Romero and Robert E. Gresswell; The Influence Of Aquatic Emergent Prey On Riparian Predatory Spiders In Alder- And Conifer-Dominated Riparian Areas, Sharmila Premdas and Judith L. Li.

 

BLM's 2005 Analysis of the Management Situation for the Western Oregon Plan

Revision says, "Research in the past decade has detailed the importance of riparian hardwoods in aquatic and riparian food webs. Alders, for instance, are an important part of the food web for a healthy fish and wildlife population." (AMS p 27). "Hardwoods provide critical biological function (food) to streams, whereas conifer species provide more physical function (habitat)." (AMS p 94).

 

A mosaic of alder and conifer within a watershed provides a beneficial balance between nutrient inputs (from alder) and long-lasting woody debris (from large conifers).

 

Streams with prominent riparian alder populations have increased amounts of both dissolved and particulate nutrients when compared to old-growth coniferous forested streams. This trend has been observed in surface and groundwater and has included higher levels of nitrate, phosphate, total nitrogen and phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and iron. Specifically, we observe a strong relationship between the percent of alder within the watershed and the surface water nitrate concentration. These alder-derived nutrients are often available for uptake by microbial communities and algae, both of which are important food resources for a variety of aquatic organisms.

 

INSUFFICIENT INFORMATION ABOUT BUREAU SENSITIVE SPECIES

 

Oregon Slender Salamander

The Oregon slender salamander is a listed Bureau Sensitive Species. Their rare presence is dependent on moist, closed canopy forests with a large quantity of downed woody debris. The proposed project puts important habitat at a direct risk for this species. Our initial concern for the habitat was greatly increased by the agency’s negligent treatment for analyzing the detrimental impacts of logging through prime habitat.

 

The RMP instructs to “retain coarse woody debris already on the ground and protect it to the greatest extent possible from disturbance during treatment (e.g., slash burning and yarding) which might otherwise destroy the integrity of the substrate.” (RMP, 21) However, the EA hardly referenced efforts to protect existing forest floor integrity.

 

The EA states that Oregon slender salamander is expected to occur in the some of the planning areas (EA, 40), but then specific to Annie’s Cabin there is acknowledgement of habitat presence in Unit 30B, “though material of adequate size for future habitat is not present” in the other sections (6E, 6C, and 7C) that show a presence of downed woody debris (EA, 61). When protesters found flagging near substantial downed woody debris in Unit 9, it peaked our concern, as this area was not noted in the EA. As well, protestors had a glance at an Oregon slender salamander in March 2007 amongst the debris. Although it was too quick to fully determine, we requested more information about the survey stand exams from the BLM the following week. We also notified Oregon Fish and Wildlife to include the sighting in their database.

 

After repeated efforts to get more information about the Oregon slender salamander, we asked an expert to assist in cursory examination. In April 2007 we found six more Oregon slender salamanders in Units 9 and 13, neither listed as even possible habitat. Again, we contacted the BLM and received little response other than to say the sightings had been added to the database. It was not until the Decision Rationale, on the last page (DR, 50) and in response to public comments on the EA, where we learn that in the survey stand exam  Oregon slender salamanders were found in units 6, 16, 17 and 18.” The BLM attempts to mitigate their responsibility to the public by reminding us that “surveys and buffers are not required” (EA, 50).

 

“Conduct field surveys according to protocols and other established procedures.” (RMP, 29)

 

“Modify, relocate, or abandon a proposed action to avoid contributing to the need to list federal candidate species, state-listed species, bureau sensitive species, or their habitats.” (RMP, 29)

 

“Field Office Managers are responsible for implementing the special status species program within their area of jurisdiction by: 1. Conducting and maintaining current inventories for special status species on public lands.” (Bureau Manual 6840, .04, F)

 

“Identify impacts of proposed actions, if any, to bureau sensitive and assessment species and clearly describe impacts in environmental analyses.” (RMP, 29)

 

“Pursue opportunities for public education about conservation of species.” (RMP, 30)

 

We respectfully, yet strongly disagree that the District is not responsible for ensuring surveys have been completed and taken into consideration at the planning stage. By avoiding to disclose important information to the public about sensitive species population, a culture of distrust will be reinforced.

 

The Annie’s Cabin logging project will have a direct and negligent effect on the Oregon slender salamander. By opening up the canopy in areas with presence and potential habitat, integral levels of moisture are lost. The survival of amphibians is dependent on wet soil and moist downed woody debris. Increased sunlight and wind has drying effect on downed wood. As well, any CWD left from logging and intended to replace a loss of habitat is generally smaller in diameter and is much less effective at retaining moisture and, thus, providing habitat.

 

Of course, these considerations might be sufficient where there is only a potential for future populations. However, protestors have identified a current presence of Oregon slender salamander, confirmed by the BLM. The BLM is treading in murky waters by only revealing a known finding in the Decision Rationale. Did the agency have greater hesitancy in making this discovery available to the public than just solipsism? Was there, in fact, some internal effort to avoid an obstruction to this project?

 

Mitochondrial DNA analysis showed that there is evidence of two major lineages of Oregon Slender Salamanders, a northern and southern population, and random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analysis showed a pattern of isolation by distance. The northern population appears to include sites east of the crest and western sites from the Columbia River south to near Estacada, Oregon, in Multnomah, Clackamas, Hood River, and Wasco Counties. The southern population appears to include sites west of the Cascade crest, north to near Silver Creek Falls, in Marion and Linn Counties. Sampling was not conducted between Silver Creek Falls and Estacada to refine delineation of the boundary.  The BLM has not identified whether the Oregon Slender Salamanders found belong to one of these lineages and stated if either of these lineages are rare.  If the Oregon Slender Salamanders belong to a rare lineage, they should be protected.

 

Please reference this Conservation Assessment for more information:

David R. Clayton and Deanna H. Olson, Conservation Assessment for the Oregon Slender Salamander.

 

Tall Bugbane

Add to this frustrating lack of survey data, the Tall Bugbane (Cimicifuga eleta). Populations of this Bureau Sensitive Species were identified in the Annie’s Cabin project area in Section 30 and Section 5 (EA, 26). Although this species was identified in other parts of the planning area, this higher number of population seems warranted of elucidation in the Annie’s Cabin Project Area section. But no reference of this species or any other botanical impacts on the area are presented.

 

Our own data collection efforts revealed in Unit 5, a considerable take of Broadleaf Maple. The Molalla River WA states that deciduous trees are “nearly always present in the local overstory” (Molalla River WA, 94).  This conifer transition is in direct conflict with the recommended conditions for promoting this sensitive species. We question any concern for the importance of diversity, when management practices so directly and detrimentally impact the recovery and natural discovery of such habitat.

 

Golden Eagle

Protestors thought they saw two birds circling overhead on Looney's Trail in the Molalla Recreation Corridor just south of the Amanda's Trail junction.  They looked to be golden eagle. While we do not have an image of the birds, we are aware of a pair of golden eagles in the project area. (EA 61) The Golden Eagle is a Bureau Sensitive Species and we have concerns that the agency avoided surveys, despite sightings in the area.

 

We have been assured that a survey addendum to this EA was not made available. We request that this decision not be finalized before the agency prepares an EA that discloses the survey information to the public.

 

 

ANNIE’S CABIN EA IS INVALID BECAUSE IT DOES NOT ADEQUATELY DISCLOSE AND ANALYZE SURVEY AND MANAGE OBLIGATIONS OR THE RESULTS OF SURVEY AND MANAGE SURVEYS

 

          NEPA requires federal agencies to involve the public, consider alternatives, and disclose the impacts of a proposed action and its alternatives before making a decision. 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C).  The agency may do this analysis through an EA or an EIS.  [CITE]  Agencies are required to prepare supplements to an EIS if there are "significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts." 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9(c).  Ninth Circuit case law holds that supplementation of an EA is required when, just like with an EIS, there have been significant changes in the proposed action. See, e.g., Idaho Sporting Congress v. Thomas, 137 F.3d 1146, 1152 (9th Cir. 1998).  If the information is not new information, then the agency has no discretion – it must supplement the original EA with that information before making a final decision.  ONRC v. US Forest Service, 293 F. Supp. 2d 1200, 1208-9 (DCt. Or 2003).  In other words, if an agency knew certain information at the time that it prepared an EA, but does not include the information in the EA, the agency must supplement the EA with that new information.       

 

The BLM conducted surveys for S&M species 2 months before completing the EA. This S&M information was not included in the EA, and it should have been.  The S&M surveys obviously informed the agency’s final decision, as they should have, considering the BLM had duties to comply with the S&M Program.  Since the BLM did not discuss the S&M Program in Annie’s Cabin EA, it should have completed a supplemental NEPA document to inform the public of the BLM’s obligations under and compliance with S&M and the results of the S&M surveys completed in April and May of 2006.  Without a discussion of S&M, the public had no idea how the surveys affected the BLM’s decision.  The BLM simply did not follow NEPA’s requirements to fully disclose the impacts of a proposed action and its alternatives before a final decision when it left out a discussion of S&M in the Annie’s Cabin EA. 

 

In fact the BLM did not mention the S&M Program until it published the Final Decision and Decision Rationale for Annie’s Cabin (the DR).  At this point, the public had no chance to evaluate the impacts of the S&M surveys and comment on them.  The DR discusses the S&M surveys that were completed and reports a finding of 3 active Red Tree Vole (RTV) nests.  Before the Final Decision became publicly available, volunteers for Bark repeatedly asked the BLM if it had conducted Red Tree Vole and other S&M species surveys.  The volunteers had observed flagging in units 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 17, which indicated such surveys.  In response to requests for information by these volunteers, the BLM refused to acknowledge any surveys.  The EA (or a supplemental EA) should have included a discussion of the BLM’s duties under the S&M Program and a disclosure of the S&M survey results.  Because this information is missing from the EA, the public had no chance to evaluate the BLM’s management decisions regarding S&M species. 

 

Without any supplemental NEPA document disclosing S&M information, the EA does not follow the requirements of NEPA, as it fails to “properly frame [the BLM’s] survey and manage duties, analyze a range of alternatives based upon these duties, evaluate completed surveys, demonstrate that the agency had all of the proper information before allowing logging, and provide for public influence over the decisions,” all requirements based on NEPA.  ONRC v. US Forest Service, 293 F. Supp. 2d 1200, 1209 (D. Ct. Or 2003). See also Idaho Sporting Congress v. Alexander, 222 F.3d 562 (9th Cir. 2000) (holding that Supplemental Information Reports prepared years after the original decisions to approve timber sales did not satisfy NEPA; only a supplemental NEPA document would fulfill the agency’s duties to NEPA).   The Salem District BLM must create a supplemental NEPA document, either another EA, an EIS, or a supplemental EA, to discuss the S&M Program protocols that apply to Annie’s Cabin.  Otherwise, the NEPA process for Annie’s Cabin is invalid.  The BLM had conducted S&M surveys before completing the Annie’s Cabin EA, so the S&M information is not considered new information and must be included in a supplemental NEPA document. 

           

 

The Salem District BLM had Legal Requirements to comply with the 2001 Survey and Manage Protocols at the time it prepared the Annie’s Cabin EA.    

 

At the time the BLM prepared the 2006 EA for Annie’s Cabin, the RTV was labeled a Class C species under the S&M Program protocols.  Because of the RTV’s classification, the Salem District BLM was required to conduct pre-disturbance surveys and protect all known RTV sites.  [CITE]  It appears from the DR that the Salem District BLM did do pre-disturbance surveys for RTVs and other S&M species, but the BLM didn’t discuss the need for these surveys or disclose the results of the surveys before making its final decision. 

 

The EA should have analyzed and followed the S&M Program protocols, as these protocols were in full-effect at the time the EA was prepared.  The BLM knew (or should have known) of its duties under the S&M Program, because the S&M Program had been reinstated by a Western Washington District Court in January 2006.  Northwest Ecosystem Alliance v. Rey, 380 F. Supp. 2d 1175 (W.D. Wash. 2006).  Annie’s Cabin EA does not comply with NEPA, because it completely fails to mention S&M. With a complete omission of the S&M Program, the EA does not adequately disclose and prove compliance with the Northwest Forest Plan’s Survey and Manage Program (S&M Program). 

 

The Salem District BLM has demonstrated that it knew of its obligations to survey for RTVs, because it completed pre-disturbance surveys.  The agency should have further demonstrated that it relied on these surveys in planning the project, and it should have informed the public about the surveys by including S&M information in the EA.   

 

The BLM incorrectly relied on the 2004 “ROD to Remove S&M" in its 2006 EA

 

In March 2004, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior attempted to eliminate the S&M Program with its “Record of Decision to Remove or Modify the Survey and Manage Mitigation Measure Standards and Guidelines.” (2004 ROD).  In April of 2004, environmental groups filed a lawsuit to challenge the 2004 ROD and the court found in favor of the environmental groups in August of 2005.  Northwest Ecosystem Alliance v. Rey, 380 F. Supp. 2d 1175 (W.D. Wash. 2006).  The 2001 S&M Program Record of Decision was officially reinstated in January 2006.  Northwest Ecosystem Alliance v. Rey, No. 04-844P (W.D. Wash. 2006).   The 2001 S&M Program ROD had always been in-effect and was certainly in full-effect in July 2006 when the 2006 EA was prepared and released to the public.  Information regarding the agency’s S&M obligations should have been included in the Annie’s Cabin EA.   

 

However, in the Annie’s Cabin EA, the BLM claims that it relied on the 2004 ROD.  (EA p. 13) Because of its reliance on this document, the BLM does not analyze its requirements to protect Survey and Manage species, nor does it show that it fully considered the survey results in before its final decision.  The DR does mention that the BLM complied with S&M Program protocols, but leaving this analysis to the final decision document completely leaves the public out of the decision-making process. 

 

The Annie’s Cabin EA did not include survey information for S&M species.  BLM knew or should have known that it was required to include survey requirements and results of surveys at the time of their EA.  Instead, the BLM included the S&M information in their Final Decision Rationale.  The public has had no chance to comment on the S&M obligations, because the BLM did not create a supplemental NEPA document.  Annie’s Cabin EA, then, certainly does not “involve the public, consider alternatives, and disclose the impacts of a proposed action and alternatives to it before making a decision” regarding S&M surveys. 

 

The BLM did not include its S&M information “early enough” for proper consideration in the decision-making process for Annie’s Cabin. 

 

The proper timing of environmental review is one of NEPA's central themes.  Environmental review documents must be prepared as early as possible in the decision-making process because NEPA procedures are meant to "ensure informed decision making to the end that the agency will not act on incomplete information, only to regret its decision after it is too late to correct." Churchill County v. Norton, 276 F.3d 1060, 1072-73 (9th Cir. 2001). Any environmental assessment must be "prepared early enough so it can serve practically as an important contribution to the decision-making process and will not be used to rationalize or justify decisions already made." 40 C.F.R. § 1502.5; Idaho Sporting Congress v. Alexander, 222 F.3d at 567-68. The phrase "early enough" means "at the earliest possible time to ensure that planning and decisions reflect environmental values."  Andrus v. Sierra Club, 442 U.S. 347, 351, 99 S. Ct. 2335, 60 L. Ed. 2d 943 (1979).

 

The BLM has clearly not included the S&M information for Annie’s Cabin at the “earliest possible time.”         

 

The Salem District BLM should have surveyed for the the Great Grey Owl, Evening Field Slug, and the Crater Lake Tightcoil, all Survey and Manage Species. 

         

In the Annie’s Cabin DR, the BLM states that the project area is within the range of the Great Grey Owl, the Evening Field Slug and the Crater Lake Tightcoil.  However, the BLM did not conduct surveys for these species, because it claimed that the project area did not contain suitable habitat.  The BLM is incorrect in its assessment.  Annie’s Cabin Project area does include habitat for all three species. 

 

The Great Grey Owl

According to the “Survey Protocol of the Great Grey Owl,” Great Grey Owls live in forests where they are opportunities to nest in a perch relatively near openings with plenty of forage.  Great Grey Owls seem to have little preference as to what types of trees they nest in.  In the Western Cascade area, researchers have found Great Grey Owls nesting in trees with a 38-42 inch dbh range.  However, birds have been known to nest in both smaller and larger nest trees.  (Nest Tree Table, Survey Protocol p. 13) So, Great Grey Owls seem to prefer nesting in mature or older stands with a fairly open understory and dense overstory.  However, Great Grey Owls will nest in a variety of habitats that exhibit these required characteristics:  1. large diameter nest trees, 2. forest for roosting cover, and 3. proximity to foraging areas (which includes areas up to 2 miles from the nest).  Annie’s Cabin project area definitely includes suitable habitat for the Great Grey Owl. 

Many of Annie’s Cabin units include older or mature trees.  The canopy cover is quite dense for many units, as well.  Great Grey Owls do have places to forage within 2 miles from the Annie’s Cabin Project. A natural meadow does exist in the Molalla River Recreation Corridor, but its on the east side of the river approximately across the river from Unit #15. A wetland area created by a Beaver Dam exists at Aquila Vista just south of Unit #17 which has  a huge opening.  Bark volunteers have heard the distinct call of the Great Grey Owl in units 2, 23, and 29.  Any ground-disturbing activities in this area would negatively affect the Great Grey Owl habitat and have a significant negative effect on the species.  Pre-disturbance surveys should be done before going through with the project. 

 

The Evening Field Slug and the Crater Lake Tightcoil

The “Survey Protocol for Survey and Manage Terrestrial Mollusk Species” describes terrestrial mollusk habitat as varied.

The Evening Field Slug has been found in wet meadows in forested areas, using a variety of plants, litter, and debris for cover.  Surveys should be conducted in moist surface vegetation and cover objects within 30 meters of a perennial wetlands, seeps, and springs and riparian areas.  Annie’s Cabin has many perennially wet areas and riparian areas within the project area.  Because the project area is within the range of the Evening Field Slug and there is suitable habitat for the species, the BLM should have conducted pre-disturbance surveys.   

 

Surveys for the Crater Lake Tightcoil should be done within 10 meters of perennial wet areas within mature forests and riparian areas.  This species is often found in this habitat among rushes, mosses, and other vegetation or under rocks or other debris.  The BLM should have done surveys for the Crater Lake Tightcoil, as Annie’s Cabin project area contains many areas of perennial wetness and riparian areas. 

Furthermore, while a surveyor searches for one mollusk species, she should also survey for other species with similar habitat requirements.  (Survey Protocol for Mollusks p. 8).  Both of these terrestrial mollusks have similar habitat requirements, and the BLM should have conducted surveys for them both at the same time.  The surveys should have happened before the Annie’s Cabin DR was released.  

         

The BLM claims it has only surveyed for RTVs in trees over 80 years old, but it should have conducted all RTV surveys in accordance with the 2001 Survey and Manage ROD.

         

The BLM apparently relies on the October 2006 amendment to the January 2006 Northwest Ecosystem Alliance case.  (Annie’s Cabin DR p. 11)  As per this amendment, the BLM claims that it was not required to conduct surveys for RTVs in stands less than 80 years old.  However, this new provision was not in effect when the BLM was supposed to, and did, in fact conduct its RTV surveys.  There was no restriction to survey only trees older than 80 years when the BLM completed its Annie’s Cabin EA in July 2006.  The BLM was required to survey for RTVs throughout Annie’s Cabin project area and consider the results in its initial environmental assessment.  The BLM did, in fact, survey most of the units in the Annie’s Cabin area.  Bark volunteers found flagging in units 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 17, which indicated RTV surveys and transect markings for the surveys. 

 

The BLM’s should have used an EIS to plan Annie’s Cabin and the 3 other projects. 

 

Under NEPA, a federal agency may analyze the effects of a proposed federal action affecting the environment using an EA or an EIS.  Federal agencies must prepare an EIS for proposed "major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C).  An agency does not need to prepare an EIS for every project; it may prepare an EA to determine whether an EIS is necessary. 40 C.F.R. § 1501.4(a)-(c).

 

When the impact of a project is uncertain, an agency should prepare an EIS. Under NEPA case law, when an agency is not sure whether or not an action will have a significant impact on the environment, the agency must err on the side of caution and prepare an EIS.  National Audubon Society v. Hoffman, 132 F.3d 7, 18 (2d Cir. 1997). Or if a proposed action is likely to have a significant effect, the agency should prepare an EIS. National Audubon Society, 132 F.3d at 18; Idaho Sporting Congress v. Thomas, 137 F.3d 1146, 1149 (9th Cir. 1998).

A “major action” has been defined as one “that requires substantial planning, time, resources, or expenditure.” Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. Grant, 341 F. Supp. 356, 366 (E.D.N.C. 1972). The phrase “‘significantly affecting the quality of the human environment’ can be construed as having an important or meaningful effect, direct or indirect, upon a broad range of aspects of the human environment.” Grant, 341 F.Supp. at 367.  In considering “significance” under NEPA, courts have looked at the effects on popular uses, public health and safety, endangered animals, important geological sites, potentiality of controversy, and possibility of unknown risks. Foundation on Economic Trends v. Weinberger, 610 F. Supp. 829, 837-38 (D.D.C. 1985). Courts also look at the severity of the impact. Id.

 

An agency must also look at the cumulative adverse effects of an action to decide whether it is a “major action significantly affecting the human environment.” A project must make an assessment “with a view to the overall, cumulative impact of the action proposed, related federal action and projects in the area and further actions contemplated.” Sierra Club v. Bergland, 451 F. Supp. 120, 129 (N.D. Miss. W.D. 1978) (cumulative impacts speaks to “significance” of an action). 

 

The 2006 EA, which analyzes the environmental impacts not only of the Annie’s Cabin project, but also the impacts on 3 other projects in the immediate vicinity, is certainly a “major federal action significantly affecting the human environment.” The project covers an area larger than 1,800 acres and requires major planning time and money.  The project area has extraordinary recreational values and is used by many recreational groups.  Reducing the landscape in Annie’s Cabin to a post-industrial logging eye-sore is certain to be controversial to these groups.  One good example of a controversy is the fact that Annie’s Cabin project highly impacts a memorial trail dedicated to an environmentalist named Amanda who has passed on.  Amanda’s family will surely be distraught to learn that the forest dedicated to Amanda has been destroyed.  Finally, this project area has serious cumulative impacts issues, due to the logging that happened in the past in this area and the public/private checkerboard nature of the landscape.  The BLM should have prepared an EIS to fully analyze the impacts of Annie’s Cabin project and the 3 other concurrently planned projects. 

 

ACS COMPLIANCE

 

As you know, logging in riparian reserve LUAs is prohibited unless necessary to attain Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS) objectives. NWFP TM-1/Salem District RMP at 11.  The EA alleges that the purpose and need of logging riparian reserves under the Annie's Cabin timber sale is to:

l  Develop future large coarse woody debris, snag habitat, in-stream large wood and other

          elements of late-successional forest habitat. (RMP p.1);

l  Develop structural and spatial diversity of the forest ecosystem on a landscape level in

          the long term. EA at 14.

While both these goals theoretically support attainment of ACS objectives, the evidence and analysis presented in the EA does not support a finding that these objectives will in fact be attained.  To the contrary, the EA and Final Decision/Decision Rationale (DR) call for activities that are likely to adversely affect ACS objectives at the project level.  For instance, the EA calls for creating significant gaps (up to 50%) in the canopy cover without presenting sufficient scientific data or analysis to support the contention that removing canopy and creating “gaps” in riparian reserves will develop the aforementioned goals and in turn help attain ACS objectives. 

 

Bark has also pointed out several other concerns that have yet to be adequately addressed.  We have previously mentioned in our comments that several areas marked for treatment are very steep. Further, the Molalla River Watershed Analysis acknowledges that many channels in this watershed are also “highly sensitive to disturbance,” indicating a small amount of sedimentation may have a much higher effect than would be predicted otherwise (LMRMCWA, page 31).  Again, as we previously pointed out, the LMRMCWA classifies 41% (105.6 miles) of the stream reaches within the watershed as “highly sensitive to disturbance,” and “more than half of the total watershed channel length classified as highly sensitive to disturbance was classified as FP1 or FP2, indicating that large floodplain channels occurring in the lowland areas of the watershed represent a large proportion of the most sensitive channels occurring in the watershed" (LMRMCWA, page 31). Moreover, the LMRMCWA admits the lack of knowledge concerning the health of streams, recommending that “more intensive field-based surveys be performed to examine stream channel conditions to both produce baseline information and to better quantify channel conditions in various areas of the watershed for restoration prioritization" (LMRMCWA, page 33).

 

The EA provides virtually no baseline data on current watershed conditions.  Without this information the entire analysis is legally insufficient.  The lack of adequate site-specific information and of impacts analysis will not support a FONSI.  As such, the EA's conclusion that the Annie's Cabin project complies with ACS Standards and Guidelines is unsupported by the record and thus arbitrary, capricious, not in accordance with NEPA, and without observance of procedures required by law, within the meaning of the APA.

 

Second, the DR illegally authorizes increased thinning operations on an additional 15 acres of riparian reserve and expanded helicopter landings within the reserves without conducting supplemental NEPA analysis and providing an opportunity for public notice and comment with respect to those post-analysis changes.  NEPA's implementing regulations state:

 

“NEPA procedures must insure that environmental information is available to public officials and citizens before decisions are made and before actions are taken.  The information must be of high quality.  Accurate scientific analysis, expert agency comments, and public scrutiny are essential to implementing NEPA.”  40 C.F.R.  § 1500.1(b)(emphasis added).

 

Furthermore, the EA and DR heavily rely on the assertion that logging in the riparian reserves will not result in significant long-term effects or significant effects at the watershed level.  For example, the EA attempts to downplay the immediate project-level impacts to ACS objectives with statements such as:

 

          Typically, sediment yields from forest harvest decrease over time as a negative

          exponential (Dissmeyer, 2000) rate. The quantity of surface erosion with delivery of

          sediment during large storm events would likely drop back to current levels (0.10

          tons/acre) within three to five years...The limited magnitude (<5% of total sixth- field watershed    sediment supply) and duration(primarily in the first year following disturbance, limited to major       storm events) of this effect would likely be insignificant for water quality on the watershed    scale (i.e., cumulatively). (EA at 4).

 

 

l  Long-term measurable effects (five years or more) to watershed hydrology...are unlikely. These

          actions are unlikely to permanently alter the aquatic systems of affected watersheds...Effects to

          hydrology were analyzed on a watershed basis... Over the long-term (beyond three to five           years), current conditions and trends in turbidity and sediment yield would likely be maintained under the Proposed Action.(EA at 30).

 

l  The projects would result in a slight increase in road density due to the construction

          of several natural surface haul roads but this element would not be affected at the

          fifth field scale. (EA at 127).

 

Ninth Circuit precedent has clearly established that it is arbitrary and capricious for an agency to measure ACS compliance only at the watershed level, rather than also ensuring compliance at the project or site level, and by failing to fully evaluate the short term impacts.  See Pacific Coast Fed. Of Fishermen's Assn. v. Natl. Marine Fisheries Service, 265 F.3d 1028 (9th Cir. 2001) (PCFFA II); See also  Pacific Coast Fed. Of Fishermen's Assn. v. Natl. Marine Fisheries Service, 71 F. Supp.2d 1063 (W.D. Wa. 1999) (PCFFA I).  Although the BLM acknowledges this authority in the DR, it has failed to follow the Ninth Circuits mandate in the EA. (DR at 12).

 

The EA also fails to adequately address cumulative impacts.  The EA states that Proposed road work at stream crossings, timber haul on roads adjacent to streams and thinning and yarding in the Riparian Reserve LUA may contribute to cumulative effects to...Water Quality (sediment) and Fisheries. (EA at 24).  However, the EA then proceeds to merely identify by name in a Table other BLM timber sales that call for logging in the riparian reserve LUA adjacent to or near the Annie's Cabin timber sale area,  without reference to the scope of those projects and without any actual consideration of the incremental impact on water quality and fisheries from Annie's cabin when added to these other sales. (Table 10, EA at 25). 

 

The CEQ regulations define “Cumulative Impact” as: “the impact on the environment from the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and reasonably forseeeable future actions regardless of what agency (Federal or non-Federal) or person undertakes such actions.  Cumulative impacts can result from individually minor but collectively significant actions taking place over a period of time.”   40 C.F.R.  § 1508.7.

 

Further, only 33% of the watershed is managed by BLM.  The EA provides absolutely no cumulative impacts analysis with respect to past, present, or reasonably forseeable future non-BLM actions.  Given the fact that 62% of the watershed is in private ownership and of that 53% is in the hands of several major forest industrial landowners makes this omission fatal to the EA's legality.  A FONSI cannot be issued without an analysis of cumulative effects.

 

STREAMS AND FISHERIES

 

The project is expected to have no effect on Upper Willamette River (UWR) steelhead trout or UWR chinook salmon that are present in the Molalla River downstream of project units. The determination of “no effect” is based on project design features that include 1/ minimum 60’ stream protection zones on perennial streams, which are expected to prevent any decrease in stream shade that could result in an increase in stream temperature; 2/ very little road construction or decommissioning, none within Riparian Reserves; and 3/ no live stream culvert repair or replacement. DR 37

 

We are concerned about the lack of information about existing streams in the project area. There is no determination of intermittent streams. Did the BLM survey for all seeps, streams and wetlands?

 

BLM DID NOT CONSIDER THE HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL IMPORTANCE OF THE SHARED-USE TRAIL SYSTEM IN THE MOLALLA RIVER RECREATION CORRIDOR

 

The Shared-Use Trail System in the Molalla River Recreation Corridor was created in the 1990s when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) closed 13 miles of logging roads and converted these roads into trails for hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian uses.  In 1994, the BLM approved the development of 12 miles of additional single-track trails in the Molalla River Recreation Corridor in partnership with volunteer organizations.  Since the creation of these trails, visitation along the Molalla River is estimated to be 7,600 people per year and 3,750 people per year using the Molalla River Shared-Use Trail System. Most of the visitation occurs during the peak use season between the end of May and beginning of September.

 

Molalla River Watch in partnership with the BLM organizes monthly maintenance of this Shared-Use Trail System.  Many organizations who use the trails also volunteer in maintaining the trails.  These organizations stem from the Portland Metropolitan Area to Salem having interest in recreation uses such as hiking (e.g. Mazamas, Chemeketan Outdoor Club), mountain biking (e.g. Merry Cranksters, Portland United Mountain Pedelars), and horseback riding (e.g. Oregon Equestrian Trails, Back Country Horsemen).

 

Trails and designation names of the Shared-Use Trail System in the Molalla River Recreation Corridor come from the history of the area to the volunteers...

 

Huckleberry Trail

Between the early 1800s to the 1920s, the Huckleberry Trail was used by Native Americans from the Warm Springs Indian Reservation to reach huckleberry-picking grounds near Table Rock.  This trail might have also been used by the Molalla Native Americans and others in use of trade between the Willamette Valley and Eastern Oregon.  The Huckleberry Trail cuts through Units #3, #4, #6, #7, #8, #9, #13, #15 & #17. If the intention for using helicopter logging to mitigate impacts on popular recreation trails, why did the BLM not consider helicopter logging for Units 13 and 15?

 

Annie’s Cabin

The timber sale name, Annie's Cabin, comes from a cabin that sits just north of Squirrel Creek on the east side of the Huckleberry Trail. Jim Williams, Annie Miller, and her daughter, Squirrel, used this cabin as their living room (a small trailer was next door) from June 1992 until December 1993.  They were BLM volunteers who worked to improve the condition of the Molalla River Corridor.  Jim's presence made a big difference in the Molalla River Recreation Corridor.  He loved this area and worked hard to improve and protect it.  Jim spent his last days there and died in October 1993.  Annie and Squirrel left two months later.  The cabin sits just 250 feet south of Unit #6 of the timber sale.

 

Aquila Vista

A campground and recreational facility called Aquila Vista is used by local area public schools for education of outdoors and by other organizations.  This area is named after Golden Eagles discovered in the nearby vicinity.  Unit #17 is north of Aquila Vista.

 

Taylor’s Spur

The EA and Decision Rationale does not recognize the unmarked trail (nicknamed Taylor’s Spur) built by Molalla RiverWatch that connects the southeastern corner of Unit #17 to the Huckleberry Trail near the northern boundary line.  This trail is used for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding especially for people who use Aquila Vista.  The EA and Decision Rationale needs to consider the impacts to this trail.  The documents shall also add the mileage of this trail to the total mileage of trails affected by the proposed action.

 

Other trails

A couple of the trails traveling through proposed logging in Unit 2, Amanda and Mark's Trail, are named after people who volunteered in the Molalla Recreation Corridor.

 

A cursory snapshot at the popularity of this area for recreation could be found in a Google search fpr “Molalla River recreation” with a returned 44,800 matches. To say users “with no tolerance for any visual changes” of this trail system should go to Table Rock Wilderness is a narrow interpretation of the importance of recreation in this area and is completely unacceptable. (EA 67) Not only does the wilderness appropriately limit various uses that the Molalla River recreation area provides for, finding a tolerance for visual change is not comparable to losing the experience of hiking through a natural, diverse forest.

 

As well, a recent study revealed that recreation in Clackamas County has risen to become an almost $400 million dollar industry. Campground income alone was over $12 million in 2005. (see Dean Runyan study in Appendix B) Comparing this to the dwindling ability for timber to bring in money to Oregon communities (down to 3% of the state’s personal income from 8.9% in the 1970s, see US Dept of Commerce data in Appendix A) and protecting areas like the Molalla River recreation from continued extractive management practices begins to make economic sense for the surrounding communities.

 

BLM CANNOT ONLY FIX ROADS WHEN IT SUITS LOGGING NEEDS

 

"New roads have been minimized to less than one mile of temporary natural surface roads. Current roads will be renovated to accommodate the project (EA Section 2.2.1). No new permanent roads have been proposed. Old roads will be stabilized or decommissioned." DR 41

 

Bark provided comments to the EA identifying multiple areas of concern regarding roads.  We are pleased that the BLM has chosen to limit its roadbuilding.  Bark is disturbed that the complete response to the concerns raised are discounted based on the fact that less than one mile of road is being built.  The entire road system was built one-mile at a time, so how can this be the reason given for the superficial response to our concerns?  Especially since the BLM is not able to maintain the existing road network in such a way as to avoid significant sedimentation to the Molalla River watershed. 

 

The other portion of the DR response that Bark is interested in is, “Old roads will be stabilized or decommissioned.”  We could not find any reference to those activities in the EA or selected action.  Bark is fully supportive of these actions and would suggest that those roads left out of the selected actions be assessed for hydrological function, and then be removed from the system roads network (decommissioned) and hydrologically recovered through active culvert removal, replacement, or recontouring.

 

The Huckleberry Trail road has a more than twenty year old landslide crossing it. The forest has begun to recover this road to natural qualities. Recreation users have requested help restoring this slide for years with responses from the BLM always negative. It is discouraging to see the BLM’s proposed action include fixing the road for harvest access and the selected action of helicopter logging, leaving the road untouched and in a continued state of extreme instability.

 

NOXIOUS WEEDS

 

Holly is found in Unit #1.  Tons of scotch broom sits along the old logging / skid trail on the eastern side of the unit.  It seems thinning this forest would introduce more scotch broom, holly, and other invasive species in the forest.  Scotch broom is also found along Amanda’s Trail in Unit #2 and along the northern boundary line of Unit #4 on the Huckleberry Trail.

 

A recent study released, reveals new information about handling noxious and invasive plant species:

Merriam, K.E., Keeley, J.E., and Beyers, J.L., 2007, The role of fuel breaks in the invasion of nonnative plants: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5185, 69 p.

 

SLOPES AND SOIL

 

Map C of the Molalla River WA shows unstable soil in Unit 14, 15, 16 and 17.

 

We are concerned that the BLM has not analyzed this factor sufficiently in relation to soil’s ecological importance nor in relation to the standards prescribed by law.  Forest laws, particularly the NWFP, recognize the importance of soil and create very specific duties to mitigate impacts to this precious resource, for example, Activity areas (units) should not exceed 15% detrimental soil conditions (FW-022). DEIS, 87). It appears the EA/FONSI is meeting this standard, although it does not have a chart showing current and projected detrimental soil impacts, nor is there one in the Soils report.

 

Unit #15 has a history of landslides with trees curving up in the unit and the 15-foot high landslide that covers the Huckleberry Trail.  Ground-based yarding will likely further increase the amount of landslides in this area.  The BLM should either helicopter log this area or not log it at all.

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

We request that the following actions take place before moving forward with the Annie’s Cabin Timber Sale:

1.    Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Annie’s Cabin Timber Sale;

2.    Provide survey information to the public;

3.    Reflect survey information in an environmental analysis of the project;

4.    Create 100 foot buffer on either side of all trails in the project area;

5.    Remove hardwood cutting from the prescription;

6.    Drop all of Unit #9 and Unit #11 south of the unnamed road;

7.    Drop all of Unit #2 west of Amanda’s Trail;

8.    Drop all of Unit #12 south of Red Vole Road;

9.    Drop all Unit #17;

10. Place protective measures around the Oregon Slender Salamanders discovered in Unit #13;

11. Helicopter log Unit #15;

 

 

Thank you,

 

Amy Harwood

Program Director

Bark