Deschutes National Forest Archive
This page contains projects that are completed, inactive, cancelled, or were changed or stopped through our involvement. Information on these projects is retained to facilitate continued monitoring of the impact of the projects over time, or to provide a reference when new projects are proposed in the same vicinity. Currently active and planned projects can be found in the Take Action section on the Deschutes NF page.
- Forest Plans
- Sisters RD
- Bend / Fort Rock RD
- Crescent RD
Travel Management Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Update, August 2011: The Forest Service has issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and a Record of Decision (ROD). The ROD adopts FEIS Alternative 3 Modified as the implementation option. This decision is being reviewed by the Sierra Club. All Forest Service documents related to this project can be found on the Forest Service website at Planning - Travel Management Project.
The Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and Crooked River National Grassland jointly released a Travel Management Project draft Environmental Impact Statement for public comment on October 9, 2009. This Travel Management Project will cover major portions of Deschutes, Jefferson, Crook, Klamath, Lake, Grant and Wheeler Counties in Oregon. The Travel Management Plan implements the 2005 Travel Management Rule that reverses the previous rule which allowed off road travel anywhere, unless specifically prohibited, to prohibit off road travel everywhere, unless specifically allowed. Clearly, the content of the travel management Plan will have significant meaning to the forests, deserts, and grasslands of Central Oregon and to its citizens. The Forest Service has posted extensively information on this Travel Management Plan and the draft Environmental Impact Statement on its web site at Planning and Environmental Analysis- Travel Management Project.
The Draft EIS has been collaboratively reviewed by seven conservation organizations: American Hiking Society, Cascadia Wildlands, League of Wilderness Defenders - Blue Mountain Biodiversity Project, Oregon Chapter Sierra Club, Oregon Natural Desert Association, Oregon Wild, and The Wilderness Society. Their joint comments were submitted to the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forest/Crooked River National Grasslands Supervisors on December 8, 2009. These comments can be read in full at DNF-ONF TMP DEIS Comments.
The following significant deficiencies in the Draft EIS are documented in the comments:
- Travel Management Rule
- Proposed Action inconsistent with agency regulation that dispersed camping provision be applied "sparingly"
- DEIS fails to address "minimum necessary road system"
- Budgeting information needed for maintenance and administration of designated roads, trails, and areas is absent in the DEIS
- National Environmental Policy Act Issues
- Description of DEIS Purpose and Need is unnecessarily narrow
- DEIS maps of the forest travel system are flawed
- DEIS fails to disclose potentially adverse impacts
- DEIS relies primarily on GIS-generated statistics as a substitute for meaningful environmental analysis
- No Action Alternative fails to set the appropriate baseline for analysis and fails to identify the impacts of the current forest travel system
- DEIS Action Alternatives unreasonably narrow, with few real distinctions
- DEIS fails to address the impacts of non-compliance with the designated route system
- DEIS failed to evaluate alternatives in terms of the agency’s ability to implement, monitor, and enforce designated routes
- Potentially adverse impacts remain unmitigated, analysis fails to disclose Unavoidable Adverse Effects resulting from general provisions for dispersed camping
- DEIS cumulative impact analysis is deficient
- Executive Order 11644 and 11989
- Analysis of OHV routes and play areas fails to apply all required minimization criteria
- DEIS fails to disclose monitoring required by law
- Water Quality
- DEIS fails to differentiate between alternatives the potential impacts to 303(d)-listed water bodies, given projections of increased traffic and road maintenance disclosed elsewhere in the DEIS
- Forest Plan standards
- DEIS fails to disclose that current road densities exceed Forest Plan standards and fails to include actions that seek to minimize excessive road densities
- Forest Plan standards
- DEIS fails to disclose that current road densities exceed Forest Plan standards and fails to include actions that seek to minimize excessive road densities
- Other Required Disclosures (Climate Change)
The conclusion of the collaborating environmental organizations is that, given the numerous insufficiencies of the DEIS analysis as described throughout the comments, and as a result of mapping inaccuracies regarding the extent of the current open road system, they cannot see how the Forest Service can move toward issuing a Record of Decision in the absence of a Supplemental EIS to address these and other deficiencies. They requested the Forest Service to issue a Supplemental EIS that addresses these insufficiencies, and those identified through other public comments, and submit the Supplemental EIS for public review and comment. (12-09-09)
Invasive Plant Treatments Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
Update, May 2012: The Forest Service issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and a Record of Decision (ROD) for this project in May 2012. The ROD adopts FEIS Alternative 2. All Forest Service documents related to this project can be found on the Forest Service website at Planning - Invasive Plant Treatment.
In June 2009 the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and Crooked River National Grassland jointly released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) for Invasive Plant Treatments. This DSEIS supplemented the Region 6 Invasive Plant Program Final Environmental Impact Statement issued in 2005. The DSEIS addresses how the Forest Service will address the problems posed by invasive plants through new treatment strategies. The full text of the DSEIS can be read on the Forest Service web site at Deschutes-Ochoco NF Invasive Plant Draft Supplemental Environment Impact Statement.
The Sierra Club reviewed the DSEIS and recommended that it withdrawn and significantly revised. The comments submitted requested that the following issues be addressed:
- Withdraw the use of known and suspected toxic herbicides, and new as yet unproven chemical and bio-control formulations
- Prioritize natural, manual, and where appropriate (already significantly disturbed areas such as roadsides) mechanical removal and control of invasive exotic plants.
- Proactively address root causes of invasive plant introduction and spread. Paramount among these are livestock grazing, roads, logging, riparian degradation, and off road vehicles. Soil disturbance, soil and vegetative community degradation; altered hydrological patterns, riparian and water system degradation; and excessive road densities, use, access, and ecosystem fragmentation.
- Address root causes of the introduction and spread of invasive plants, such as: authorizing additional logging thinning, ORV systems, new roads construction.
- Analyze the proposed Invasive Plant Treatments and the cumulative and synergistic effects of past, recent, current, known, and likely future federal and adjacent non-federal timber sales, livestock grazing, road use and management, recreation, mining, ORV systems and use patterns (authorized and unauthorized), and other non-federal weed control projects in the region that utilize herbicides and bio-controls (state, county, municipal, agriculture, railway, and private).
The full text of the Sierra Club comments can be read at Deschutes/Ochoco/Crooked River National Grasslands Invasives DEIS Comments, August 7, 2009. (8-10-09)
Sisters Ranger District
Whychus Creek Wild & Scenic River Plan
In 1968, Congress passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (P.L. 90-542) and established a nationwide system of outstanding free-flowing rivers. A portion of Whychus Creek (formerly named Squaw Creek) was designated by Congress as a Wild and Scenic River as part of the Omnibus Oregon Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1988, an amendment to Section 3(a) of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The designated area includes 15.4 miles of Whychus Creek, beginning at its source on the glaciers of the Three Sisters mountains and ending at the hydrological Gauging Station that is approximately 4 miles southwest of the City of Sisters in Central Oregon. The plan proposes to create a 6.6 mile segment of the creek from its source on the Three Sisters mountains to the Three Sisters Wilderness boundary classified as “Wild”. The plan also proposes an 8.8 mile segment from the Three Sisters Wilderness boundary to the USGS hydrological gauging station classified as “Scenic.”
The Sisters Ranger District published the "Whychus Creek Wild and Scenic River Plan Environmental Assessment" for a 30 day public comment period on January 27, 2010. The Sierra Club strongly supports Alternative 2 described in the draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and has provided comments to the Forest Service on this EA. These comments can be read at Whychus Creek Management Plan EA Comments. The full Environmental Assessment and the final Decision Notice issued April 25, 2010, can be read on the Forest Service web site at Whychus Creek Wild & Scenic River.
The Whychus Creek is clearly a crown jewel of the Central Oregon area. Its management, protection, and availability for sustainable recreational use is vitally important to all Central Oregon residents. (4-25-10)
Glaze Meadows Restoration
Sierra Club volunteers have helped monitor and influence better old growth and mature forest protections during the development of this Oregon Wild sponsored Forest Service restoration project. As the project is implemented we will continue working to ensure that the Forest Service adheres to ecological objectives and conservation-science, protecting wildlife species, riparian meadows and water systems, old growth forests, and wildlife. Volunteer help is needed in continuing efforts monitoring this project through implementation. (4-23-09)
Sisters Area Fuels Reduction Project Timber Sale
Volunteer help will be needed during 2009-10 monitoring and photo documenting the implementation and impacts of this logging-thinning "fire-risk reduction" project in forests to the west and south of Sisters. The Forest Service modified the project significantly to incorporate many, but not all, of our conservation-science based concerns. Old growth and almost all mature ponderosa pine trees are supposed to be protected from logging, along with additional protection provisions for wildlife and waterways. Impacts from the project's planned commercial logging-thinning to soils, native plants, birds, wildlife, and forest ecological integrity are still of considerable concern. (3-09-09)
Black Crater Fire
Our 2007 allied lawsuit resulted in a negotiated court approved settlement that successfully protected seven of the sale's eight units, including all six of the best old growth spotted owl forest habitat units, halting almost all of this postfire timber sale located in designated Late Successional Reserves. SC volunteers helped survey, photo document, do community outreach, and file legal declarations during the course of this successful effort. Volunteers are needed to help document ongoing wildlife use and natural forest recovery in the seven dropped units protected from logging, and to photo document long-term recovery from logging harms in the 22 acre Unit 8. The project area is located east of Black Crater, south of Hwy 242, west of Sisters. (3-09-09)
GW Fire Timber Sale
This post-fire forest area was logged during 2008 despite strong conservation-science recommendations that burned forests are better left to natural recovery processes. Due to the lack of a court injunction, the area was logged before judicial review was completed on our lawsuit of the GW timber sale. The GW fire area is located west of Sisters near the Mt. Washington Wilderness. During 2008 volunteers helped conduct surveys and photo documentation of widespread ecological harms caused by the GW logging. Ongoing volunteer efforts are needed in 2009 helping further assess and document impacts, and restoration needed in the aftermath of harmful logging, and in ongoing community education on post-fire forest recovery and protection. (3-09-09)
Meadow Lakes - Nature’s Jewels at the Gateway to Central Oregon
Note: the current Deschutes NF SOPA lists this project as "on hold". It is possible it may be revived in the future. (12/1/2012)
Just as the Santiam Pass Highway 126 begins its east of the Cascade Crest descent, on the right of the highway is a road and “Forest Information” turnoff. Forest Service road 2076 leads to a 5 square mile cluster of small jeweled lakes set amidst varied old growth, burned, and young forests and rocky volcanic geology. The area is a ecological treasure unknown to many of the people traveling the nearby highway. This autumn’s survey hikes found gorgeous fall colors framing shimmering lakes, with abundant deer trails, overhead hawks and birds, ducks with their fledged young preparing for southward migrations, and other wildlife.
Collectively known as “Meadow Lakes,” together there are seven named lakes including Island, Link, Hand, Meadow, Cache Lakes, Four O’Clock, and Hortense Lakes; and a number of unnamed lakes and ponds. The lakes had for years been a relatively little known locals haven, but the past recent years they have been subjected to the harms of Off Road Vehicle use. The Forest Service has attempted to corral in the extent of ORV damage by posting signs stating “No Vehicles,” however the well-carved user trails and fresh ORV tracks extending into the distant forests past and beyond attest to signs’ ineffectiveness. Denuded mud-tracked areas at lake edges, truck tracks directly into a lake, felled trees, trash and litter are more abundant than should ever be allowed to occur in this watery forest wonderland.
As the Deschutes National Forest begins to address its Travel Management Planning, some agency officials are proposing developing ORV trail systems through the forests around these beautiful lakes, linking to the Willamette National Forest’s Big Lake ORV playground. While ORV proponents are pleased with this plan, the agency’s inability to regulate use and prevent harms is clearly evident. Loud ORV noise, fumes, and damage are not compatible with natural recreation, wildlife and wild nature. ORV users represent less than 5% of the visitors to the Deschutes National Forest. Our wilderness and other hiking trails are largely over-populated and overused throughout the spring-summer-fall seasons.
As a gateway treasure to central Oregon’s varied forest ecosystems, with close proximity to the Santiam Highway, the Meadow Lakes area is far more valuable to residents, visitors, wildlife and nature restored and protected from ORV intrusions and other harms. Improving road 2076 as it leads to campsites at the first two lakes, closing road access to motorized vehicles beyond that point and developing hiking and biking trails to some of the lakes while leaving other lakes untrammeled for wildlife; represents a far better plan. Such a plan is far more consistent with the mission of the Forest Service to protect wildlife and natural ecosystems, than the damaging plans to sacrifice this natural treasure to ORV use and abuse. Before the Sisters District of the Deschutes National Forest wastes too much time and resources developing harmful ORV trail plans for this beautiful area, please add your thoughts to the voice of nature and reason, that these jeweled forest waters be restored and protected as natural wildlands for all to enjoy the quiet beauty and wondrous bounty of nature.
The Sisters Ranger District issued a Scoping Letter for this project on June 7, 2010. The full text of the letter can be read on the Forest Service web site at Meadow Lakes Scoping Letter.(7-10-10)
Bend / Fort Rock Ranger District
West Tumbull "Fuels Reduction" timber sale
A 4,500 acre "fuels reduction" timber sale located 10 miles west of Bend proposed by the Forest Service. The area includes recreationally popular Tumalo Falls and the Tumalo/Skyliner Recreation Area. There is considerable interest in this project by local residents. More information, including the Scoping Letter and Environmental Assessment (EA) can be found at the Forest Service web page West Tumbull Hazard Fuels Reduction Project. The Sierra Club commented on this project in June 2008 (see West Tumbull HFRA Scoping Comments). Considerable citizen input from local residents was also made. However, many significant comments from both sources were not incorporated in the final EA. Consequently, the Sierra Club filed an Objection (see West Tumbull HFRA Objection) to the EA with the Deschutes NF Supervisor on August 7, 2009. A meeting with the Bend-Fort Rock District Ranger on August 28th resulted in modifications to the project that bring it much closer to the current science for fuels reduction projects. In light of a consensus that there is an urgent need to take fuels reduction actions in the West Tumbull project area, the modifications are deemed sufficient to allow the project to proceed. The text of the agreement, including the specific modifications to the EA, can be read at West Tumbull Objection withdrawal Letter. (9-10-09)
Snow Fuels Reduction Project
Located alongside the Cascades lakes Scenic Highway from Elk Lake at the north to Crane Prairie at the south, bordering the Three Sisters Wilderness, this projects contains roadless areas and spotted owl late successional reserve forests. Efforts to resolve comments on this project were initially unsuccessful, and the project was appealed in September 2008 (see Snow Fuels Project Appeal). Subsequent negotiations succeeded in bringing significant changes to this project. The Deschutes Forest Supervisor agreed to retain trees with old characteristics regardless of size in all units, and agreed to an upper diameter cutting limit of 16" for ponderosa pine and Douglas fir, protecting old forest habitat and the ecological integrity of the area. As a result, the appeal was withdrawn (see Snow Fuels Appeal Resolution, October 2008). Continued monitoring and photo documentation of implementation is needed to insure the actual logging follows the agreed upon guidelines. (3-09-09)
Oz Research Project
A "scientific research" thinning-logging project located in primarily second growth forests near Sunriver on both sides of Hwy 97. Volunteer involvement in field trips and meetings during 2008 resulted in agreements by the agency and the project’s OSU scientist to incorporate conservation concerns into the project design and implementation. Among these were a spring '08 pre-project bird survey, documenting species and rough numbers of birds actively using the Oz area; and public field trips during project implementation and completion in 2009 to assess impacts and goal attainment. The project design was reportedly modified to better ensure retention of existing old snags, large logs, large diameter trees, and protection of focal wildlife areas. Continued volunteer involvement is needed in monitoring this project and assessing its impacts. (3-09-09)
Lava Cast Timber Sale
This "Timber Stand Improvement Project" was initiated in 2005. While volunteer efforts succeeded in significantly changing this "fuels reduction" project, its implementation still resulted in widespread logging harms. Despite the agency agreeing to implement variable 16" and 18" diameter limits, retain wildlife cover areas in each unit, and dropping units of particular wildlife and old growth concerns, logging decimated forest habitat and cover, in some areas leaving near clear cuts with extensive areas of ravaged soils and logging slash debris Continued volunteer involvement is needed to document the significant harmful impacts from this project, and conduct agency and public education to help prevent similar pretentious "fire-risk reduction/forest health" logging project harms elsewhere in our irreplaceable natural forest wildlands. The Lava Cast Scoping Letter on the Forest Service web site provides a overall description of the project and maps of the project area. (3-09-09)
South Bend and Sunriver "fuels reduction" timber sales
Working with local residents and volunteers opposed to this project's excessive "fire risk reduction" logging, we successfully changed the project and resolved many of our objections. The Deschutes Forest Supervisor and District Ranger agreed to drop an ecologically and publicly significant area from commercial thinning, to change logging plans to protect all trees with old characteristics regardless of diameter, to remove slash from near area residences within two seasons or less, to retain more forest structure and trees for wildlife cover, and to thin in natural clumpy-patchy forest patterns (instead of even spacing), to add additional seasonal restrictions protecting nesting birds, and to add additional protection provisions limiting or eliminating thinning near ecologically significant habitat features including lava rock outcrops and pressure ridges. The agency also agreed to sample mark two areas for public preview before beginning the project. Consequently the Sierra Club and twelve area residents withdrew our legal objections based upon these agreed upon changes (see South Bend HFRA Objection Agreement and Withdrawal). Volunteer help is needed during 2009-11 monitoring project implementation, documenting impacts and ensuring the project adheres to legal settlement provisions. Volunteers can also help form the "Friends of Deschutes River Woods" and/or "Friends of Deschutes Forests" to best protect area forests from logging and other management harms. (3-09-09)
Sparky Danger Tree Removal Project
The Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District is proposing to remove danger trees from approximately 1,520 acres along the Cascade Lakes Highway from just east of the Meissner Sno-park west to Elk and Hosmer Lakes. Falling of identified danger trees would occur using chain saws or mechanized harvesters. Where removal is appropriate and feasible, felled trees would be removed using mechanized equipment, pickup or flatbed truck, off-highway vehicles (ORVs), or by hand or non-motorized equipment such as wheelbarrows. Residual slash materials would be utilized, lopped and scattered, or piled and some or all of the piles burned. More information on this proposed project, including the Scoping Letter, maps, and the Environmental Analysis can be found on the Forest Service web site Sparky Danger Tree Removal Project. The Sierra Club has submitted two sets of comments on this project: Sparky Danger Tree Comments 3-20-09, and Sparky Danger Tree Final Comments 7-27-09. The Sierra Club has chosen not to appeal this project. (7-27-09)
Anne's Butte ORVs
Major congratulations to Friends of Anne's Butte members on one of the first volunteer ecological victories of the year - the closure of Anne's Butte by the Deschutes Forest Service to ORVs. Friends of Anne's Butte members photo-documented ongoing ORV harms and related trash dumping and shooting, met with Forest Service officials, conducted community outreach and held volunteer field trips. Efforts to close the area to ORVs culminated in an early December field trip with the Deschutes Forest Service District Ranger and staff, helping the agency to experience first hand the rampant ORV abuse existent in the area. Many thanks to all who've participated in this successful ecologically proactive effort! Ongoing efforts during 2009 include ensuring the closure is extended and enforced to effectively protect area forests and the neighboring community. (3-09-09)
Kapka Butte Snowmobile Park and Trail
Sierra Club volunteers are needed who are interested in ensuring natural recreation, forest ecology, and wildlife habitat are protected as the Forest Service continues to develop its proposal to build a new sno-park near Kapka Butte "to provide more high elevation parking for winter recreationists along an established snowplowing route." The proposed facility would significantly increase parking, snowmobile use, and motorized winter recreation noise and impacts. The proposed parking facility would include approximately 70 slots for trailers (snowmobiles), and 40 slots for non-trailer vehicles. Trail links to existing snowmobile and Nordic trails are also part of the developing plans. For more information on this controversial proposal, visit the Bend BackCountry Alliance. For the details on project as proposed by the Forest Service, visit the Forest Service Kapka Butte Web Page. This page has links to the a Notice of Intent, a Scoping Letter, and a map. The Notice of Intent has instructions for the public to provide input to this project. (3-09-09)
Met Fuels Reduction Project
The project is located between Bend and Sunriver along Highway 41 to the west and the Deschutes River to the east. The area was clear-cut harvested in the 1920s and the lands subsequently purchased by the federal government for inclusion in the Deschutes National Forest. Because of the minimal legal, scientific, and environmentally information contained in the seven page notice for this proposed project, we have strong conservation and legal objections to the proposed project actions and the legally non-compliant proposed CE decision. Our comments strongly request the agency withdraw this notice and comply with federal environmental policy laws by conducting the requisite NEPA analysis process for this project. The full text of our comments can be read at Met Fuels Reduction Project. The preliminary Decision Memo and a project map can be found on the Forest Service web site at Met Fuels Reduction Project. (8-07-09)
EXF/Pringle Falls Vegetation Management Project
This project is located within the Lookout Mountain unit of the Pringle Falls Experimental Forest (PFEF). The PFEF is located about 30 miles southwest of Bend and includes approximately 25,000 acres in the Crane Prairie watershed and 40,000 acres in the Fall River watershed. As authorized by the Record of Decision (ROD) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) the project authorizes commercial logging and thinning on approximately 2,554 acres; "to be followed by brush mowing and prescribed burning in the lookout Mountain Unit of the Pringle Falls Experimental Forest." The decision authorizes two Forest Plan amendments authorizing logging in Late and Old Structure forests (LOS) in areas that are below their Historical Range of Variability (HRV); and authorizing logging of inherently fire-resistant mature and old trees greater than 21” dbh. The project would commercially log and remove 28 million board feet of “timber” (MMBF) from the project area’s rare naturally regenerated ecologically intact ponderosa pine and mixed conifer old growth forest ecosystems. The complete Forest Service description of this project is available at EXF Vegetation Management Project, including the Record of Decision, Final Environmental Impact Statement, and project maps. More information on Experimental Forests and the Pacific Northwest Research Station can be found at Pacific Northwest Research Station - Experimental Forests.
The Sierra Club in collaboration with Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project and Cascadia Wildlands appealled this project to Pacific Northwest Regional Forester. Our appeal was based on the following project environmental deficiencies as described in the FEIS and ROD:
- The ROD acknowledges that timber economics apparently played a role in alternative development and the decision, claiming that “Jobs associated with implementation that will be created or maintained number approximately 268 (FEIS p. 242). We feel this is an important contribution to the region’s economy.” However, the EIS lacks an objective assessment of relevant economic data to credibly support this claim.
- The EIS failure to quantify and address non-timber economic contributions in an area where natural resource founded tourism employs the highest number of people, and is over four times greater than wood products and associated employment.
- The project purports to conduct scientific research, however the EIS fails to objectively establish a valid need for research that duplicates already available scientific information.
- The project’s planned logging far exceeds scientifically reasonable actions for achieving the project’s purported fire and insect risk reductions.
- Removal of mature and old fire resistant trees, excessive thinning in mixed conifer forest habitat, and widespread use of heavy machinery would adversely impact forest ecology; biodiversity; vegetation; soils; wildlife, avian, and botanical species of concern populations and habitat.
The Lookout Mountain area is a unique reserve of relatively undisturbed forest and of larger orange-bark Ponderosa pine stands that have been left fairly intact despite multiple experiments. Yet, the EXF project proposes to heavily log almost all of that section of the Experimental Forest. Further, for any fire risk or pine bark beetle epidemic risk to be averted, the forest would have to be subjected on a regular basis to maintenance thinning and burning, continuing the human alteration of the stands and eliminating many otherwise unique research opportunities. The full text of our appeal can be read at EXF ROD and FEIS Appeal.
Unfortunately, the Regional Forester has decided to reject our appeal. The Sierra Club has decided not to pursue a legal appeal in the courts. As of now, the project in EXF is proceeding as determined by the Record of Decision. (12-30-10)
Ogden Landscape Vegetation Management Project
Update December 2012: The Record of Decision (ROD) for the Ogden Project was issued in September 2012. The ROD selects Alternative 3 for implementation. The Sierra Club has chosen not to appeal this decision. More information on this project can be found on the Forest Service Ogden Landscape Vegetation Management Project web page.
The Forest Service is proposing a 14,600 commercial and non-commercial thinning, shrub mowing and under-burning project. The project is located approximately 15 miles south of Bend adjacent to a portion of the west boundary of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument (NNVM). The project area is bounded by Forest Road 9735 on the north (which is adjacent to the southern boundary of the previous Lava Cast Timber Sale), NNVM on the east, a portion of Forest Roads 22, 2215, and 2121 on the south, and federal and other lands on the west. This area includes Wild and Scenic River eligible Paulina Creek, the recreation sites McKay, Ogden, and Prairie campgrounds, the Peter Skeene Ogden National Scenic Trail, and the main access route to Newberry National Volcanic Monument. It will also be visible from the Monument’s caldera rim vistas.
The Forest Service issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on July 2011. This document and other documents related to this proposed project can be read on the Forest Service web site at Ogden Vegetation Management Project. The Sierra Club has reviewed the DEIS and submitted Ogden DEIS Comments to the Forest Service on September 9, 2011.
These comments reiterate many of our comments on the Scoping Letter (see Ogden Scoping Comments). We remain concerned that the Forest Service has so far been unwilling to develop an alternative approach to meet the purpose and need of this project in a way that sets lower diameter limits and better protects remaining old growth, unroaded areas, soils, and wildlife habitat. We believe the Forest Service has failed to develop an adequate range of alternatives that addresses the need to restore old forests with large diameter trees to the Ogden project area, and has unfairly dismissed the development of alternatives that would retain all trees above 16” and 18” dbh.
Alternatives 2 and 3 are overall quite similar in their impacts across the broader project area, with few exceptions. Of those exceptions, we favor the greater protections from damage associated with mechanical entry into the Paulina RHCA, the Old Growth Management Area, and unroaded areas provided in Alternative 3, with the caveat that we believe the Forest Service can do better and should protect all unroaded areas contiguous with Newberry Crater National Monument and other larger wilderness quality tracts of forest in the project area from mechanical entry and commercial logging. Of the two alternatives, we favor Alternative 2’s more conservative approach to managing northern goshawk PFAs. However, we believe both alternatives cause too much harm to habitat for the Pacific fisher.
Further, we believe the EIS has failed to incorporate data gleaned from implementation of the neighboring Lava Cast project to inform the development of the Ogden prescriptions and make adjustments that would provide better protection for soils, larger diameter trees, and wildlife values while still meeting the purpose and need of the project.
Lastly, we believe the Forest Service has not made the case that there is a legitimate need for the timber produced as part of this project or that selling the timber from sales stemming from the Ogden EIS will provide the resources necessary to complete post-logging restoration and burning activities. (9-8-2011)
Lava Rock ORV Trails Project
Update December 2012: This project is listed as "On Hold" in the current Deschutes NF Schedule of Proposed Action (SOPA).
The Forest Service has proposed creating an ORV trail system in the area east of US 97 essentially surrounding the Newberry National Monument on the west and south sides. The project area encompasses 140,650 acres and is roughly bounded by U.S. Highway 97 to the west; Newberry National Volcanic Monument to the east, Forest Roads 9701-900 and 1801- 400 to the north, and Forest Road 22 to the south.
As stated in the Forest Service Notice of Intent, the project "would designate
ORV trails to provide loop and point-to-point
trail experiences with a variety of challenge levels for Class 1, Class 2
and Class 3 ORVs. Approximately 80 miles of dual-use Class 1 and 3 trails, 45
miles of Class 2 trails and 76 miles of Class 3 only trails are proposed for
designation on existing system roads, user created trails, and newly constructed
trails. Up to three new staging areas and two existing staging areas are
proposed for designation to facilitate use and connectivity between the proposed
Lava Rock ORV system and the existing East Fort Rock ORV system.
The proposed action would close and obliterate user created trails and non-system
roads not designated by the Lava Rock ORV system. It is estimated that
more than 50 miles of these trails are present and available for closure.
Additionally, system roads that are in excess of administrative or public access
needs would be closed or decommissioned in order to reduce road densities in the
project area." The Forest Service documents related to this project, including
the Scoping Letters and a detailed map, can be found at the Lava Rock
ORV Trails Project web page.
The Sierra Club has submitted comments to the Forest Service jointly with the Blue Mountain Biodiversity Project and the American Hiking Society, strongly opposing this project as currently proposed. The proposal to conduct an EIS for this project concurrently with the EIS for the broader Deschutes-Ochoco Travel Management Plan EIS is in violation of the nation's environmental policy laws. The scoping notice also misrepresents the recommendations of the Travel Management Working Group Consensus Recommendations as providing community support for the project as proposed. There is a lack of alternatives evaluated as required by NEPA, and the purpose and need statements for the project are unsupported. There is a lack of regard for the non-motorized public use needs in this area, and the impacts to wildlife and existing un-roaded areas are not adequately evaluated. The full text of the comments can be read at Lava Rock ORV EIS Scoping Comments II. Volunteers are needed to monitor and document ORV use and damage to this project area in support our opposition to the project as currently proposed. (5-07-09)
Deadlog Vegetation Management Project
The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with the USFS, sponsored this project with the intent of addressing both restoration objectives and conservation concerns in this planned "fire risk reduction/restoration" project in 900 acres of remotely located old growth ponderosa pine forest. (For more information on this process, visit Northwest Fire Learning Network.) The Sierra Club participated in this collaborative effort.
This old growth area is both ecologically important and rare, as extensive logging impacts from old past clear cuts have left thousands of acres of surrounding forests as younger black-bark stands (35 to 65 years old). As initially proposed, the project would commercially log in the old growth area, resulting in severe harms to wildlife and forest ecological integrity. In particular, The 21” diameter logging limit of the proposed preferred alternative fails to be based upon actual stand surveys. These surveys revealed that trees above 16" dbh are deficient in the old forest area. The preliminary DEIS failed to disclose the results of these surveys, provided to the agency’s planners during FLN meetings, and failed to disclose that trees above 16" dbh in the old forest area are important to forest ecological structure, wildlife habitat, ecosystem functioning, and future old growth and snag recruitment. The proposed alternatives also failed address and incorporate significant cumulative logging and management impacts across the project area, and the habitat needs and recovery objectives for species of concern in the project area. The presented alternatives failed NEPA’s scientific and site-specific requirements, and the arbitrarily contrived logging diameter limit of 21" dbh was excessive to that needed to accomplish project goals.
Consequently, the Sierra Club Deadlog Vegetation Management Draft EIS Comments of September 14, 2009, requested significant modifications to the project before it proceeded. The Final EIS was issued on October 27, 2009. This version of the EIS incorporated many, though not all, of our comments and concerns. Consequently, this project was not appealed since the modifications were judged to be adequate to protect the environment. The Final Environmental Impact Statement, Record of Decision, and the accompanying cover letter can be read on the Forest Service web site at Deadlog Vegetation Management Project. (12-28-09)
Flank Vegetation and Fuels Management Project
Update: The Decision Notice was issued in January 2011 implementing Alternative 3. The Decision Notice and other information on this project is available on the Forest Service web at at Flank Vegetation and Fuels Management.
This project is located about 17 miles southeast of Bend, two miles south of Horse Ridge and just south of China Hat Road. The project is located in the Lower Dry River and Upper Dry River 5th field watersheds and the following 6th field watersheds Hunter, Horse Ridge, and Teepee Draw. The Forest Service stated purpose of this project is: improve resiliency to large-scale disturbance events such as insect, disease, and wildlife by reducing forest vegetation density; move watersheds toward historic conditions by addressing tree species composition and reducing stocking levels in dense stands dominated by ponderosa pine; and contribute forest products, including commercial and small tree material, to meet Deschutes National Forest long term sustainable harvest levels and provide job opportunities that contribute to local and regional economies. The Sierra Club evaluation is that the Flank Project as proposed could result in degradation of the ecological integrity and wildlife habitat in and around the analysis area. The Sierra Club comments on this project dated August 31, 2009 can be read at Flank Vegetation and Fuels Management EA Comments. An Environmental Assessment was issued on June 30, 2010. More information, including the Scoping Letter and Environmental Assessment can be found on the Forest Service web site at Flank Vegetation and Fuels Management Project. (6-30-10)
Crescent Ranger District
BLT timber Sale
In November 2003, the Forest Service proposed a 7,499 acre "thinning"- timber sale in forests near the junction of Hwy 97 and Hwy 58 and the Crescent Lake - Oregon Cascades Recreation Area. Forest Service plans included logging in dedicated old growth and Wild and Scenic River areas, and logging mature and old growth trees. See the Deschutes NF web page BLT Vegetation Management Project for the document record of this project. This sale was appealed (see BLT Appeal to Regional Forester) on March 10, 2009. On April 23rd a resolution of the appeal was reached with the District Ranger (see BLT Appeal Settlement Letter, April 23, 2009). This settlement changed the BLT Project to protect all old characteristic trees, set an 18" maximum diameter limit for logging, and sets a higher percentage of leave areas for wildlife habitat (15% to 25% instead of a maximum of 15% as originally planned pre-appeal). The resolution also resulted in the dropping of previously unlogged and steep slope unit areas from the project, and will initiate a new NEPA process to dedicate old growth areas for wildlife. (4-23-09)
Three Trails ORV Analysis Project
The Forest Service issued a Record of Decision (ROD) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on December 21, 2010. These documents chose FEIS Alternative E to be implemented. This alternative will implement:
- About five miles of currently closed Maintenance Level 1 roads will be opened and used for OHV routes for all classes of vehicles.
- About 115 miles of currently open Maintenance Level 2 roads will be closed (changed to Maintenance Level 1) to offset effects of designation of motorized trails. All Maintenance Level 1 roads would remain open for administrative access.
- About 43 miles of currently open Maintenance Level 2 roads will be converted to trails; of those 11 miles will be for Class II and 32 miles for Classes I and III.
- About 94 miles of user-created trails that are located in inappropriate areas and/or redundant, will be closed and rehabilitated.
- About 80 miles of shared use roads for all classes of vehicles.
- Motorized and non-motorized uses will be separated as much as possible except in wet areas (riparian reserves/Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas) of the two-mile stretch of the Metolius-Windigo trail, by creating parallel trails wherever possible. Equestrians, hikers, mountain bikers, and motorized users will continue to share portions of the trail due to limited options caused by terrain, land ownership, and proper riparian function of the wet areas. Signing will be used to encourage respectful behavior by all users.
- An underpass for Highway 97 that links the Rivers and Walker segments for all types of vehicles will be designed to accommodate big game and smaller wildlife species as well.
- To offset a potential decrease in availability to an existing wildlife guzzler because of the designated trail system, a new wildlife guzzler installed on Walker Mountain.
- A day use parking area with non-motorized trail to the Little Deschutes River would be constructed to replace motorized access that occurs now.
- A railroad crossing south of 5825 road for all types of vehicles.
The Sierra Club provided provided two sets of comments to the Scoping Letter, and joined eight other environmental organizations in commenting on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Those comments are available on the Comments and Appeals page. Here is a direct link to Three Trails DEIS Comments of November 15, 2010. These comments requested that the EIS be withdrawn and put on hold until the Deschutes adn Ochoco NF Travel Management Plans were issued. This request was denied by the Forest Service and ROD upheld. The Record of Decision and the Final EIS, as well as all documents related to this project, are available on the Forest Service web page Three Trails Off Highway Vehicle Analysis Area. (3-21-11)
Five Buttes Timber Sale
Located inside a Late Successional Reserve (LSR) meant to protect core habitat for the threatened northern spotted owl, the controversial Five Buttes Timber Sale in the Deschutes National Forest is now moving forward. The Sierra Club had previously secured a legal victory in 2008 resulting in a court-injunction that prevented logging in five of the six timber sales covered by the project, after one sale had been logged. However, a three judge panel in August 2010 issued verdict overturning our previous victory, clearing the way for unprecedented logging in stands of old growth forests protected under the landmark Northwest Forest Plan in the name of fire prevention.
In deciding the case, the three judge panel was divided with the majority characterizing the dissenting judge's views as 'extreme' and determining that the courts must defer Forest Service's 'expertise' on such matters. The Associated Press observed the political overtones in the ruling noting, 'the majority opinion was written by Justice Milan Smith, the brother of former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and an appointee of President George W. Bush, whose administration tried and failed to scrap the Northwest Forest Plan in order to allow more logging … Smith had harsh words for the dissent written by Judge Richard Paez, a President Bill Clinton appointee, calling his position "extreme", and noting that the entire court had decided in 2008 to give deference to the Forest Service on science matters.
The Five Buttes decision sets a dangerous precedent by allowing long-lasting and significant harm to habitat for threatened species protected by the Northwest Forest Plan's old growth reserves in order to prevent what the Forest Service considers to be a greater risk, the potential for large-scale wildfire at some point in the future. However, not merely a small diameter thin meant to reduce fuel in an even aged flammable forest stand, the Five Buttes project targets for logging old growth trees and old growth stands that provide protected habitat for the threatened northern spotted owl.
In light of this loss, the Sierra Club will continue to document the logging of protected old growth ponderosa pine and mixed conifer old growth forests at Five Buttes in order to prevent similar harms in other Late Successional Reserves and neighboring unprotected roadless areas near Waldo Lake.
For pictures of destruction caused by logging the first Bass Sale tract of this timber sale, see the Five Buttes Photos page. See the Five Buttes Press Release from 2008 focused on our legal victory at the time. The Court's Summary Judgment Opinion provides the details of the original decision to block the logging. The Five Buttes legal appeal filed by the Sierra Club and partner organizations is available on the Comments and Appeals page. The August 2010 decision overturning our legal victory and allowing logging to proceed at Five Buttes can be found at (http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2010/08/13/09-35094.pdf) Visit the Forest Service Five Buttes Project page for the FS documents related to this project. (9-8-11)