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Ochoco 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 Ochoco NF page.

Page Contents

Forest Plans

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. 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:

  1. Travel Management Rule
    1. Proposed Action inconsistent with agency regulation that dispersed camping provision be applied "sparingly"
    2. DEIS fails to address "minimum necessary road system"
    3. Budgeting information needed for maintenance and administration of designated roads, trails, and areas is absent in the DEIS
  2. National Environmental Policy Act Issues
    1. Description of DEIS Purpose and Need is unnecessarily narrow
    2. DEIS maps of the forest travel system are flawed
    3. DEIS fails to disclose potentially adverse impacts
    4. DEIS relies primarily on GIS-generated statistics as a substitute for meaningful environmental analysis
    5. No Action Alternative fails to set the appropriate baseline for analysis and fails to identify the impacts of the current forest travel system
    6. DEIS Action Alternatives unreasonably narrow, with few real distinctions
    7. DEIS fails to address the impacts of non-compliance with the designated route system
    8. DEIS failed to evaluate alternatives in terms of the agency’s ability to implement, monitor, and enforce designated routes
    9. Potentially adverse impacts remain unmitigated, analysis fails to disclose Unavoidable Adverse Effects resulting from general provisions for dispersed camping
    10. DEIS cumulative impact analysis is deficient
  3. Executive Order 11644 and 11989
    1. Analysis of OHV routes and play areas fails to apply all required minimization criteria
    2. DEIS fails to disclose monitoring required by law
  4. Water Quality
    1. 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
  5. Forest Plan standards
    1. DEIS fails to disclose that current road densities exceed Forest Plan standards and fails to include actions that seek to minimize excessive road densities
  6. Forest Plan standards
    1. DEIS fails to disclose that current road densities exceed Forest Plan standards and fails to include actions that seek to minimize excessive road densities
  7. 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:

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)

Lookout Mountain Ranger District

Spears Timber Sale EIS

Volunteer help is needed monitoring, documenting, and assessing impacts and effectiveness of this "fuels and fire risk reduction" project. The Spears thinning-logging is being implemented over the next two years, with areas needing survey hikes this spring through fall season. After years of contention, including a successful appeal and lawsuit that stopped earlier versions of this timber sale, conservation issues were incorporated through successful appeal settlement negotiations last fall. The negotiated settlement helps protect interior forest dependent wildlife & aquatic species, and mixed conifer old growth forests, while allowing small diameter thinning, controlled burning, and some logging-thinning of ponderosa pine forest stands. The settlement is unit specific, using variable diameter limits and/or basal area retention specific to unit forest type and wildlife concerns, ranging from 16" to 18" diameter limits, with basal area retention in mixed conifer and connective areas averaging 85 sq. ft. Some units were dropped entirely, while portions of others have been dropped. In addition to unit specific modifications, another 10% of the overall logging will be dropped to protect habitat features across the landscape. The remainder of the project units are primarily already logged ponderosa pine forests. These have a 21" diameter maximum cutting limit, however, most of the trees felled are to be under 16" diameter. Overall, this is a conservation-proactive victorious settlement, helping to protect the area's interior forest wildlife species and their habitat, while setting protective lower diameter precedents for mixed conifer forests. Monitoring and assessment results will be used in ongoing conservation efforts to modify or halt logging projects- to protect the region's forests and wildlife from harm.

McKay ORV

McKay Creek Trail Damage McKay Creek Trail Damage, photo by Marilyn Miller It's finally official. McKay, which currently has had a year long emergency closure, has been dropped from further consideration by the agency for inclusion in an ORV trail system, and is now permanently closed to ORVs. Our thanks to numerous volunteers, Friends of McKay, other allies, and Ochoco Forest Supervisor, District Ranger, and staff. However, Friends of McKay volunteer patrols continue to report instances of violations of the ORV closure order, including trash dumping and shooting. Discussions with Friends of McKay volunteers regarding next steps are in progress. This is a partial success story, however, continued vigilance and volunteer monitor are essential to enforcing adherence to closure of this area.

Harvey Gap

Appeal negotiations resulted in changing this small timber sale of wind-thrown old trees, with settlement requiring the retention of additional trees including those located in a seasonal riparian drainage, on steep slopes, and in good wildlife habitat areas. Volunteer help is needed surveying the project area, assessing impacts and agency adherence to conservation agreements.

Snowshoe Fuels

Communication with the Ochoco resulted in the incorporation of conservation objectives in the design of this fuels-reduction thinning project. The agency has proposed this fuels reduction project with no commercial logging component, a 12" diameter cutting limit, and wide riparian buffers - helping to set an ecologically-based precedent for future fuels reduction projects. Volunteer help is needed participating in this public decision process and documenting project impacts and effectiveness.

Maury Mountains Grazing

Our appeal of livestock grazing in this area resulted in an agreement by the agency for better monitoring and compliance enforcement, and maintaining exclosures to protect waterways and young aspen stands. Appeal issues, and a consequent field trip resulted in permittee ranchers' agreement to better protect waterways and forest vegetation from livestock. Monitoring review following 2007's summer season found significantly improved conditions throughout the Maury Mountains forest allotments. Volunteers are needed to continue monitoring during and after the 2008 grazing season.

Burn and Crystal Spring Grazing Allotments

More good news! We have negotiated a two-part settlement of our appeal of the Burns & Crystal Springs Allotment management Plan in the Lookout Mountain Ranger District of the Ochoco NF. The settlement helps bring additional changes to grazing plans to better protect forest vegetation, waterways, wildlife habitat, and aquatic species, and to better help the Ochoco National Forest accomplish their restoration and forest resiliency objectives in the area. Details of the settlement agreement are in the Burn and Crystal Springs Appeal Withdrawal document. For details of what was appealed, see Burn and Crystal Springs Allotment EA Appeal, October 2008.

Canyon Fuels Reduction Project

Appeal Withdrawn!

Agreement was reached with the Ochoco Forest Supervisor that satisfies the major appeal issues for this project and the appeal was withdrawn on July 12, 2010. The withdrawal letter can be read at Canyon Appeal Withdrawal. The resolution agreement achieves the following objectives for this project:

Project Description

The Canyon Project area covers 31,524 acres within the Upper Ochoco Creek watershed. The project is located 25 miles northeast of Prineville, Oregon in the heart of the Ochoco Mountains, along Ochoco Creek. Elevations range from 3,700 feet to 6,900 feet. This project, as documented in the Final EIS and Record of Decision, will conduct commercial logging across 4,099 acres of forest, pre-commercial thinning on 5,862 acres, "prescribed" fire to "reduce fuels" on 2038 acres, juniper cutting on 626 acres, and riparian and hardwood logging-thinning actions on 236 acres. The agency proposes 7 miles of new road construction. As proposed, we have serious ecological and legal objection to the Canyon Project, which largely fails in its assumptions to be based upon credible science, and the natural variability of the area's ecological processes, functioning, and resilience.

Appeal Summary

The Forest Service issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision on April 16, 2010. The Sierra Club has reviewed this FEIS and ROD and concluded that they are legally non-compliant with NEPA and the propose actions are not supported by current science. On June 4 the Sierra Club, jointly with the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, filed an appeal of this project to Pacific Northwest Regional Forester. The full text of our appeal can be read at Canyon ROD & FEIS Appeal.

The appeal requests that the Record of Decision and Final Environmental Impact Statement be withdrawn and that be revised to ensure consistency with the National Environmental Policy Act NEPA), National Forest Management Act (NFMA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), the Ochoco National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (DLRMP), the Interior Columbia Basin Eastside Ecosystem Management Project scientific recommendations, and the March 9th, 2009 Scientific Integrity Memorandum of President Obama.

The appeal requests the following revisions to the project:

Forest Service Information

The FEIS, ROD, and other documents related to this project can be read on the Forest Service web site at Ochoco National Forest, Canyon Fuels and Vegetation Project. (7-15-10)

Mill Creek Grazing Allotment Project

This project proposes to reauthorize term grazing allotments in four allotment areas: Cox, Craig, Mill Creek, and Old Dry Creek. These areas cover 59,583 grazing acres, and are located approximately 20 miles northeast of Prineville, encompassing the Mill Creek and McKay Creek drainages. Both water systems contain populations and habitat of sensitive listed redband trout, and McKay Creek now has reintroduced ESA threatened-listed steelhead trout. A number of waterways in the project area are 303(d) listed as water quality limited due to high summer water temperatures. The area includes the McKay ORV closure area, the Green Mountain trail system, ORV user created ORV trails, Mill Creek Wilderness, Green Mountain Roadless Area, the Steins Pillars, and a number of ecologically, geologically, and recreationally important natural resources.

The proposed reauthorization of livestock grazing across over 56,000 acres of the area’s ecologically important forest and salmonid watershed landscape requires a NEPA EIS. Significant natural resource issues include wilderness and roadless areas; redband and steelhead trout populations and habitat; recovery of 303(d) listed waterways; prevention of the spread and new introduction of invasive exotic plants and the recovery of sensitive native plants; the restoration of forest ecological resilience and functioning; the recovery of abundant well-distributed natural biodiversity; the maintenance and recovery of listed species and regional species of concern populations and habitat; and the direct and cumulative impacts from livestock grazing, vegetation management, ORVs, recreation, and other management actions.

The full text of our comments can be read at Mill Creek Grazing Allotment Comments. The scoping letter and related maps can be found on the Forest Service web site at Mill Creek Allotment Management Plan. (02-17-10)

Big Summit Range Allotment Management Plan

The Lookout Mountain Ranger District is proposing to reauthorize term grazing permits and modify grazing management in five allotments: Big Summit, Brush Creek, Pringle, Lost Horse, and North Fork. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released in July 2009 and can be read on the Forest Service web page Big Summit Range Allotment Management Plan. Maps are also available on this page. The Sierra Club has reviewed this proposed action and found that there are significant shortcomings in the DEIS relative to protection of water quality, aquatic species, and bird habitat. Consequently, the DEIS violates both NEPA and the Federal Multiple Use laws. The full Sierra Club comments can be read at Big Summit Cluster Grazing Allotment DEIS Comments. (8-27-09)

Lookout Mountain Prescribed Burn Project

Lookout Mtn. Trail Lookout Mountain Trail
photo by Larry Pennington
Lookout Mtn. Summit View Lookout Mountain Summit View
photo by Asante Riverwind
The Lookout Mt. Ranger District plans to re-introduce prescribed fire in the Lookout Mountain area. They are proposing a series of controlled burns starting in the Fall of 2010 and continuing for the next several years. This project was originally proposed in April 2009 under a NEPA Categorical Exclusion. However, it has now been reissued (February 2010) with the expectation of completing an Environmental Assessment later in 2010. Generally, with adequate provisions to protect a range of native species during the vulnerable mid to late spring season (nesting birds, denning mammals with young, emerging plants, and invertebrate species re-emerging after winter's snows), and provisions to ensure the area's remaining old growth trees don't succumb to fire due to excessive duff and fuels buildup near their base, returning fires to the area's fire ecology forest ecosystems is a necessary ecologically beneficial step in the proactive long-term restoration of the area.

The proposed project encompasses 22,700 acres in the Upper Ochoco Creek Watershed and includes the ecologically significant Lookout Mountain Management Area, a designated roadless area that is a popular hiking and recreational destination. Elevation ranges from 4,000 feet to 6,800 feet. Forest slopes and ridges face all aspects of the compass, with ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests that provide habitat for numerous species. The Forest Service reports that "about 74% of the project area can be characterized as mixed severity fire regime." The stated purpose of the project is to "modify fuel and vegetation conditions in the project area to reduce the likelihood of large-scale wildfire disturbance, lessen the intensity of wildfires, and increase habitat sustainability."

Our Lookout Mountain Prescribed Fire Project Comments address incorporating scientific research for management in mixed fire severity, mixed conifer, and ecologically more intact roadless and old growth area forests. With appropriate provisions noted in our comments, restoring recurrent fires in the area's fire ecology forest ecosystems can potentially help in the restoration and protection of the Ochoco's forests. We will be reviewing the agency’s environmental analysis for this proposed fire reintroduction project when it is issued later this year. If you are interested in helping restore and protect the greater Lookout Mountain area forests, please contact us.

The Forest Service Scoping Letter and a map are at Lookout Mountain Prescribed Burn. (3-27-10)

East Maury Fuel and Vegetation Management Project

Comments were submitted in June 2008 on the East Maury Fuels and Vegetation management Project DEIS in a joint action with the League of Wilderness Defenders-Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project. The East Maury Project as proposed would have resulted in significant adverse impacts to the area's forests, ecological integrity, waterways, wildlife, aquatic species, and native plants and soils. Read the East Maury Fuels and Vegetation Management Project DEIS Comments, June 2008 and East Maury Fuels and Vegetation Management Project Additional DEIS Comments, June 2008, for the full understanding of the serious impact this project will have on forest health if it had been implemented as described. In August this project was appealed (East Maury Fuels and Vegetation Management Project Appeal), August 2008, since the Comments were not adequately resolved in the issued project. However, as a result of our legal victory in the Five Buttes case, we were able to work with the Forest Service to resolve our objections to this project – changing the project to better incorporate credible scientific ecological restoration and fire risk reduction recommendations. The project was changed to retain all old characteristic trees of all species (except Lodgepole pine where this exists), thin only in appropriate plant association group forests - Ponderosa pine and dry Douglas fir frequent low severity fire systems – dropping mixed conifer high elevation, cool moist, & north slope forests from inappropriate thinning, with additional protections retaining forest structure, including 16” diameter limits for Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir, and riparian protections, etc. In September, our appeal was withdrawn (East Maury Appeal Withdrawal, September 2008).

Paulina Ranger District

Black Canyon Wilderness Trail and Invasive Plant Prevention

The agency plans to relocate a wilderness hiking trails off adjacent private lands, and plans better trail access connecting Cottonwood Creek roadless area and Black Canyon Wilderness. Volunteer help is needed assisting in trail work and invasive plant removal from wilderness area trails and sites.

Willow Pine

Similar with Spears above, volunteer help is needed in survey monitoring of this fuels reduction logging project also. Last year, field trips and meetings resulted in changing this large-scale thinning project. The agency agreed to use variable 16" to 18" diameter cutting limits, drop old forest, goshawk, step slope, and riparian proximity areas, retain a percentage of un-thinned areas in all units, and not build any new roads. These changes resulted in a much smaller thinning project that has potential to accomplish restoration objectives. Ongoing monitoring and assessment of both Spears (above) and Willow Pine, as these are implemented, are an essential part of our 2008 volunteer efforts.

Upper Beaver Creek Vegetation Management Project

Upper Beaver Project Upper Beaver FS Field Trip
photo by Larry Pennington
The Upper Beaver project was first proposed in April of 2008 and a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) issued in September of 2009. The Final EIS and Record of Decision were issued February 16, 2010. The Forest Service documents can be read at Upper Beaver Creek Vegetation Management Project.

The project area borders Black Canyon Wilderness on the north, and Rager Ranger Station on the south at the Ochoco boundary. Much of the area consists of pine and mixed conifer forests in riparian drainages (some of which are steep) between open rocky/grass uplands. Species of concern include goshawks, eagles, redband trout, pileated and white-headed woodpeckers, and others. A field trip with agency staff and conservation volunteers was conducted on October 6, 2009. The agency staff made significant changes to a previous similar project, and expressed willingness to incorporate ecological concerns in the Beaver Creek project also.

The Record of Decision selected Alternative 2 as the alternative to be implemented. This alternative will accomplish commercial and pre-commercial thinning, juniper thin and under burn, and hardwood treatments over 11,761 acres. It will do fuels and vegetation treatments (prescribed fire and other fuels treatment) across an additional 16,347 acres. The result will be 4 Million board feet of saw timber and the use of 50.33 miles of roads, including the opening of 6 miles of currently closed roads, construction of 2.78 miles of new roads, and re-opening of 3.61 miles of decommissioned roads.

The Final EIS and the Record of Decision did not incorporate the changes requested to make this a more environmentally acceptable project. Consequently, the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club and Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project appealed the project to the Pacific Northwest Regional Forester. The appeal requested that the Record of Decision and Final EIS be withdrawn and revised to address our objections. The full text of our appeal can be read at Upper Beaver FEIS Appeal.

A subsequent appeal resolution meeting on May 13th with the Regional Forester and staff members resulted in a resolution of the appeal. The resolution resulted in dropping eleven entire units from the sale, a significant reduction in the size of eleven other units, changing three units from commercial thinning to pre-commercial thinning, and the changing of one unit to protect Tamarack Creek riparian area. In addition, the resolution will result in reducing the amount of temporary road to be built from 2.78 miles to about 1.14 miles and the amount of decommissioned road to be reopened would be reduced from 3.61 miles to about 1.91 miles. All of the roads remaining are short, ranging from less than 1/10th of a mile to a maximum of 4/10th of a mile. Also, no trees equal to or greater than 18” in diameter that will be harvested in the allocated old growth area (EIS Unit 2), and this unit will be reduced from 87 acres to 46 acres due to riparian concerns. This will result in reducing the amount of harvest that will occur within 50 to 100 feet of Class 1 and 2 streams to approximately 24.5 acres. No equipment will be allowed to enter this zone. In addition, many of the trees can be felled away from the stream and picked up by reaching in with a boom; others will be winch lined. Approximately 34.5 acres of harvest would occur within the equipment exclusion zones near intermittent streams.

On June 2nd, the Sierra Club and Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project conditionally accepted this resolution of the appeal. The appeal resolution acceptance letter can be read at Upper Beaver Appeal Withdrawal. (6-09-10)