Trees inside one of the "Old Growth Management Areas" on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. These areas are supposed to be off-limits, but were logged in the past and are included in commercial units in the Clarks project.
GHCC has been tracking the Clarks Vegetation Management Project, a proposed 42,000-acre logging project on Forest Service land right outside of Halfway that’s currently in its first phase of receiving public comments (scoping).
Important context about this logging project: About 38% of this project area is part of the Cornucopia and Carson/Pine Valley Wildland Urban Interface (also known as a WUI), places closer to towns and private land that are specifically intended to “create, restore and maintain a fire resistant landscape”.
Generally speaking, we don’t take issue with thinning in the WUI, but think that even within WUIs, intentional decisions can be made to best preserve big/old trees and wildlife habitat. And for the majority of the project outside the WUI, protecting high quality wildlife habitat should be a priority.
Why this place is important: The Clarks project is just around the corner from Morgan Nesbit, another large logging project on the Wallowa-Whitman. Collectively, this part of the Wallowa-Whitman is absolutely critical from a wildlife habitat connectivity standpoint, and contains the only mapped Priority Wildlife Connectivity Area in the Pine Valley region.
The dark green Forest Service land north of Halfway is the general vicinity of the Clarks Project. The yellow polygons are areas identified by ODFW as important connectivity corridors. This one connects Hells Canyon with the Eagle Cap, and makes up about 3,400 acres of land inside the Clarks Project area.
Our top concerns:
Disrupting wildlife habitat connectivity
At present, we believe that there are at least 16 proposed logging units within the wildlife corridor, and that there will be road building within it as well. Any kind of road building is especially concerning, considering that this forest is already one of the most heavily roaded in the country and lacks a travel management plan. There are no estimates for how many miles of road they are hoping to construct, since they’re planning to deal with it on an as-needed basis. This is not acceptable, especially in a mapped wildlife corridor. A robust analysis of existing and projected impacts to wildlife habitat must be completed, and units in the mapped wildlife corridor should be downgraded to the lightest-touch option, if not dropped entirely. ODFW has stated that they already have concerns with the existing density of open roads and quality of elk security habitat in the project area – this will only exacerbate those issues.
Logging in Old Growth Management Areas
The agency is planning 318 acres of commercial logging in Old Growth Management Areas, places specially designated to provide old-growth habitat for wildlife. These stands are supposed to be messy - per the Forest Plan, they should contain multi-layered canopies, standing dead trees, and trees of varying species (including shade-tolerant firs). These units should probably just be dropped from the project as they are not in the WUI and some are some of the least roaded and disturbed parts in the project area.
Taking trees over 21”
A judge recently sided with GHCC and our allies, and found that the Forest Service violated three bedrock environmental laws when they amended the Eastside Screens. The agency should recognize this forthcoming change in policy and plan accordingly.
How to submit comments:
I encourage you to submit comments on the Clarks project, even if they’re brief. You do not need to be an expert. Just say who you are, what your connection is to the area (like: I recreate on the Wallowa-Whitman NF with my family), and what you think about the project. Feel free to pull from our points above, or something entirely different. Comments can be submitted here and are due by the end of the day on September 13th.