Friday, April 26, 2013

Forests’ restoration project may yield large timber volumes

According to Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests Supervisor Rick Brazell, the Clear Creek Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is now available for public review and comment. The plan is proposing a schedule of work that would, among other goals, produce large timber volumes. This is a result of a restoration project that is the outcome of a five-year-old collaborative process.

A draft of the Clear Creek Environmental Impact Statement proposes to restore forests and streams in a 44,000 acre area five miles southeast of Kooskia. The project would include timber harvesting, road obliteration, culvert replacement and prescribed fire.

According to the site District Ranger Joe Hudson says the Clear Creek proposal is notable because it represents a new way of doing business as prescribed by the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. The proposal, in being consistent with the program proposals, was developed collaboratively, and considers a larger area and more extensive restoration treatments than most agency analyses. He also says that this approach should be more efficient and will allow for more meaningful outcomes on the land.

The timber sales could produce 60 million to 85 million board feet of timber and possibly create 1,500 to 2,000 jobs. This would be done with multiple timber sales and would be carried out over several years. Hudson stressed that the outputs from the DEIS are products of science-based restoration activities and will make a positive difference for both the environment and people.

Clearwater Basin Collaborative (CBC) reports it backs the decision by the forest service for this extensive work. CBC is a panel of representatives from several groups including county commissioners, conservation groups and the timber industry. These groups have been working alongside the Forest Service to find the most effective way the forest can be managed.

According to Clearwater County Commissioner Stan Leach, “The Clear Creek Project is a bold new direction in landscape scale forest management. The roots of this project lead back to the CBC and CFLRA (Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act.) CFLRA legislation made available additional money to support forest activities in areas that had established collaborative groups like the CBC.

The CBC applied for and was awarded over 30 million dollars over a 10 year period to design and implement projects in the Clearwater Basin. This project has the unanimous support of all the CBC members. It includes restoration activities and weed treatments to stop the spread of noxious weeds, along with timber harvest to improve forest health and help re-establish white pine.

There are 15 living wage jobs created or maintained for every million board feet of timber harvested according to a University of Idaho study. These jobs, combined with the others created through restoration activities, will be a huge boost to the economy of our region.”

Robyn Miller, a member of The Nature Conservancy and Clearwater Basin Collaborative, said the groups are pleased the agency has released such a comprehensive plan for the Clear Creek area. She was quoted as saying, “While recognizing that this project will continue to evolve with ongoing public input, we believe the proposal outlined in the Clear Creek DEIS is a great starting point that addresses the ecological needs of the Clear Creek drainage and the economic needs of the surrounding communities.”

The DEIS describes a “no action alternative” and three action alternatives. All three action alternatives include 1371 acres of prescribed burning, 1887 acres of precommercial thinning, 119.8 miles of system road construction and replacement of 77 undersized culverts.

The plan would include thinning stands of timber that were planted in the 1960s and 1970s following clear-cuts. It would also include regeneration harvest in places where years of fire suppression has caused a dense and unnatural mix of timber. Regeneration harvest is comparable to clear-cutting but leaves places of live trees and some dead trees for wildlife habitat. It will be similar to a fire pattern and does not look like a standard clear-cut.

The goal is to create a mix of young forests that supply habitat for animals and to leave places of older forests that would provide cover to other species of trees, including larch and ponderosa pine. Douglas fir and grand fir would be the main species to be logged. Logging will avoid old growth timber and roadless areas with no permanent roads being constructed. Thirty-six miles of temporary roads would be constructed and 120 miles of existing road would be reconstructed.

The size of the timber volume would exceed the annual total harvest that has been produced from the Forest Service from all of its timber sales in recent years. Much of the road obliteration and culvert replacement has already been completed. This will benefit fish and water quality.

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests and CBC developed a comprehensive science-based restoration approach for the 1.4 million-acre Selway-Middle Fork area in 2010 and submitted it for funding through the national Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. It was one of 10 project initially selected, making it eligible to receive up to $4 million annually for up to 10 years.

Since its selection the project has been awarded over $8.5 million dollars which have been used to implement a number of critical projects to restore the watershed, treat weeds and reduce hazardous fuels. The Clear Creek proposal is the first large-scale integrated resource project to be implemented as part of this program.

A description of the project and a link to the draft environmental impact statement is available under the Recent News tab on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest’s website at The Clear Creek DEIS is available online at, or it can be obtained by contacting Interdisciplinary Team Leader Lois Hill at 208-935-4258. Project presentations can also be requested through District Ranger Joe Hudson at 208-926-8930 or CFLRP coordinator Mike Ward at 208-926-6413.

Comments regarding the Clear Creek proposal are due within 45 days of the publication of the Notice of Availability in the Federal Register which was scheduled to be published on or about April 19.

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