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USFS plans to log, treat 12,000 acres SW of Bend


After three years of planning and public input, Deschutes National Forest Supervisor John Allen announced Monday his approval of a plan to harvest timber, treat, burn or mow various areas on about 12,000 acres 10 miles southwest of Bend and east of Mt. Bachelor, starting as soon as this fall.

The Forest Service published a legal notice and sent letters to interested parties regarding the Lex Vegetation Management Project’s final environmental assessment, decision notice and “finding of no significant impact” for review — the latter meaning an environmental impact statement won’t be prepared.

The project area on the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District is bounded generally on the north by the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway and includes Wanoga, Kapka and Vista Butte sno-parks. While there are no designated campgrounds, hiking trails or OHV trails in the area, there are 11 miles of trails for mountain bikes, two miles of trails for cross-country skiing and 31 miles of snowmobile trails.

Two-thirds of the area has lodgepole pine and the southern end has drier mixed conifer forest. Officials say fire suppression and bark beetle outbreaks have caused a buildup of fuels in the area.

The chosen alternative drops two units from any treatment and changes 14 others from “final removal harvest” to “girdle overstory” treatments, Allen said in the letter.

The first notice of the proposed action was sent to more than 100 forest users and members of the public in July of 2015, while the draft environmental assessment was made available for 30 days of public comment last November and sent to about 350 people and organizations, resulting in eight emails and/or letters.

The project’s purposes, Allen wrote, “include creating age class diversity and increasing resilience to insect and disease in lodgepole pine stands, restoring historic species composition and structure, and increasing resilience to fire, insects and disease in mixed conifer stands, and providing forest products to local economies.”

A total of about 7,032 acres will receive treatment, with commercial timber harvest on about 5,108 acres, understory treatments on 5,400 acres, prescribed fire on 807 acres and mowing and/or piling on 7,518 acres, About 10 million board-feet of forest products will result from the planned project, Allen wrote.

At this stage, only people or groups who took part in the public comment period are allowed to file objections, within 45 days.

Forest Public Affairs Officer Jean Nelson-Dean explained, “It is not that 5,000 acres will be logged of all timber, but commercial harvest will occur on 5,000 acres.”

“Through commercial logging, thinning and other restoration work can be accomplished in order to create greater resilience to insects and disease in lodgepole pine stands,” Nelson-Dean said. “This project is similar to what we are doing in West Bend on 25,000 acres, except in Lex we are treating more lodgepole pine than Ponderosa pine.”

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