Salvage work started to recover logs from 2015 fire season

After the huge fire season last year, the federal forests started planning salvage work that may yet recover lots of logs from burned areas. Plans for three of the projects the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests started in 2015 are now in writing. The three drafts went up for public review and comment on May 7, and the combined forests have made some changes.

The three projects – for roadside hazard tree removal and salvage at Woodrat and in Upper Lolo – each have several salvage units. Parts of the Woodrat salvage and parts of the roadside hazard tree removal are being incorporated into the Upper Lolo salvage project, where fires east of Pierce and Weippe last year burned in Lolo Creek tributaries. As part of the process they’re obligated to follow under federal law, the combined forests had asked the Forest Service chief for emergency status for the Upper Lolo salvage project, but that request is being withdrawn, the forests announced June 22.

“The proposed action will be published in our paper of record, the Lewiston Morning Tribune, and a 30-day notice and public comment will soon be available,” the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests noted in its news release.

The hazard tree removal project has been scaled back in “response to public concern, as well as resource conditions discovered during project layout.”

Two of the salvage units planned for the Tepee Springs fire area have been dropped: Chair Point (250 acres) and Van Keating (250 acres) were both complicated by other resource issues and compromised by blue stain in the ponderosa pine.

A unit in the Motorway Fire area, the Big Hill salvage (47 acres), located roughly three miles northeast of Syringa, was dropped after a federal forest crew found only about 11 of those acres would be economical, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests planner Zack Peterson told the Free Press Thursday, June 23.

A decision will be made on the Deadwood unit, located near Elk City and Orogrande, after analysis is complete in the area, where the federal forests see need to remove dead and dying trees affected by insects, disease or fire.

For the Woodrat area salvage of fire-killed trees, which includes parts of federal, state and private land near Lowell and Syringa, the emergency status has been requested.

“The proposed decision is being refined due to changes on the ground and to take into account the visual impacts from within the Wild and Scenic River Corridor,” the federal forests noted in their news release. The Woodrat and Upper Lolo projects have yet to pass muster with “the regulator agencies on the Endangered Species Act compliance…this process has been completed for all other projects.”

The roadside hazard tree removal project emergency status is approved and the project is “being refined to address concerns from the public,” the federal forests noted. Restrictions include limiting action on closed roads to felling dead trees and, next to roadless areas, limiting equipment to the road surface.

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