Credit: Jennie Fischer, USFS
The proposed Center-Johnson project area, looking into Christie Creek.
As of Tuesday, December 12, 2017
The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests last week announced scoping of the Center-Johnson Project, a proposed action of timber harvest, fuels treatments, grassland treatments and road work including decommissioning of 11 miles of road in watersheds three miles west of Slate Creek.
The proposal focuses on federally managed public land in several Salmon River drainages, which are adjacent to each other: Deer Creek, Johnson Creek, Lyon Creek, Joe Creek, Rhett Creek, Christie Creek and Sherwin Creek. Activities are proposed on about 3,900 acres within the roughly 9,900-acre project area, including several types of timber harvest: commercial thinning of 2,040 acres, precommercial thinning of 22 acres and regeneration harvest of 1,020 acres.
The Forest Service published legal notice in the Lewiston Tribune on Dec. 6. Information and maps are online at www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=50271.
The Forest Service designated project team leader, Jennie Fischer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 208-983-4048.
The commercial thinning would “favor the largest and healthiest western larch, ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and Engelmann spruce” and the precommercial thinning would leave trees spaced 12-20 feet apart, depending on the species. The regeneration harvest would retain 8-15 trees per acre on 156 acres, 15-40 trees per acre on 825 acres, and no less than six trees per acre on 38 acres.
The project documents note about 2,135 acres of timber harvest has taken place in the project area since the 1950s, including 360 acres harvested during the 1950s, 724 harvested during the 1960s, 469 harvested during the 1970s and 583 harvested during the 1980s, mostly recently in a Forest Service harvest in 1989.
“What is not captured in the data for past harvest is that multiple sections of land that were managed by the State of Idaho but were exchanged to the USFS after the Forest Plan came out in 1987,” the proposal noted.
When asked why there has been no timber activity in the project area since the 1980s, project lead Jennie Fischer told the Free Press “The forest was focused on other areas on the forest for timber harvest in the 1990s to current, [namely], American River, Crooked River, and the Slate Creek and Little Slate Creek areas. We first starting to identify the need for treatments in the project area in 2005. We made decisions on the range allotments: Christie Creek, Sherwin Creek and Riverview.”
But, as she pointed out, there was a fire in the project area – the Poe-Cabin Fire – in 2007.
The Forest Service recently sent out hard copies of the proposal and letters to 95 recipients, and issued a press release on the on-going opportunity for the public to get involved, noting the proposed action “includes timber harvest units that create openings greater than 40 acres in size.” (Recipients included interested public, individuals and organizations, state and federal agencies, adjacent land owners and managers, and permittees.)
“There is a need to increase the resilience of the forest to insects, disease and fire in the project area,” the letter reads in part. “On May 20, 2014, Department of Agriculture Secretary [Tom] Vilsack announced the designation of approximately 45.6 million acres of National Forest System lands across 94 national forests in 35 states to address insect and disease threats that weaken forests and increase the risk of forest fire. The Center-Johnson project area is included in this designation. The Governor of Idaho has asked that priority be given to project development within these designated insect and disease areas.”
The proposal has been subject of several official meetings, the next of which will be 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, at Slate Creek Ranger Station. It was presented to the Clearwater Basin Collaborative in October 2015, to the Nez Perce Tribe in September 2016, and to the Idaho County Commission in October 2016. The Forest Service sent out a press release and 360 invitations for a March 9, 2017 meeting, and is accepting public comments at the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests office in Grangeville.