The Westside project on the Klamath National Forest is a proposed catastrophe in some of the most wild and rugged country of California. The massive post-fire timber sale spans seventy-five watersheds and would be detrimental to salmon, wildlife, old growth forests, soils, rivers and entire ecosystems.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), released in March, proposes 11,700 acres of larger units and 650 miles of roadside logging. It includes 22 miles of road construction, stream crossings and over 150 new landing locations. The vast majority of the area is within Late Successional Reserves and nearly half is within Riparian Reserves—which include steep and unstable hillsides.
The waters of the Wild and Scenic Klamath, Salmon and Scott Rivers were once prime salmon habitat, providing cold, clean water refuge. Today, all of the 802 miles of rivers and streams in the Westside project are listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act and are already choked with sediment from last summers wildfires and suppression efforts. High water temperature is causing a proliferation of gill rot disease, a major threat to juvenile and adult salmon. The Forest Service admits that Westside would increase water temperature, sedimentation and landslide risk.
Rare and endemic species that have evolved with fire are threatened by the proposed clearcutting. Seventy northern spotted owls would likely be adversely affected and thousands of acres of Critical Habitat would be removed or degraded. The Caroline Creek bald eagle nest area would be decimated and other nesting and winter roosting sites, which have been active for several decades, could be harmed. Habitat around four northern goshawk nests would be removed causing a high risk to survival. All of these birds show a strong fidelity to their nest sites.
Habitat connectivity in two of the four primary wildlife corridors in Klamath National Forest would be heavily impacted. Treatments would diminish connectivity in fourteen watersheds and would completely remove connectivity in three others. Fur bearing and terrestrial species like the Pacific fisher, American marten and the gray wolf depend on a well-connected landscape for strong genetics, food, dispersal and survival.
The Siskiyou Mountains, Del Norte and Scott Bar salamanders are endemic to the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. The Westside project would affect known salamander sites and surveys for new sites will not be conducted. Harming distinct isolated populations could have a significant effect on continued existence of these extremely rare salamanders.
Over eighteen meadows would be bulldozed to create landings that would accommodate logging equipment. These wildflower mountain meadows may contain Western bumblebees and the Franklin’s bumblebee, which is in eminent danger of becoming extinct and is endemic to the heart of the Klamath Siskiyou bioregion.
These forests are rejuvenated through fire. The soil and hillsides are already sprouting with new life. The proposed activities would irreparably harm thousands of acres of fragile post-fire forest floor. Rare fungi, mosses and lichens would be harmed. Non-native invasive plants are expected to spread throughout watersheds.
Westside is in the heart of the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion, which is world renowned for its incredible biological diversity, Wild and Scenic Rivers, roadless areas and carbon dense forests. These fire areas are culturally significant and within Karuk Ancestral Territory. Hundreds and thousands of old-growth trees are at risk and the severe ecological damage from the proposed project would change this landscape for centuries.
Our national forest is crawling with timber planners as the agency continues to plan what will be an ill-conceived catastrophe. Maps and information are available on the Klamath National Forest website and at www.wildcalifornia.org, which also includes timber sale monitoring instructions. The Final EIS and Decision are expected in early summer.