PORTLAND, Ore. U.S. Forest Service officials say they will soon auction timber from undeveloped roadless areas burned in the 2002 Biscuit fire.
Biscuit logging projects until now have avoided the roadless lands, focusing instead on less contested acreage designated for commercial cutting and older forest reserves.
Environmental activists prize the roadless lands because they are considered undisturbed, with potential to become protected wilderness. Activists were jailed for blocking access to earlier Biscuit logging projects, and Rob Shull, resource staff officer at the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, said authorities expect renewedprotests.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who had asked the Bush administration to keep loggers out of Biscuit’s roadless areas, will urge the Forest Service to hold off on its roadless cutting, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
The Forest Service plans two timber sales this spring in the roadless areas, Shull said. Loggers will be required to remove logs by helicopter to avoid damage to soils.
Dominick DellaSala, a forest ecologist with the World Wildlife Fund in Ashland, said the government is unlikely to make enough money on the logging to pay its way.
“It’s expensive to get in there, and it’s damaging to the regenerative qualities of the ecosystem,” he said. “This is a stronghold of fisheries in southwest Oregon.”
The Biscuit fire, which burned 500,000 acres in southwest Oregon, has become a legal and political battleground over how best to restore the forest and habitat critical to the northern spotted owl and salmon.
The Bush administration last year opened roadless areas to logging under certain conditions after they had been put off-limits by the Clinton administration. Four western states and several environmental groups are challenging the new roadless policy in federal court.
Environmentalists and many scientists argue that roadless areas offer a prime source of clean water and the best habitat for fish and wildlife. After a wildfire, they say, big dead trees offer valuable habitat and a legacy for new forests.
Biscuit logging began once the Forest Service completed environmental reviews and put the first timber up for auction in 2004. The roadless lands, mainly surrounding the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, hold the bulk of the timber targeted for logging.