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News :: Environment & Food

Indi Blockade Keeps Biscuit Shut Down

Activists Are Currently Holding Off All Timber Sales
Under the Controversial Project
Today marks the seventh day three young forest defenders have spent in a Curry County, Oregon jail, picked up last week at a blockade of the road to the Indi timber sale in the Biscuit Burn. Meanwhile the Siskiyou National Forest contract to log at Indi remains unsigned by a high-bidding timber speculator with an out-of-county mill that cuts old-growth trees.

Using a well-worn fable, the timber industry and their favorite politicians like to pretend that fire destroys a forest, despite the 10,000 years of evidence to the contrary. It is with the fire excuse in hand that the Bush administration is seeking the largest timber sale in modern history in the wildest intact ecosystem on the US west coast. The so-called Biscuit Fire Recovery Plan in the forest of the Klamath-Siskiyou would log19,000 acres of ancient forest in the name of restoration and destroy another 19,000 in the name of fire prevention. But so far, activists are succeeding in this time-critical campaign to protect the entire Siskiyou Wild Rivers Area and the campaign itself is growing fast.

In every logging unit among the 20 at the Indi timber sale, baby conifers are naturally proliferating, now beginning their third year of fresh green growth. In fact, this North Kalmiopsis forest burned in a classic mosaic throughout the boundary marked areas leaving plant and animal diversity beyond most people's wildest expectations. A couple hours walk reveals dozens of wildflowers, dozens of bird species, a yearling bear. There are five-foot diameter green trees, a seven foot-diameter newly dead snag. The diverse understory survives and spreads throughout the area.

Success is spreading in more ways than just one, as the amount of logging likely at Biscuit shrinks as the weeks go by.

Back last year, out of county timber barons paid an Oregon State University scientist to say that two b-b-billion board-feet of timber could be logged from the 500,000 acre Biscuit Burn. The Forest Service used that report and satellite images to suggest last December that 500 million board-feet should be logged - enough to fill log trucks bumper-to-bumper from Canada to Mexico.

This spring, the Forest Service dropped paint from helicopters to mark units and ignored riparian areas leaving aquatic resource management to the timber industry. Still the agency was only able finally to imagine 370 million board feet of timber in the Biscuit area by the time they issued an official decision in July. Two years of bureaucratic process preceded the first opportunity for environmental challenge, yet the first act by the Forest Service after their official decision was to declare a state of emergency exempting their initial 11 timber sales from normal citizen or environmentalist appeal.

Timber industry data indicates that nearly all but the biggest burned trees are worth little after their third winter of decay. That leaves from now until the autumn snows for the industry to grab trees in many areas and to convert maximum ancient forest acreage to plantation. And that explains government prices so low that a Biscuit sale last week was offered up for destruction and bought by a logging company for $195 per acre of ancient forest reserve, about $75 per logging truckload!

The environmental movement is, of course, legally challenging this project and common sense dictates significant victories. Much of the sale has been forced by the Bush administration into protected inventoried roadless areas. But in the Biscuit, recent Bush moves to rollback roadless protections do not apply. Further, local US Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) have both stated clearly that they will work to prevent roadless salvage logging at Biscuit. The forest service hasn't spent much time on the ground in these roadless areas and few inside the timber industry or the agency expect to harvest any timber there.

Another significant chunk of the Biscuit area is in ancient forest or late-successional reserves (LSR.) Despite a loophole in the Northwest Forest Plan, the notion of converting wide swaths of ancient forest reserves to brand-new tree plantations just doesn't pass the bureaucratic laugh test. A federal judge held up proposed large-scale LSR salvage logging recently in the nearby Timbered Rock timber sales, likely anticipating her ultimate decision to prevent logging in these areas.

In addition, rumors abound that an industry-requested review of Northern Spotted Owl recovery by expert scientists will recommend next week, much to the industry's dismay, that all ancient forest in the Northwest must now be protected from logging, salvage or otherwise. There is good reason for feeling confident that a federal legal ruling, at least on appeal will declare roadless and LSR proposed logging at Biscuit illegal.

But that is not all Biscuit logging that is proposed.

Currently, no legal strategy is in place to protect 1000 acres of ancient forest destruction under the administrative designation of "matrix." But even in these areas there are signs of hope.

Four "emergency" matrix timber sales have been put up for auction during the first four weeks since the decision was finalized. Two of these areas, while still remaining on the market have so far received no industry bids at all. On only one sale in the entire Biscuit area has a contract to log been offered. And it is there at the matrix sale known as Indi that a road blockade was set up last week to deter operations.

Indi was bid on by East Fork Lumber in Norway, Oregon with President Bob Sproul of Myrtle Point at the helm. Sproul admits that he risked his entire company in a bidding war to profit at Indi. The auction price went to triple the advertised rate, one of only two sales at Biscuit so far that didn't go for the minimum asking price. Sproul plans to mill half the logs at his own plant and sell the other half to the highest bidder he can find.

On the day last week that Sproul was sent the contract from the Forest Service, he traveled out to Indi, only to discover an elaborate blockade of the single road into most of the sale. Giant slash piles stopped his blue Ram 1500 pickup. But the real blockade came in the form of an elaborate series of rope loops strung across the road and holding up a 75-foot high, occupied platform suspended between two ancient trees. More than one week later, the contract still isn't signed.

The blockade held Sproul's logging equipment out of his reach for three days before a well-studied force of thirteen law enforcement vehicles assembled to reopen the road.

East Fork's equipment was there to log the bizarrely-named "hazard trees." Some 12,000 trees at Biscuit have been declared by the Forest Service to be enemies of roads and are therefore marked for logging before they fall the wrong way. These logged hazard tree areas provide a harsh indication on a very small scale of the results of the greater project being put forward by the government. Hazard tree removal includes logging in riparian areas, creates long-term soil compaction, and destroys naturally regenerating conifers and other plants. There is a further loss of large woody debris, shade cover, moisture retention and all of the other wildlife benefits provided by large snags.

Some areas just outside the Indi units provide further obvious indication of the results of industrial forestry. These areas have been previously ruined by clearcut logging. The plantations in their wake were largely unable to withstand the 2002 fire and now will take many years to again grow trees unless replanted at the expense of taxpayers.

On the ground it is easy to understand viscerally what the two opposing scenarios of natural fire recovery and salvage logging represent. For now, biodiversity is winning out over greed. Hope is overcoming fear.

Four weeks after the Forest Service promised logging pronto, one contract has been offered, none signed and not a tree logged. With your help, a growing campaign can continue to be a winning campaign.

Here's what you can do:

If East Fork Lumber tries to log Indi the protests anticipated could well spell the end for a company put on the brink by a speculating owner. The contract can only be signed between now and August 26.

Please call or fax Bob Sproul and convince him that logging at Indi is the absolute worst business decision he can make. ph. (541) 572-5732 fax (541) 572-2727.

A phone call each from one hundred people can have the power to stop an ancient forest logging contract from being signed. Thank you for your kind-hearted effort for the forest and those that defend it at this important time.

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