Cascade Creek Fire Field Trip  6/20/2013

Meeting in the field from the Forest Service:  District Ranger Nancy Ryke, Ecologist Jessica Hudec, Silviculturist Jon Nakae, Wildlife biologist Mitch Wainwright, project coordinator Ben Hoppus.
From SGPC and affiliates: Jim White, Norm Ward, Gary Collins, Bruce Holmson, Kelly Clothier, Larry Zeigenfuss, Jay McLaughlin, Tom Linde, Don Harding, Jurgen Hess, Lisa Moscinski, Jessica Schafer, Ralph Bloemers, Brian Hennes, Joshua Berg, Jamie Tolfree
 
The intent of the field trip was to determine if there was agreement among the collaborative in order to write a letter of support to the Forest Service for the project.

 Stop 1 was unit on northwest portion of burned area on FS road 8031070. We viewed unit from the road. After introductions, Nancy gave an overview, noting that the Regional Assessment Team (RAT) had come out to the burned area and offered recommendation to do a CE as it would speed up the process and is acceptable in projects under 250 acres. The proposal originally included 190 acres in LSR and 60 acres in matrix. A large portion of the fire was in the Mt Adams  Wilderness Area, none of which was considered in the project. She has decided to drop the LSR portion of the project due to concerns about soil conditions and diminishing habitat. She has not signed a Decision Notice yet. 

Jon gave an overview of the fire and the salvage project. Approximately 20,000 acres burned, most in the Mt Adams Wilderness area. He showed a fire severity map which shows soil types, not actual burned areas. It may not reflect actual severity of the fire. In matrix, the fire burned moderate to low in intensity. The most intense burn was in the Wilderness. 

The sale consists of 8 units ranging in size from ¼ acre to 11 acres in size along existing roads. ½ mile of temporary road will be needed. They focused on areas that have the largest mortality in Matrix - part of the reason was ecological and part was for efficiency. Ground based logging systems will be used to remove timber.  

Ralph asked if the Scott Guidelines were used to assess the burn. Jon replied that those were developed for the Blue Mountains and did not pertain exactly to this area – Blues are more eastside forest than this. The Blues are Ponderosa Pine and Grand fir dominant. Jon is looking at other species as well. Scott guidelines look at things soon after fire. In this area, mortality will express itself this coming summer in tree crowns, cambium and roots. They are taking the highest end with potential mortality trying to alleviate bark beetle problem by taking trees before they are down.  

There were questions about how things are marked on the ground. It is difficult to tell what is being harvest and what is not. Could a simpler method be used?  

Stop 2, Unit 4 – This was a moderate burn intensity. There was a discussion about 2.6 ?? that is noted in the Forest Plan. Mitch noted that the 2.6 is in error and is questioned by scientists. He suggested putting the 56 acres into context – it is 1% of mixed conifer habitat. There was a discussion about how much dead wood is retained in each unit and how marginal trees (those that look like they are dying but are not dead yet) are viewed. The retention of dead trees has to do with how unit boundaries are decided – if it includes the dead trees or if it has already been excluded. Bruce noted that no matter which approach is used, 15% will be retained. In this situation, there was not a problem with meeting the 15% retention. There were lots of dead trees from the fire. Nancy noted that NW Forest Plan may not apply; it is a question of scale when looking at 5 acres of 20,000. Jim noted it is course filtering to address the biggest mortality. He also recognizes the importance of establishing Ponderosa Pine at lower elevations of the fire and asked GPTF if they recognize the value of re-establishing early seral species, particularly ponderosa pine, at lower elevations within the fire that are within the grand fir zone.   

On the dying trees, Jurgen suggest they should use caution and be conservative in approach, give a potentially dying tree the benefit of the doubt.  

Is there a product describing marking that GPTF can review? Jon will get info to them before the comment period ends. Lisa asked about a Botanical survey report that addresses survey and manage. Nancy will connect with Andrea about it. Lisa asked about the .3 miles of temporary road – is it on old road bed and if riparian areas are outside of area. Jon said that all riparian areas are outside of salvage areas. Missed the part about the temp road. 

There was a discussion about what folks would like to see next. Jurgen requested the group go to Unit 10.
 

Stop 3 – Unit 10 

Jurgen asked how you would rate canopy cover. Jon replied it was less than 10%. Jay asked why there is such a high level of scrutiny in Matrix ground. Jurgen said cutting in burned area sets a precedence. Lisa suggested it is more ecologically based. Norm said it needs to be balanced and think of the needs of the community; things are being over-analyzed; it needs to be looked at overall, put into perspective. 

Lisa asked about the restoration component of the sale. Nancy replied that they will replant and move towards a new forest. There is not funding for planting if there is no sale.  Jay noted that in matrix part of the purpose is economic; not so in LSR, which is has been deleted. Ralph suggested calling it what it was – it is not “restoration”. Lisa said the Task Force won’t support because of the old trees; there is not much old growth left. Jessica H. said they are not taking out live old trees. Jurgen asked if folks know how decisions are made and if there was collective agreement on what system is. Jessica H. - salvage doesn’t do any net harm. Jurgen – it should have ecological benefits. 

Jim White has concern about the salvage sale – it has already been whittled down to 1% of the burned area. It should have been opend up to get some economic value; this is a chance where the forest can get rejuvenated. Nancy said it is hard to focus on one tree; need to look at what is still available; it seems benign. 

Jurgen noted that old growth has been so significantly reduced that each tree does make a difference. Jay asked if GPTF could be involved with marking and monitoring would that make a difference in their perspective. There was a question by Jessica S. about what the unit boundaries were – it was hard to tell. 

Jamie asked the group if they thought there was any was to write a joint letter or if at least there is something that could be done to stop an appeal. No letter – not enough commonality. Were there other issues that had not been discussed?  

There was more discussion about marking trees that appeared to be dying. GPTF asked about only marking trees that are definitely dead (and exclude those that look like they are dying). It could make a big difference. Jon said they could do that; it might not make that much of a difference. Jessica S. was concerned about the temporary road and wondered where it started. Hard to tell on the ground. She also wondered about leave trees. Jon explained the road location and answered leave tree concern (not captured in notes).  

There were questions about invasive weeds coming into treated areas. It was acknowledged that there will be invasives coming in and they are treated regularly. It was also noted that invasives will come in to untreated burned areas (but there is no funding to treat them). 

Jon will send marking guidelines and Nancy said they would send any other supporting documents that would like to see. There were several individual conversations and an exchange of business cards as folks walked back to the rigs with.