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Zigzag District timber harvest planned for 2020 posted on 12/01/2019

The Zigzag Ranger District will hold an open house from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10 to offer the public a chance to learn about the Zigzag Integrated Resource Project, consisting of two timber harvests expected to take place in 2020. The open house, held at the district’s ranger station at 70220 E. Hwy. 26 in Zigzag, will not feature a formal presentation but will include specialists from the district to answer questions.

“It’s in our back yard,” said Bill Westbrook, Zigzag District Ranger. “It’s important for the public to be fully appraised of what we’re doing.”

A scoping period, when the public can submit comments about the project, is expected to take place after the new year and last approximately 30 days.

Todd Reinwald, Forest Soils and Water Program Manager for the Mount Hood National Forest (MHNF), presented preliminary information about the project, which would include harvests in the Mud Creek Loop area and the Horseshoe area up Lolo Pass, at the Saturday, Nov. 16 Rhododendron Community Planning Organization (CPO) meeting.

Reinwald, who has lived on the Mountain for 27 years and has worked for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) off and on for 20 years, noted that Pacific Northwest forests are given an annual amount of timber to sell every year, with the MHNF (comprised of four ranger districts) amount set at 35 million board feet for the 2020 fiscal year. He added that under the previous two administrations the amount was 30 million board feet, while the amount is projected to rise to 40 million.

Reinwald noted that the Zigzag Ranger District isn’t typically a big timber producer, with the last sales in the area dating to the early 1990s, and that it is thanks to most of the acreage in the forest designated as wilderness or recreation areas, or as part of the Bull Run watershed.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve done timber management in the Zigzag Ranger District,” Reinwald said.

Two other areas were considered, USFS land around Government Camp and the Linney Creek Area, with the motivation to find places to get the volume needed while also finding other benefits, such as road management, watershed restoration and recreational. All four areas contain tree stands that were previously managed, such as old clearcuts or stands planted after fires.

“They’re in various stages of development,” Reinwald said.

Reinwald added that the Linney Creek area was dropped because the trees aren’t ready for harvest, while Government Camp will be considered in a separate effort with an eye towards fire mitigation.

“There’s a lot of concern about dead and down timber,” he said.

The project is expected to include different types of harvesting, including pre-commercial thinning in some areas where saplings can benefit from less competition, thinning, variable-density thinning (spacing determined by the largest tree in a specific area), “skips (small patches left with no thinning) and “gaps” (a clear-cut area of approximately two acres).

Reinwald noted that thinning stands will create more horizontal and vertical differentiation where monocultures now exist, thanks to an area being clear cut all at once and then replanted at the same time.

“It’s all even age,” he said. “As a stand develops (after thinning) a second cohort will grow up underneath, creating vertical density. In time you’ll have a multi-layered stand.”

Reinwald added that a certain amount of the revenue from the project is expected to be retained by the MHNF, which will use the funds for projects in the areas where the timber was harvested. Potential projects include road decommissioning and rehabilitation.

The CPO is expected to submit a letter that requests more revenue from the timber sales be used for other projects in other areas of the forest through a different sales mechanism called “stewardship sales” and also request the scoping period should be extended due to the winter weather.

By Garth Guibord/MT

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