Clearcut Proposed Near Roadless Area

The John’s Last Stand Timber sale has trees more than 100 years old and is near a proposed wilderness area. Photo: Oregon Wild/Doug Heiken
The John’s Last Stand Timber sale has trees more than 100 years old and is near a proposed wilderness area. Photo: Oregon Wild/Doug Heiken

A patch of forest near Dexter, Oregon, was auctioned off at 10 am Thursday, Dec. 17. That patch, called the John’s Last Stand timber sale by the Bureau of Land Management, is near popular hiking trails and the Hardesty Mountain Roadless Area and is just a little more than 20 miles southeast of Eugene.

According to the BLM’s sale proposal, John’s Last Stand is being sold as a “regeneration harvest.” Conservation group Oregon Wild says the proposal calls for leaving only six to eight trees an acre — essentially a clearcut.

“We are dumbfounded why BLM would propose to clearcut a beloved recreation area right in the backyard of Eugene and Springfield,” Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild says. He tells EW that “dozens of citizens and conservation organizations submitted comments expressing their concerns about logging this old-growth forest area within the 7,000-plus acre Hardesty Roadless Area just a stone’s throw from the popular Mount June trail.”

Josh Laughlin, executive director of Cascadia Wildlands, says, “This is Eugene’s backyard playground for outdoor enthusiasts and is currently being proposed for wilderness for its outstanding ecological values.” He adds that “Eugene BLM ought to be taken to the woodshed and spanked” for planning the clearcut.

Kristine Struck of the Eugene BLM says the agency is reviewing the protest to if there is anything new, missed or not considered. After that, options include modifying or withdrawing the sale, or awarding it to the highest bidder, at which point it could still be appealed.

Struck says the sale would not require new road building as it would be logged by helicopter.

Preserving the Hardesty wildlands complex has been a campaign of the Many Rivers Group Sierra Club for several years, and the Many Rivers Group is protesting the sale along with Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild.

Oregon Wild says the forest is 116 years old, and “roadless areas like the Hardesty-Mount June area represent the last best places on our public lands.”

The Many Rivers Group says in its campaign to preserve Hardesty as a wild area that “the Umpqua side of the Hardesty divide is the headwaters for Cottage Grove’s drinking water supply.” Heiken says that “after decades of overcutting,” areas without roads and without clearcuts are “rare” and important for climate stability.

In their Dec. 3 protest letter to the Eugene BLM, the three groups write, “A large amount of clearcutting has occurred on private lands in this area in recent years. BLM should not add to the cumulative effects by conducting more regen harvests which may have significant effects on water quality, wildlife habitat and scenic values.”

The groups have asked members of Oregon’s congressional delegation, including Rep. Peter DeFazio, to halt the sale.

DeFazio says by the time he was contacted by the Many Rivers group, it was less than 24 hours before the timber sale went to auction and there was no opportunity to delay it. The congressman says, “I am concerned about the proximity and intensity of the John’s Last Stand sale. It is near a popular hiking trail and adjoins the proposed Hardesty Wilderness Area, where years ago I was able to help reach an agreement to stop a timber sale on the flanks of Mount June.”

DeFazio says he will be “closely watching to see how BLM manages their recently revised protest, appeals and litigation strategy to review the sale.”