MEDFORD, Oregon (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service plans to propose measures for southern Oregon aimed at reducing the size and intensity of wildfires and creating healthier forests better able to withstand the hotter, drier conditions brought by climate change.
The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest plan would include a mix of commercial logging and brush removal on 22,000 acres of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands, the Mail Tribune reported Sunday.
It would include nearly 5,000 acres of prescribed fire and using fire to maintain up to 13,000 acres of previously burned areas.
Research shows the forest will better adapt to hotter, drier climates if the density of its tree stands is reduced and the growth of more fire-resistant trees is promoted. Growing more oak and pine trees instead of Douglas fir will also help the forests adapt.
“The objective is to make the watershed more resilient to disturbances like fire, insects and climate change,” said Don Boucher, the forest’s district ecologist and main architect of the plan.
In all, the package could cost up to $14 million, with as much as $2 million generated from commercial logging and the remainder coming from future grants, Boucher said.
The plan is detailed in an environmental assessment expected to be released Wednesday.
The proposals include 18 miles (29 kilometers) of new hiking trails and 4 miles (6 kilometers) of new off-highway vehicle trails. Miles of unauthorized trails would be decommissioned.
The environmental assessment will be up for public comment for a month, with comments incorporated in a final decision expected next spring, Boucher said. Work could begin next summer, he said.
Amanda Astor, southwest Oregon field forester for the American Forest Resource Council, said she thinks it’s a good project overall. She said it’s going to be “really good” for the landscape.
Tim Niemela from the Motorcycle Riders Association said the amount of proposed new trails shows a bias against motorized users. He believes it doesn’t acknowledge the work his group does in the woods.