Salvage logging planned on Oregon forest damaged by 2012 wildfire

Environmentalists might challenge sale

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BEND, Ore. — Central Oregon foresters are preparing to solicit bids on salvage logging at the site of the 2012 Pole Creek Fire near Sisters.

An advertisement is expected in about a week to announce the sale and set a minimum bid, The Bulletin of Bend reported.

"It's all about economics," said Kristie Miller, ranger for the Sisters Ranger District. "It's trying to get some wood to the mills and some people to work and remove some hazards along the roads."

There are questions, however, about whether mills will be interested and whether environmentalists might challenge the sale.

Timber manager Chuck Burley at the Interfor Pacific Mill in Gilchrist, Ore., said the passage of time means the trees will have fungus and "bug holes" that reduce their value, so he's waiting to see what the Forest Service sets for a minimum.

"We know what we think it is worth," he said, "but we have to wait and see what they think it is worth."

Tim Lillebo, Eastern Oregon field representative for OregonWild, said the group hasn't decided whether to challenge the sale plans.

He said the group has been encouraging the Forest Service to move away from salvage logging, noting that heavy logging equipment can cause further harm in a recovering forest.

"It is just really hard to find any ecological benefit to that," he said.

The plans call for harvesting 11 million board feet of trees killed by fire and gathering 880,000 board feet of firewood in the burn area. About 1.3 million board feet of hazard trees along 42 miles of roads are also to be sold.

Lightning started the Pole Creek Fire on a September weekend last year, and it burned on more than 40 square miles, or 26,000 acres.