SHADY COVE, Ore. – Timber salvaging is still underway months after fire season came to a close. But many of the tens of thousands of acres burned remain off limits.
BLM lands like the area near timbered rock are filled with towering snags, left over from the last major fire over a decade ago. Some of those snags exceed four or five feet in diameter.
Organizations like Roseburg’s Communities for Healthy Forests advocate for more aggressive salvaging of those lands. They say if done early enough after a fire, they can yield up to 35,000-40,000 board feet per acre – amounting to around $200,000 per acre in revenue.
And while not explicitly illegal under state law, salvaging of those lands gets halted every year through litigation and logistical hurdles.
“The agencies have to go through so much analysis and so much review, and it takes so much time, by the time they have any viable projects put together the opportunities have been lost,” said Javier Goirigolzarri, a forestry advisor with Communities for Healthy Forests.
Meanwhile private lands, sometimes just a few hundred feet away, are an entirely different world altogether. Those lands get cleared, treated with herbicide, and replanted after fires – leaving a dense, young conifer forest, free of snags.
But environmentalists say the transformation can be deceiving.
“All of those lands have been changed from a forest into a fiber plantation,” said KS Wild conservation director George Sexton.
Sexton says replanted forests eliminate natural habitats and create dense fuels — and they’re planted at great cost.
“The most damaging thing you can do to soils is, after a fire, use tractors and drag logs up and down steep slopes and not give riparian buffers,” said Sexton.
But some foresters say that heavy machinery paves the way for healthier long-term management of lands that have already been tampered with beyond return for hundreds of years.
“Mother Nature isn’t taking its course,” said Goirigolzarri. “We have significantly altered these landscapes.”
Goirigolzarri said the fight over those lands has intensified in the past 20 years. And while both sides say they desire compromise, neither can say where they’re willing to meet.