Many of you have probably heard through the grapevine that the likely start date for logging on Seven Streams is July 17th. We received more information on the morning of 7/13. The trail will now close on 7/20. Cutting will begin on 7/23. There’s a lot of confusion out there about why it’s being cut, and we’d like to help everyone understand the details. We’re planning a last ride party. Stay tuned for details.
Everyone’s first question is, “Why are they cutting?”
This winter’s ice storm caused massive damage in the Seven Streams trail corridor. It was the hardest hit elevation, with the most damaged trees. Total timber loss in the stand was over 30%. This is not good.
Leaving forestry practices aside for another day (selective harvest vs. clearcut vs. the age of trees in a stand), let’s talk about a bigger issue, the main reason this cut has to happen: bark beetles. You’re probably heard of them. They’re decimating forests across the country. Bark beetles love damaged timber, and they’re already in the dead and dying trees along Seven Streams. Look for little piles of shavings on the downed logs, and you’ve found a bark beetle home. Leave all those damaged trees on the ground (and standing dead, if the tops are broken off), and you’ll soon have bark beetles moving into surrounding healthy trees. We just can’t risk that happening. You’ve seen the dead forests in the news. We don’t want that here.
The next question we get is, “Well, why can’t the county leave a protected trail corridor? Don’t they realize the trail brings in money?” Yes, we assure you the county sees the tourism generated by the trail system. But remember, this is county land, and it’s a tree farm. A sustainable tree farm, but a tree farm that provides around 35% of county revenue. Back to the trail corridor question: each tree is worth $200-$500. If you were to leave a trail corridor with just one tree every 20 feet, and value that tree at $200, that would be a loss to the county coffers of $52,800 per mile of trail. And that’s just leaving one tree every 20 feet. A trail corridor would cost the county several hundred thousand dollars. It would take an awful lot of tourism to make up for that.
That’s one way to look at it. Here’s another, straight from the mouth of Doug Thiesies, your forest manager:
HRC has a sustainable tree farm with a fixed amount of acres. To be sustainable and even flow we have to measure what we grow/acre and then stay within that biological limit of growth. That sets our allowable cut (harvest rate), currently estimated at an average 9.5 million board feet/year.
However, it also assumes that the # of acres that you grow trees on remains the same. If you set aside a 100 foot buffer on every trail, with approximately 100 miles of recognized trails in the HRC Northwest Area you would effectively remove 2,424 Acres from production on paper. That’s about 24% of the NW area which is also much more productive in terms of tree growing capacity. In a practical sense it’s actually much more, even double, because you cut off access to adjacent ground, especially on steep cable ground.
So, it doesn’t take long on the set aside of acres before it takes a big chunk out of what you can produce on the forest. We already account for set asides for stream buffers and protected wildlife species to follow the forest practices act.
Another concern people have is that the trail runs near a stream, in what should be a protected riparian zone. Questions have been raised about the Riparian Management Area and whether that should protect the trail. The RMA requires a 50′ corridor on either side of a stream. The county forest manager, in order to help protect the trail, gave us a 60′ corridor on either side of the stream, at some cost to the county. On this count, he did more than he had to for us, and we thank him. As for the safety of the trail, it is inside this corridor at some places and outside at others, but it’s going to get torn up as they drag trees across it.
We’ve also fielded questions along the lines of, “Why don’t they have the loggers protect or rebuild the trail?” According to Ian Caldwell at Oregon State Parks, when loggers are required to protect or rebuild trails, it lowers the price of the timber sale. With no trail corridor (see above for reasons why), we’re looking at a rebuild as logs get dragged across the trail and machines drive over the tread. Rebuilding is expensive. Really expensive.
Why? Loggers contract out to professional trailbuilders (you really don’t want lumberjacks building your trails, do you?), who cost a ton of money. For example, the section of Seven Streams built by IMBA (from the Mobius entrance to the T intersection of Cardiac Hill) cost about $40,000. Loggers would factor that into their bid for the timber, costing the county money. And really, wouldn’t you rather rebuild your trails and make them better, and take ownership of them after logging happens? There’s more control, more flow and better riding if you’re involved!
Many people have expressed the concern that, “The county is just doing this for the money.” We assure you that isn’t the case. When damaged trees are harvested, or trees that aren’t full-grown, they don’t bring in top dollar. In the long run, this ice storm is costing the county and taxpayers a lot of money. And trust us, Hood River County isn’t rich, and they can’t seem to pass any sort of tax increase to raise more revenue.
Finally, we’d like to remind people that Hood River County, at significant cost, hired a local contractor to come in and clear the logs from Seven Streams so we could ride it for a few months before the start of logging operations.
Hopefully that answers most of the questions out there. Feel free to comment below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can with answers to any other questions.
If you’d like to learn more about how the trails are managed, we encourage you to come to the county trails meeting. The next is Tuesday, July 31st, at 4pm at 601 State in Hood River.
Disclaimer: This blog post does not reflect the views of Hood River County. It reflects the HRATS’ best understanding of county forest practices. Some of the information contained within may change upon editing by county forestry personnel. We’ll track those changes.