News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

US Forest Service pulls back from logging plan

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

By James Day

The United States Forest Service has scrapped a plan that would have led to logging dead and damaged trees on 400 miles of forest roads in areas of the Willamette National Forest damaged by the Beachie Creek, Lionshead and Holiday Farm fires

The decision by Forest Supervisor Dave Warnack essentially restarts a process that already had resulted in litigation. Federal judge Michael McShane had issued a preliminary injunction against the proposal in November after a lawsuit filed by Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, Willamette Riverkeeper and Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics.

“I have decided it is in the best interest of the public to limit the continued time and expense associated with ongoing litigation surrounding this project,” said Warnack in a statement released Jan. 12. “Our work to safely restore public access to areas burned in the 2020 Labor Day fires continues to be top priority. 

“Upon withdrawal of this decision, my staff will conduct another review of the purpose and need of this project and will consider a new approach to addressing this important issue. We will re-engage with community partners and other interested parties toward solutions and opportunities to facilitate safely reopening fire-affected areas.” 

The purpose of the project, Forest Service officials said, was to provide for access and improved safety along forest system roads within the fire-burned areas and reopen these roads as quickly as possible for public and administrative use. 

These areas, including popular recreation spots such as Opal Creek, Breitenbush and the Mount Jefferson Wilderness, likely will remain closed to the public while the legal process unfolds. 

Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands, issued the following statement via email when asked to comment on the Forest Service decision.

“The fact that the Forest Service is now pulling this decision proves that this project was never about removing potentially dangerous dead trees along roads,” Cady wrote. “Public safety was a pretense the Forest Service disingenuously used to close vast areas of our public forests while it attempted to commercially log roughly 20,000 acres throughout some of our most scenic and treasured areas.

“The Forest Service should prioritize targeting any fire-killed imminent danger trees along travel routes and then open up our public lands for enjoyment. No other National Forest responds to burns with massive public closures. 

“The Forest Service is holding our use and enjoyment of public forests hostage in an attempt to secure blanket authorization for commercial logging.”

Forest Service officials said the public will have the opportunity to participate in future planning for the fire-affected regions before any new decision is made. To learn more about the project go to https://go.usa.gov/xt2w9/. Review frequently asked questions and other danger tree resources at ;

The Forest Service action is the third in recent weeks that serves to slow down the process of logging in areas burned by the Labor Day wildfires. In addition to Judge McShane’s November ruling, federal Judge Ann Aiken ruled Dec. 27 that the Forest Service had to stop logging in a tract in the Breitenbush area and one in the McKenzie River watershed pending resolution of lawsuits by environmental advocates.  

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