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

New review released on forest roads

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

Willamette National Forest officials have released a new environmental assessment of its plans to remove dead and fire-damaged trees from forest roads.

This is the second go-round on the project after a U.S. District Court injunction in November 2021 against an earlier USFS plan led officials to create the new environmental assessment. The earlier report was challenged by environmental organizations.

The draft decision notice, which was released Aug. 31, can be viewed at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/
?project=61749. The plan calls for removing fire-killed and damaged trees along about 250 miles of forest roads. The project covers 4,450 acres in Marion, Linn and Lane counties.

The Forest Service is working to pick up the pieces after the 2020 Beachie Creek, Lionshead and Holiday Farm fires burned 571,000 acres of state, private and federal land, including 176,000 acres in the Willamette National Forest. The fires killed five people and destroyed more than 1,500 structures in the Santiam Canyon, with Detroit and Gates suffering the greatest damage.

“The objective of the project,” wrote Duane Bishop, acting forest supervisor, “is to reduce the risks posed by fire-killed and injured trees that have fallen across or remain standing along important access routes of the 2020 fire-affected road system so that access to and through the burned area can be restored.”

Key risks to be managed include public and forest worker safety, the ability to use the roads, firefighter access to new fires, usability of potential evacuation routes, hazardous fuel loads, the functionality of roads as potential fire control lines and road infrastructure damage and failures.

The draft decision notice indicates that the USFS views the project to have “no significant impact” and thus merits approval and implementation.

Federal rules require a 45-day period in which those who have commented previously on the project can raise objections or provide other written testimony.

Comments only will be accepted from those who have previously submitted written testimony during earlier opportunities for public comment. Issues raised must be based on previously submitted comments regarding the proposed project or be based on new information.

Comments can be submitted by email to Willamette National Forest environmental coordinator [email protected] or posted to Willamette National Forest, 3106 Pierce Parkway Suite D, Springfield, OR, 97477.

Submitted comments must include 1) the person’s name, address and telephone number; 2) a signature or other verification of authorship, upon request; 3) the identification of a lead objector should multiple persons file the same objection; 4) the project’s name (2020 fire affected road system risk reduction project); 5) the reasons for or specific issues being raised related to the project and remedies that would resolve the objection and supporting reasons for the reviewing officer to consider; and 6) a description of the connection between previous written comments on the project and the content of the current objection.

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