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

Forest Service offers maps of forest road work

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

The Willamette National Forest has developed an interactive story map that will allow Santiam Canyon residents and others to follow the progress of its forest roads work on the post-Labor Day wildfires landscape.

The Forest Service this spring will embark upon a massive project to remove damaged and fallen trees on 253 miles of forest roads. The fires, and the tree removals, will affect access and recreation patterns in the forest for years to come.

“The story map was created to increase understanding of the project’s purpose and implementation process,” said Elsa Gustavson, environmental coordinator for the Willamette National Forest at its main office in Springfield. 

“It is an effort to share information about the work planned and our progress getting it accomplished. Throughout the development of this project people expressed an interest in being updated on progress and this map provides that information. We hope that a broad audience finds the story map useful and people from many interest areas will benefit from the information.”

The maps will be continually updated, Gustavson said. One of the maps shows all closures in the Region. Another currently includes pre-project photos showing current conditions at locations within the project. “Those photo points will be updated with after images once work is complete at the location,” Gustavson said.  

“This allows people to see what the location looked like before and after the project,” Gustavson said. “This map will also be updated to show what areas of the project work are in progress and what has been completed once work begins this spring.”

Across the Willamette National Forest, the Labor Day fires affected 550 miles of National Forest System roads, as well as state highways. The roads provide access to private land holdings, communications sites, recreation sites, utilities, and for fire and forest management activities.

Here is a look at 2020 wildfire damage in the Elkhorn area. The U.S. Forest Service has added an online mapping feature that will show the upcoming tree felling and removals required by the fire damage. U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S. Forest Service
Here is a look at 2020 wildfire damage in the Elkhorn area. The U.S. Forest Service has added an online mapping feature that will show the upcoming tree felling and removals required by the fire damage.
U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S. Forest Service

A total of 571,435 acres of land were burned, including 176,000 acres in the Willamette National Forest and there are more than 1 million dead or injured trees that remain standing alongside or have fallen across forest system roads. These trees impede access and present hazards to forest users traveling along these routes, with risks increasing over time.

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 253 miles of road that are affected accounts for about 46 percent of the forest road system impacted by the fires. Trees will be felled and fuel removed on more than 4,000 acres of forest. Larger trees, those of 16 inches in diameter or larger, will not be removed on about a third of property involved.

Fallen trees and fuel will be removed within 100 feet of roads, with a sufficient amount of downed material left on the ground to control erosion, contribute to long-time soil productivity, provide micro-climate for recovering vegetation and to provide coarse woody debris for wildlife.

Possible uses for removed trees and limbs include: restoration projects as fish and wildlife habitat logs; firewood, timber or biomass products; gifts to tribes for cultural uses; lopping and scattering on the forest floor; chipped and left on-site or hauled off-site for other uses; and piling and burning.

During the review process for the forest service work, the Forest Service received objections from the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center, Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild and Willamette Riverkeepers regarding the Opal Creek area.

As a result, the 3.2 miles of Forest Service Road 2209 from the Opal Creek Wilderness Area trailhead gate to Jawbone Flats was removed from the list of roads to be treated. Once that decision was made the organizations agreed to withdraw their objections.

The project includes tracts in Marion, Linn and Lane counties.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

The story map is available to the public and can be viewed at https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/841b9854be5346638c3c34291913fe31. The maps include data that requires time to load so it may take a few minutes, please be patient. All links and resources related to the project are included in the story map. Any additional information about the project can be accessed directly at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=61749.

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