Fuel reduction activities proposed in the 47,621 acre treatment area represents the federal component of the collaborative East Face of the Elkhorn Mountains Partnership. Activities focus on fuel reduction treatments to accomplish the goals of the Cohesive Wildfire Strategy (CWS) on USFS and BLM lands and complement the fuel reduction activities which have occurred or are planned on adjacent State and private lands.
“The proposed action was developed to embody the ‘All Hands, All Lands’ goals established under the Joint Chiefs Restoration Initiative,” says District Ranger Bill Gamble. Doing so will reduce the threat of wildfire and its impact to the watersheds that contribute to the irrigation needs of local farmers, and create areas of reduced fuel loadings near the municipal water supply for La Grande. It will also protect key habitat for federally-threatened bull trout that occupy streams in this area.
Potential treatments include commercial and non-commercial harvest to meet fuel reduction objectives, precommercial thinning with machines and by hand, prescribed fire, hand piling and burning to manage and improve vegetation and treat fuels within wildland urban interface areas and along private/public land interfaces.
Post project road management is also an important part of this proposal. The area encompasses two green dot closure areas (Indian-Gorham and Clear Creek) and due to the presence of unroaded and backcountry recreation areas has a low current open road density. Nearly 65% of the 366 miles of roads within the project area are already closed with many of them grown in over the years due to non-use. These roads were put into storage many years ago after past harvest and historic fire suppression activities. Approximately 105 miles of currently closed road would be re-opened to facilitate logging systems to remove fuels within the project area.
One dead end, draw bottom road has been identified as a water quality issue and will be closed for that reason. All other presently open roads are proposed to remain open at the conclusion of the project. In addition to those open roads, several currently closed roads which are not creating any resource problems in an area with very low current open roads densities are also being recommend to remain open. A number of currently closed roads averaging less than a half mile in length were also identified as either no longer needed for resource management or duplicate access to areas which are being recommended for removal from the landscape and returned to growing trees.
Comments will be considered and used to identify issues associated with the proposal and develop alternatives that are responsive to the identified issues. It is anticipated that the decision document will be signed in the spring of 2016.
Written comments should be addressed to Bill Gamble, District Ranger, La Grande Ranger District, 3502 Highway 30, La Grande, OR, 97850 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org . For more information, contact Gamble at (541) 962-8582.