Work begins in Upper Applegate Watershed project

Jun 9, 2021Uncategorized

The Upper Applegate Watershed (UAW) Restoration Project is located on the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and the Ashland Resource Area, Medford District, Bureau of Land Management.

The planning process for the 52,000-acre Upper Applegate watershed was a unique collaborative approach between stakeholders and federal agencies that incorporates an all-lands approach to address landscape resilience to disturbance and climate change. Now, in cooperation with the Rogue Forest Partners, the Forest Service is pleased to announce the beginning of the implementation phase for the UAW project.

“It is very exciting to move into the implementation phase of the UAW project! This important forest restoration work in the Applegate Adaptive Management Area has been envisioned by the community for decades. The Forest Service could not have secured funding to implement this project without the help of the Rogue Forest Partners,” said Siskiyou Mountains District Ranger Donna Mickley.

Lomakatsi Restoration started implementation work on Monday, June 7. This will include surface and ladder fuels treatments along Beaver Creek for a total of 273 acres. The goal is to complete as much cutting and piling as possible before fire season shutdown. Crews will be piling as they progress in order to minimize the amount of slash left on the ground in the event they are shut down due to fire restrictions or to fight fire.

“As the lead implementation partner, Lomakatsi’s forestry team has been laying out the restorative prescriptions for UAW and we’ve been looking forward to our crews hitting the ground with ecological thinning,” said Lomakatsi Restoration Project Program Director Shane Jimerfield. “Working under a Master Stewardship Agreement with the Forest Service, Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative, and The Nature Conservancy, this project is a win-win for forest health and communities as we improve wildlife habitat, reduce wildfire risk, and support equitable jobs in the woods.”

The project is located within the Applegate Adaptive Management Area (AMA) as designated by the Northwest Forest Plan. Areas under this designation are encouraged to use collaboration and forward-thinking processes during project planning to improve the capacity for local community problem-solving across boundaries; to use resources efficiently; to share knowledge freely and effectively; and to use adaptive management principles of testing, monitoring, and learning, and share this learning with all partners.

Although the analysis in the UAW Environmental Analysis evaluated effects on lands administered by the BLM and Forest Service, the Decision Notice, signed in August of 2020, is for activities only on Forest Service managed lands.

A critical concern addressed in this and previous planning efforts is to protect communities at risk from wildland fire. The UAW project addresses this risk while considering the need to sustain ecological processes and provide a diversity of benefits, with a focus on ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are the many and varied benefits to humans provided by the natural environment and from healthy ecosystems.

Multiple community workshops were held to provide the opportunity for early and continuous public engagement. The public engagement process emphasized information exchange to increase understanding about connections between human benefits and ecosystems while encouraging dialogue among stakeholders and the Forest Service.

“This is a project that had significant community participation in developing. The Rogue Forest Partners are looking forward to field trips, discussion and review of the work,” said Terry Fairbanks, Executive Director of the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative.

The Rogue Forest Partners (RFP) are a group of four nonprofits and six public agencies working as one for the forests and communities of the Rogue Basin. The partnership plans, funds, and collaborates to implement forest restoration projects across both public and private land. In 2020, RFP launched the Rogue Forest Restoration Initiative, funded by a $6 million award from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and additional partner co-investment of approximately $4 million.

Over the next five years, this initiative will accomplish forest restoration and ecological fuels reduction on over 6,000 acres across six strategic sites in Oregon’s Applegate and Illinois Valleys. This work helps accomplish the restoration goals set forth in the Rogue Basin Cohesive Forest Restoration Strategy, a collaborative science-based blueprint for building resilient landscapes and fire-adapted communities.

RFP’s restoration work first hit the ground earlier this year, when Lomakatsi crews accomplished approximately 275 acres of ecological thinning in the Williams project area, on private and Bureau of Land Management lands. In the fall or winter, slash from the Williams operations—which is too small to be commercially viable—will be removed using controlled pile burns.