Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Mattole Oldgrowth Update

More than 2,000 acres of old-growth forest remain within Pacific Lumbers holdings on the North Fork of the Mattole River. Although some of the habitat has been destroyed or fragmented by the logging, there are still large, connected groves in Alwardt Creek, Sulpher Creek, Rodgers Creek and on the North Fork Mattole. This forest is home to rare, threatened, and endangered species such as the Pileated woodpecker, Golden Eagle, Spotted Owl and Pacific Fisher (a tree-dwelling mammal related to weasels and martens). The landscaped is dominated by ridges, steep valleys, and tall peaks. The area is blanketed by forest with large and small grasslands spread across it.

The region has many watercourses and slopes so steep that some areas are legally off limits. Right now PL is in the process of trying to change that. They are going through a "Watershed Analysis Process" for both the Mattole and Bear River. It is likely that during the "Analysis Process" they will push for the government to loosen restrictions so that they can log on steeper slopes and closer to streams. Many of the steep slopes are in riparian zones (areas along watercourses). They are often lush but geologically unstable gorges that are prone to landslides. The trees roots are often the only thing holding the slopes up. There are numerous year-round springs in this part of the Mattole. Massive trees can still be found in abundance around many of these moist areas. If Pacific Lumber can loosen the restrictions they will gain access to large areas old-growth in the Mattole.

In the beginning of fall it was discovered by volunteer surveyors that Pacific Lumber had used herbicides on hardwood trees that had been left standing after logging. After the large Douglas Fir trees were cut and removed with helicopters, the remaining hardwoods were poisoned with herbicides by a method aptly named "hack and squirt". A ring of holes is chopped into the bark around the trees trunk, and then an herbicide such as Garlon is applied.

In these areas the younger hardwoods were mostly dead with their leaves hanging or already fallen, the giant trees were still alive but were slowly succumbing to the poison. One of the Madrone trees measured at least eight feet wide. The leaves on branches that were over 100 ft. in the air were turning brown in clumps. There was an unusually thick layer of dead leaves on the ground.
The hot summer had dried out the dead tissue creating a massive fire hazard. The areas were later replanted with Douglas Fir and Redwoods, the latter of which do not normally grow there. This is a clear attempt to convert wild lands into tree farms.

A new timber harvest plan (THP) was filed on the Bear River watershed on the north end of Rainbow Ridge. This area is just over a small ridge from the Mattole watershed and proposes clearcutting in an oldgrowth grove in the Peaked Creek drainage. The grove is part of a habitat corridor between Bear River and the Mattole.

Updates on the Mattole region will continue to be posted.


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