Klamath National Forest, California South Fork Project



Logging unit 53 of South Fork Project. Photo credit: Luke Ruediger

Why this forest is special

The Salmon River watershed is one of the most intact, remote landscapes in the Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion and harbors one of the most spectacular Wild and Scenic rivers in the country. It also contains important anadromous fish habitat, as well as the only remaining spring Chinook runs and the last completely wild salmon and steelhead runs in the Klamath River watershed.

South Fork Project

The project proposes logging 2,455 acres, including mature and old-growth trees. It’s directly upstream from the Klamath National Forest's Bear Country Project, which also targets old forest with industrial logging. The cumulative harm to the ecosystem from these projects would be severe. The South Fork Project area is extremely remote, highly biodiverse, and functions as an important wildlife connectivity corridor for old forest-dependent animals living between the Trinity Alps and Russian wilderness areas.

Carbon storage and biodiversity

The South Fork Project area encompasses large portions of the Carter Meadows Late-Successional Reserve. This is a vital wildlife corridor for imperiled Pacific martens and Pacific fishers, threatened northern spotted owls and pileated woodpeckers, who all depend on mature and old-growth forests for nesting, roosting and denning. Logging and road construction would increase sedimentation and damage fisheries in the Wild and Scenic South Fork Salmon River, critical for the near-extinct spring Chinook salmon and five other runs of wild salmon. Loggers would build 67 timber landings — cleared areas where logged trees are piled — and an expansive network of skid roads to move the trees, harming streams, fisheries, and the Carter Meadows and Eddy Gulch Late Successional Reserves, areas set aside to protect mature and old-growth trees. The project targets old forests, not plantation stands, disproportionately harming carbon storage and future carbon sequestration.

Why these trees should remain standing

The intensity and location of the proposed logging conflicts with the Forest Service’s claim that the project will promote forest health and habitat diversity and reduce wildfire risk. In many cases the project would have the opposite effect, degrading or removing the very forest conditions the Forest Service claims it wants to protect. These older forests, including large snags, downed wood and living trees, will take centuries to recover. Removing large trees and reducing overstory canopy opens the forest to more sunlight, hot, dry winds and higher temperatures, which can encourage growth of flammable shrubs and increase wildfire risk.

The future of mature and old-growth trees in Klamath National Forest

Agency timber planners have proposed three major sales in some of the last occupied northern spotted owl habitat in the Klamath Mountains. If the South Fork and Bear Country timber sales move forward, low-elevation mature and old-growth forest outside protected wilderness areas would be logged.

Project status

The Forest Service initiated scoping in 2020, but the project has recently been put on hold.

Local contact: Luke Ruediger, Klamath Forest Alliance. siskiyoucrest@gmail.com

The Worth More Standing report spotlights federal forest-management practices that are liquidating mature and old-growth forests and trees every day. It includes 10 examples that are part of a pervasive pattern of federal forest mismanagement that routinely sidesteps science to turn carbon-storing giants into lumber. Learn what actions you can take to protect Climate Forests across the country.