Logging unit 1300, adjacent to red tree vole habitat. Photo credit: Andrew Kumler, Cascadia Wildlands volunteer.
Why this forest is special
Locals call this part of Oregon’s western Cascades “flat country” to describe the part of the Willamette National Forest that extends from Scott Mountain to the upper reaches of the McKenzie River. Moss-covered Douglas firs and western hemlocks grow to more than 200 feet tall and 5 to 6 feet wide. Delicate vine maple and Pacific rhododendron combine in the understory to make these forests as magical as they are important. Almost 20 years ago, the Forest Service largely stopped logging older forests in western Oregon and western Washington following massive public outcry over decades of clearcutting these incomparable cathedral forests. However, 1 million acres of mature and old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest are not protected from federal logging. The Flat Country project is set to destroy a large swath of these irreplaceable forests.
Flat Country Timber Sale
This timber sale will aggressively log 2,000 acres of older forests in the McKenzie River headwaters, which provide fresh drinking water to hundreds of thousands of residents in the Willamette Valley. Several types of logging will be used, including clearcutting about 1,000 acres of mature and old-growth Douglas fir and western hemlock stands up to 170 years old.
Carbon and biodiversity
The western Cascades produces some of the world’s oldest, largest carbon-storing champions. Among tree species, Douglas fir is a marathon runner rather than a sprinter and at 80 years it’s just begun to hit its stride. The trees will keep growing for centuries, accumulating massive amounts of captured atmospheric carbon in biomass. Snags and downed logs add significantly to carbon storage because of their slow rate of decay, helping combat climate change and providing critical wildlife habitat. Olallie and Anderson creeks provide critical habitat for endangered bull trout and other aquatic species. The Forest Service admits this project will destroy and degrade habitat essential for threatened northern spotted owls, red tree voles, pileated woodpeckers, martens and goshawks.
Why these trees should remain standing
The Forest Service claims the Flat Country project is needed to "provide a sustainable supply of timber products” and to “improve stand conditions.” Yet private timber lands in Oregon are prolific producers of lumber, making Oregon the top softwood lumber producer in the country. The Forest Service’s claim that mature forests are “overstocked” are based on tree density measures developed for managing industrial wood production plantations, which is an inappropriate measure for natural forests. The planning documents said some “legacy” trees will be protected, but clearcutting everything except the largest trees is still a harmful clearcut.
The future of mature and old-growth trees in Willamette National Forest
The groundbreaking 1994 Pacific Northwest Forest Plan protected mature and old-growth forests and trees 80 years and older from logging. However, the plan left 1 million acres of late successional forests open to logging. The Flat Country project is an attack on some of the last remaining mature and old-growth forests in the western Cascades. These trees are at grave risk unless there’s a federal policy to permanently protect them.
How you can help
Sign our targeted letter to Secretary Vilsack and Secretary Haaland to call for durable protections for mature and old-growth forests on federal lands.
Submit Letters to the Editor about this project to your local newspaper.
Send emails and make phone calls to the Pacific Northwest regional Forest Service office to oppose the Flat Country logging project.
The Forest Service issued a final environmental impact statement in March, 2022. Conservation organizations plan to sue if the proposed project proceeds. To date no trees have been sold.
Local contact: Madeline Cowen, Cascadia Wildlands, firstname.lastname@example.org