Biodiversity & Connectivity
The Mungers Wildlands are located in the heart of the Siskiyou Mountains in Southwestern Oregon. The region is renowned for its botanical diversity and habitat connectivity and the Mungers Wildlands are no exception.
The Mungers Wildlands connect the Grayback Range, a northern extension of the Siskiyou Crest, the Red Buttes Wilderness, the Kangaroo Inventoried Roadless Area, and the Oregon Caves National Monument to the vast Kalmiopsis Wildlands, the Wild Rogue Wilderness and the Zane Grey Roadless Area along the Wild and Scenic Rogue River.
Numerous scientific studies have documented the areas unique and regionally important connectivity values (Strittholt and Noss. 1995., Belote. 2017., McGuire et.al. 2016., McRae et.al. 2016., Buttrick et.al. 2015. Western Governors Association. 2010. Hannah et al. 2012., Noss et al. 1999. USDI. 2015. Carrol and Johnson. 2008., and USDI. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2016.). The large block Late Successional Reserve (LSR) designated in the area was also identified as an important habitat linkage between the eastern and western Siskiyou Mountains. Numerous studies have documented the importance of this area as a dispersal corridor for old forest obligates like the northern spotted owl and the Pacific fisher (cite).
The area also supports highly complex geologic influences, unusual serpentine soils, lush Pacific Northwest forest habitats, diversified conifer forests, rare conifer species, disjunct plant populations and unique or endemic plant species.
Both the biodiversity and connectivity values of the region are currently threatened by the BLM’s Late Mungers Timber Sale which proposes heavy commercial logging, dramatic canopy reduction, group selection logging, forest fragmentation, the removal of large, old trees and the simplification of native forest habitats.
Late Successional Reserves
The LSR network was designed to restore a functional, interactive, late-successional and old-growth forest ecosystem over time. Management of LSR forest must be ecologically driven, rather than economically motivated and must encourage the development of late successional or old-growth habitat conditions.
Late Successional Reserve forest was designated throughout public forest lands and in the range of the northern spotted owl, with each unit being designated to meet strategic objectives and maintain viable northern spotted owl populations.
Unfortunately, in the 2016 RMP, the BLM set decadal timber targets for LSR forest, putting pressure on intact, old forest habitat within the LSR network. The agency is proposing to implement those timber targets with the Integrated Vegetation Management for Resilient Lands Project (IVM Project). If approved, this project would allow up to 25,000 acres of commercial logging and 90 miles of new road construction over a ten year period in Late Successional Reserve forest, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, and other conservation based land use designations.
The a large block LSR surrounding Mungers Butte was designated to enhance and maintain habitat and connectivity values for the northern spotted owl. The Late Mungers Timber Sale proposes under the direction of the still unapproved IVM Project includes heavy commercial logging, dramatic canopy reduction, large tree removal, group selection logging and other forms of industrial logging that will degrade rather than enhance habitat and connectivity values for the northern spotted owl. The Late Mungers Timber Sale is incompatible with the goals, objectives and management direction for LSR forest and should be withdrawn.
The Applegate River sustains one-third of all coho spawning habitat in the Rogue River basin and the most productive stream in the Applegate River basin is Williams Creek. Unfortunately, salmon production on Williams Creek is limited by low summer flows and high water temperatures. Significant road densities, heavy commercial logging and irrigation withdrawals have also dramatically impacted habitat conditions for anadromous fisheries.
Rather than restore habitat conditions in Williams Creek, the BLM is proposing to log off some of the areas last contiguous old forest habitats at the headwaters of Palmer Creek and in the Mungers Creek watershed. These streams provide vital cold water refugia and late summer flows into the Williams Creek watershed for the benefit of Applegate River fisheries. Mungers Creek in particular has the highest potential for fish production in the Williams Creek watershed and should be managed for late successional forest habitat and to benefit fisheries in the Applegate River basin.
The Late Mungers Timber Sale proposes heavy commercial logging and potential road construction. These activities will impact the water quality and anadromous fisheries of the Applegate River watershed. We ask the BLM to protect our wild salmon and withdraw the Late Mungers Timber Sale.
Late successional, closed canopy forests in the region often suppress understory vegetation, limiting potential fuel loading and increasing fire resilience. These old forests are the most fire resistant habitats in our region and play a disproportionate role in moderating fire severity through the development of highly fire resistant characteristics such as high canopies, old, fire resistant trees and diverse structural conditions. Unfortunately both the Late Mungers Timber Sale and IVM Project target these forests with heavy commercial logging and dramatic canopy reductions.
In SW Oregon when forest canopies are cleared, woody shrubs and flammable young trees will undoubtedly regenerate in the new canopy gaps. By removing large trees and drastically opening forest canopies, fire resistance will be reduced, fuel loading will increase, and stands will become more dry, windy and vulnerable to fast moving, high severity wildfires.
Ironically, under group selection logging prescriptions, if thickets of vegetation do not regenerate in the patchwork of newly created clearcuts, the BLM will replant them at a density of 150 trees per acre. According to environmental analysis in two recent BLM timber sales, similar prescriptions were documented to, “…exhibit higher flame lengths, rates of spread and fire intensity. Fires started within these stands could be difficult to initially attack and control. For five to 20 years following planting, the overall fire hazard would increase in these stands” (Clean Slate EA P. 192, Griffin Halfmoon EA P. C-17).
Recent scientific research has also confirmed these findings by demonstrating that young, heavily managed stands tend to burn at higher severity than unmanaged forests and late successional stands (Zald. 2018., Harma. 2003., Odion. 2004., Weatherspoon & Skinner. 1995., Bradley. 2016.).
Although the Medford District BLM’s 2016 Resource Management Plan requires the agency to implement activities that will reduce fire risks, the IVM Project and the Late Mungers Timber Sale will target these fire resistant old forests with heavy commercial logging and remove much of their natural resistance to fire. This in turn will increase fire risks adjacent to the communities of Selma, Murphy, Williams and the Applegate Valley.
Recent research conducted at Oregon State University demonstrates that the timber industry is the largest source of carbon pollution in the state of Oregon (Law. 2018.). Yet in recent years, the BLM has attempted to increase timber production rather than sequester carbon in large, old trees and forests.
The Late Mungers Timber Sale will diminish the capacity of local forests to sequester carbon from the atmosphere by removing large, old trees and reducing forest cover. Logging these stands will also make them drier, more exposed micro-climates with increased susceptibility to bark beetle outbreaks, high severity fires and drought stress. The forests of southwestern Oregon and the Siskiyou Mountains are significant carbon sinks and climate refugia. These important climate resilience values will be degraded by group selection and heavy commercial logging in the Late Mungers Timber Sale.
Intact conifer forests support climate resilience and are part of the climate solution. They should be protected, not clearcut on federal lands. Protect Mungers Wildlands. Stop the Late Mungers Timber Sale!