Public meetings set for Middle Applegate Watershed project

Suggestions for design and implementation of the Middle Applegate Watershed Pilot Project will be taken during public meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Announced earlier this year, the project on U.S. Bureau of Land Management forestlands in the Applegate River drainage will cover about 80,000 acres of federal forestland.

"We're looking for input from people on which stands should be treated first as well as which stands shouldn't be treated at all," said Jim Whittington, spokesman for the BLM's Medford District.

"As long as suggestions are in accordance with the general principles of the project, we have some leeway on how it can be implemented."

Tuesday's meeting will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Applegate School near the community of Applegate while Wednesday's session will be from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Upper Applegate Grange hall south of Ruch.

Some 800 acres could be treated in terms of timber harvest during the forest restoration project, Whittington noted.

"But that's just an estimate at this point," he stressed. "Until Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin spend some more time on the ground out in the Applegate, we won't have a definite number."

He was referring to forest ecology professors Johnson of Oregon State University and Franklin of the University of Washington. The two scientists, along with environmental activists and timber industry representatives, joined in a collaborative effort to convince Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last year to launch the pilot project and a similar one in the BLM's Roseburg District.

Salazar agreed to the projects using the guiding principles developed by Johnson and Franklin. Basically, the principles call preserving trees older than 150 years and no entry into roadless areas. The project must also be consistent with the Northwest Forest Plan and the National Environmental Policy Act, officials said.

The local project will be in the mid-Applegate Valley on the BLM land and would include portions of watersheds in the Chapman and Keeler creek drainages.

The pilot project is intended to improve forest health and reduce catastrophic wildfires while producing timber harvests in the Applegate Valley. The BLM hopes to sell some timber from the project as early as September, officials said.

The BLM is working closely with the Southern Oregon Small Diameter Collaborative, Applegate Partnership and Watershed Council in designing and monitoring the project.

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