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Biscuit salvage draws two-city protest

By Paul Fattig
Mail Tribune
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Environmental activists plan major rallies in Medford and Portland today to demonstrate their opposition to the U.S. Forest Service’s records of decision for the Biscuit fire salvage scheduled to be released Wednesday.

A bus will transport activists from Eugene for the Medford rally at Alba Park, organizers said. Another will bring activists from Ashland, and a car caravan is expected from the Illinois Valley, they added.

In Portland, the rally starts at Tom McCall Waterfront Park near Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship before activists march to the Forest Service’s regional headquarters building.

Both events begin at noon.

In addition, organizers are staging a national telephone "call-in day" for activists to contact elected officials to ask them to stop the planned salvage.

"This is a call to action for Americans from coast to coast to protect the wild Siskiyous," Rolf Skar, campaign coordinator for the Siskiyou Regional Education Project based in the Illinois Valley, said Monday.

The Ashland-based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Greenpeace, an international environmental group, are also supporting the rallies.

Skar acknowledged that the Forest Service has made its decision concerning salvaging trees killed during the half-million-acre Biscuit fire on the Siskiyou National Forest in 2002.

But he said activists haven’t given up hope they can influence the plan.

"Most people do see legal action coming," he said of a potential last resort.

Although no Forest Service personnel were available on Monday, Scott Conroy, supervisor of both the Siskiyou and Rogue River forests, called the planned salvage a "very protective alternative" when he announced it early last month.

The selected alternative in the agency’s final environmental impact statement calls for salvaging 370 million board feet of fire-killed timber on about 19,400 acres. Those figures reflect a cut from the agency’s preferred alternative of 518 million board feet on 29,000 acres contained in its draft impact statement.

Conroy estimated the proposal would provide wood to build 24,000 moderately sized homes, creating up to 6,900 jobs and generating up to $240 million in income. About 100 million board feet could be harvested this summer and fall, he said.

"We are only proposing to harvest dead trees — no green trees," Conroy said. "And we are proposing to harvest on only 4 percent of the acreage (burned). On the flip side, that means 96 percent of the acreage will be left to recover naturally."

The agency’s Northwest regional forester has granted the project emergency status, which will allow logging to begin as soon as the timber is sold. Emergency status would not stop litigation, officials said.

In addition to the salvage, the agency has proposed to increase the 180,000-acre Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area in the Siskiyou forest by 64,000 acres. However, only Congress can create a wilderness area.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com

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