We, as the private landowners and permittees affected by the “fish habitat restoration” work on the East Fork of Beech Creek disagree with the propaganda article that was published in the Aug. 9 Blue Mountain Eagle. The article misrepresented our involvement in the second paragraph. We didn’t partner on this project! We openly expressed to the forest supervisor, district ranger, the range and aquatic staff that we were not in favor of the large woody-coarse woody debris projects until we had proof that it actually benefited steelhead recovery.
The double standards associated with this project are appalling, and certainly not mentioned in this article. The permitted cattle for this critical habitat were not allowed to graze it in 2017 because the Malheur National Forest staff didn’t do their job of completing consultation with National Marine Fisheries Service prior to May 15. They knew that deadline for five years and couldn’t meet it; yet the same consultation for this project was completed ahead of schedule. This certainly makes sense to the Forest Service: to stop a beneficial activity (grazing), which provides an economic benefit to the local community, and allow a destruction project to be completed by an out-of-county contractor.
The logging for this project should offend everyone with an ounce of common sense. Pushing large trees over with an excavator and dragging them by their tops in an effort to de-limb them is equivalent to plowing, and all done within a stone’s throw of critical habitat. Why didn’t they just dump dirt in the creek with a dump truck; the vegetation and fences would still be standing instead of torn out by excavators. There isn’t a logging operation anywhere that could get away with these practices.
The fish habitat in the East Fork Beech Creek had improved greatly with the improved grazing management, and we have before-project photos to document the shading, gravel deposits, meanders and braiding, woody debris, log jams and beaver that were already present. If it isn’t broken, throw money at it. Taxpayer money was wasted on destroying this habitat recovery because the biologists believe recovery will be faster.
We are in favor of recovering steelhead and in water storage in the basin, but placing log jams in areas where there is no potential for floodplain storage is ludicrous (see first log jam on Magone Lake Road upstream from junction with Highway 395). Alder trees were mowed down by track vehicles, banks were exposed, stream sediment delivery is far greater than anything a massive herd of cows could do and, incidentally, permittees have exceeded grazing standards when there are more than 60 hoof prints on the greenline in 110 meters in a designated monitoring area. Clogging small streams with coarse woody material prevents fish passage for fry that need to migrate to rearing habitat upstream in late season (see Malheur National Forest 2016 Year End Grazing Report, pg. 266: “It is acknowledged that the limiting factor for MCR Steelhead in the John Day Basin is oversummer rearing habitat, not spawning habitat availability or success.”).
There were a lot of “mays” and “ifs” in the article that guarantee nothing regarding recovery. East Fork Beech Creek is a flash system, and this wood is going to move; the question is where will it stop. The taxpayers paid for putting it in the creek and will probably pay for cleaning up the real mess later.
Ken and Cici Brooks own the CS (Sproul) Ranch just west of Mt. Vernon, which has three Forest Service grazing permits, the Mt. Vernon, the John Day and the Beech Creek On-Off permits, and the Brooks Ranch in Fox Valley, which has the Fox permit. They have private land interspersed in these permits. Ken is the third-generation permittee, and Cici is a retired range conservationist from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.