Forest planner Lori Bailey told the Grant County Court Nov. 8 that the project was proposed by the Harney County Restoration Collaborative because of widespread and high levels of ponderosa pine mortality.
Bailey said a pine butterfly epidemic caused defoliation in 2010-2012. This was followed by drought in 2012-2015 and then large populations of western and mountain pine beetles.
Hazardous trees within about 200 feet of roads and outside of designated old growth areas, research natural areas, inventoried roadless areas, riparian habitat conservation areas, heritage sites and sensitive plant sites would be included in the project area, which totals about 30,000 acres, Bailey said.
The project is too large for categorical exclusion, so an environmental assessment will be completed. The draft EA could come out in May 2018, which would start the public comment period.
The annual project could last five to 10 years, and work could start next spring, Bailey said. The timber could be made available for commercial or firewood sales, but no board-feet calculations have been completed, she said.
Bailey noted that according to Forest Service regulations, safety takes precedence over biology, so the agency will drop danger trees or close the roads.
“But we won’t close the roads,” she noted.