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Maintaining Recreation Sites and Protecting the Watershed posted on 11/02/2014
A concerted effort is underway to shift the focus of land management in Mt. Hood National Forest (MHNF) from logging to watershed health, wildlife habitat and recreation.

The tip of the effort’s spear is Russ Plaeger, program director at Bark, of Portland.

Plaeger pointed out in an Oct. 22 letter to Lisa Northrop, forest supervisor for MHNF, that the most damaging activities in the forest are silent and subtle: the vast network of crumbling roads slowly leaking sediment into streams.

“Roads in the forest are a key topic in the letter,” Plaeger wrote in an email to The Mountain Times. “They’re important to people who want to access recreation sites. But unfortunately, this year, the Forest Service only had funding to maintain 15.8 percent of its approximately 3,000-mile road system in Mount Hood. That means that some roads to popular trailheads are in bad shape. With a deferred maintenance backlog of just under $52 million, things aren’t going to get better anytime soon.”

With this in mind, Plaeger urged the Forest Service to quit wasting money rebuilding old logging roads. He pointed to the $229,000 spent rebuilding previously decommissioned logging roads for the Jazz Timber Sale
The rebuilding of old logging roads also damages watershed restoration efforts that Plaeger managed as a member of the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council, prior to his position at Bark.

“We advocate that the Forest Service invest in fixing neglected roads that lead to campgrounds and trailheads, repairing trails forest-wide, and removing – instead of maintaining – unneeded, ecologically harmful roads,” Plaeger wrote in his letter.

The letter went on to urge a shift in priorities that: 1) substantially invest in recreation infrastructure; 2) significantly involve the public to create a Travel Analysis Process that right-sizes the Forest Service road system; 3) commit to increase road decommissioning efforts to improve watershed health and wildlife habitat; and 4) do not rebuild decommissioned roads.

To that end District Ranger Bill Westbrook is hosting a public open house from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 6, at the Zigzag Ranger Station.

Letter signers
Plaeger’s letter to MHNF was co-signed by numerous organizations and individuals throughout the country, including the following members of the Mountain community:
Christy Slovacek, owner of a music studio in Zigzag;
Tom and Sonya Butler, owners of Mountain Sports in Welches;
Don Mench, chairman of Mt. Hood Stewardship Council in Zigzag;
Amber Spears, owner of Sissy Mama’s Bistro in Welches;
Tracie Anderson and Tom Baker, owners of Skyway Bar & Grill in Zigzag;
Hidee and Ryan Cummings, owners of Wraptitude Restaurant inWemme; and
Brenda Taylor, owner of Zig Zag Zen Chiropractic & Yoga Studio inWelches.

by Larry Berteau/MT
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