McKenzie River Trail gets a makeover
A wind storm along the McKenzie River Trail led to "salvage" logging this summer.
Wind storms come and wind storms go. But after a big one in the winter of 2007, a popular stretch of the McKenzie River Trail, just upstream of Trail Bridge Reservoir and on the way to Tamolitch Pool, was covered in down trees stacked several high in places. I scrambled over the mess early last spring, enjoying the fresh smell of splintered wood and green boughs, and seeing the benefits all this wood could have in the river and for soil and wildlife.
Of course the trees needed to be cut off the trail so that hikers and mountain bikers could use it - it IS a National Recreation Trail. But once that was done last summer, the wind storm should have been a thing of the past, the trees left to naturally provide shade and moisture on the forest floor and fish habitat in the river.
Unfortunately, it wasn't. The Forest Service proposed to "salvage" log many of the blown-down trees near the trail, while promising to stay away from the river and to leave plenty of down wood to meet the needs of critters and old-growth structure.
Oregon Wild objected to the unnecessary and damaging proposal and sent an alert to our supporters. Hundreds of McKenzie-lovers also objected, but the project moved forward and the logging was done last month.
A few weeks ago, after the logging was completed, I visited the area and found my fears confirmed: damaged trees and soil, and an ugly mess near one of my favorite trail heads. Granted, any logging (even the type of plantation thinning we support) looks kind of bad when it's freshly done - and I can live with that in some circumstances. But when a project seems unnecessary to begin with, and impacts so many people who use and enjoy a place for it's ancient trees, wildflowers, and world-class trail, this damage makes me feel a little sick.
While I am working hard to promote responsible restoration-based management in the forests of the McKenzie (Willamette National Forest), I also have to push back on projects like this that cut and remove big old trees from healthy forests just because it's allowed. Hopefully someday I can do more of the first and less of the latter.