The Facts About Flat Country

After organizing a kayak “flotilla” to protest the Willamette National Forest’s Flat Country project, anti-forestry activists continue to make false and misleading statements about the project. Here are the facts:

The Flat Country would implement roughly 950 acres of regeneration harvest as well as over 1,500 acres of thinning- not “the thousands of acres of clearcuts” protesters are claiming.

And the project’s Environmental Impact Statement does not indicate the Forest Service will harvest in any stands identified as “old growth.”

The regeneration component of the project will be implemented using a silvicultural tool known as a “shelterwood,” where a significant portion of the overstory trees (25 trees per acre) will be retained on site to provide a seed source for the new forest to be established.

The above photo was taken in an adjacent watershed to the Flat Country project and represents a shelterwood treatment implemented by the Forest Service in the past.  The photo also provides a visual idea of what portions of those 950 acres on the Flat Country project may likely look like following treatment. If implemented, the project will not only address the need for a sustainable supply of timber, it will also generate quality early seral forest habitat for wildlife as illustrated in the photograph.

It’s too bad we don’t see protests for the thousands of acres of old growth forests that are burning up and filling the Willamette Valley with smoke. To put the project in perspective:

  • According to the 2020 Willamette National Forest Rapid Assessment Team (RAT) Report, the Forest lost 45,220 acres of forest stands over the age of 80 to wildfire in the Labor Day Fires in 2020.  The Flat Country project footprint is 1.9% of the wildfire footprint.
  • We are losing many more trees to wildfire than logging. According to the Willamette’s 2016-2017 Biannual Monitoring Report, approximately 6% of the Willamette National Forest’s growth was harvested for wood products while approximately 26% of the Forest’s growth was lost to wildfire or natural mortality.
  • According to the Northwest Forest Plan 20-year monitoring report, 534,100 acres of Spotted Owl habitat (stands over 80 years old) were lost to wildfire, insects and disease.  Managing our forests through projects like Flat Country is consistent with the Biden Administration’s focus on wildfire as the greatest threat to our national forests, and old growth.

Anti-forestry protesters are simply wrong to cite climate change as a reason to stop this project. In fact, Flat Country represents a solution to climate change That’s because projects like Flat Country help mitigate climate change impacts by managing our dangerously overstocked federal forests, which are choked with abundant hazardous fuels as wildfire seasons become longer.

The project also implements long-rotation forestry, where carbon that is locked up in larger trees can be harvested and stored in long-lived wood products. If Flat County is not implemented, larger trees in the project area will eventually decay, emit carbon and fuel future carbon-emitting wildfires.

As Congressman Kurt Schrader wrote in his Oregonian opinion on the Flat Country project:

“At a time when lumber and homes are in short supply and high inflation persists, we should embrace an opportunity to manage our overstocked forests more sustainably for all of us, while providing climate-friendly building materials that store carbon for a lifetime.

 It is time to move past the timber fights of the 1980s and adopt a 21st century approach that is sustainable, mitigates wildfires and supports rural Oregon jobs. Flat Country achieves these objectives.

 Let’s move forward together and stand up for science and our land stewards – not extremist groups who benefit from never-ending conflict.