Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

Klamath man recalls the spotted owl's ‘heyday' 

H&N photo by Todd E. Swenson
Brent Frazier, 59, recalls his days working for the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service for the Fremont-Winema National Forests.

March 19, 2007, Steve Kadel, Herald and News

Nothing symbolized Brent Frazier's 18-year career with the Fremont-Winema National Forests more than the spotted owl.

It was the most publicized species protected under the Northwest Forest Plan. That meant a huge decline in timber harvest during Frazier's 18 years as a wildlife program manager for the Fremont-Winema.

Frazier, recently retired from the Forest Service, said the Fremont's annual cut dropped from 60 million board feet a year to about 17 million during what he calls the “heyday” of the owl.

There were other critters protected by the forest plan, too. Invertebrates and even fungi were considered before offering timber sales on federal land.

“There were many species, but the spotted own was the surrogate,” Frazier said.

Timber managers had to know which species existed in the proposed sale area, and how logging would affect their survival.

“You're literally crawling on the forest floor looking for things,” he said.

The process added “a tremendous amount of expense” to timber sales, Frazier said.

Often the price was too steep for many timber firms to pay, and sales weren't executed. Forest managers were challenged simply to find a process for determining how many of a particular species existed.

“How do you survey for the slug?” Frazier said.


Financial hardship

He can chuckle about it now, but the spotted owl days were grimly serious in the 1980s and ‘90s when entire communities - particularly on Oregon's west side - depended on high harvest levels for economic survival.

However, it wasn't a new experience for Frazier.

“When I started with the BLM it was bald eagles,” he said of his work in northern Idaho.

He developed winter range management plans for elk in that job. When a reduction in staffing was imminent, he moved to Pendleton as planning biologist with the Umatilla National Forest.

His next step was to the North Fork John Day Ranger District, where he was a jack of all trades, managing soils, water and fisheries. Frazier spent five years there before moving to Klamath Falls in 1989.

“When I got here, the Fremont-Winema was just finishing its forest plan,” he said.

That document guides all aspects of forest use, usually with a lifespan of about 15 years. A new Fremont-Winema plan was due to begin two years ago, but Frazier said lack of funding has prevented it from starting.

Outdoor science school

Frazier was drawn to the outdoors as a child, participating in Boy Scout camping trips and other adventures. Wildlife management became his career choice in college when he realized he lacked ability for his initial goal of becoming a physicist.

He now holds bachelor's and master's degrees in biology from Portland State University.

In semi-retirement, Frazier has become executive director of the Klamath Outdoor Science School. It provides hands-on science training for fourth- through sixth-graders, with students camping for three day instruction periods in yurts on Sun Pass State Forest 45 miles north of Klamath Falls.

Frazier said there is an almost unlimited supply of local volunteers to help the staff of four teachers.

“In the Basin we probably have more wildlife and fisheries biologists than anywhere,” he said.

Home Contact


              Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

             Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2007, All Rights Reserved