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Commissioners critical of federal pine beetle plan

About 340,000 acres of forest and private land are infected

by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 9/19/08

   As a mountain pine beetle infestation devastates portions of the Fremont-Winema National Forests, federal forest officials say they are working to address the problem.
   Proposed projects on more than 40,000 acres of affected land, protective measures for forest roads and meetings with potential partners for future efforts were among the points discussed at Tuesday’s meeting of the Klamath County Board of Commissioners.
   But commissioners were less than pleased and criticized the federal government’s lack of concern for federal forests in Klamath and Lake counties.
   “ The wind is coming and we’ve got an eye dropper,” said Commissioner Al Switzer.
   About 340,000 acres of the Fremont-Winema and private lands in the region are infected with the insect, which primarily attacks lodgepole pine. The infestation has left as many as 50 or more trees dead per acre in the areas around Campbell and Deadhorse lakes and the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness.
   Worse outbreaks
   Entomologist Andrew Eglitis said the state has seen worse outbreaks as recently as the mid-1980s, and the infestation is driven by the presence of overstocked stands close to 100 years in age.
   The severity of the problem is making it easier for other tree species to be impacted. Mike Haddock of the Paisley Ranger District described the increased fire danger caused by the buildup of fuels from dead trees and denser forest undergrowth.
   Paisley District ranger Barbara Machado highlighted the federal agency’s efforts to address the infestation by conducting salvage harvests, fuels reduction and other projects.
Critical of management
   Comm issioners were critical of the forest’s management. Switzer slammed the federal government from shortchanging forest management by shifting funds to firefighting costs as well as groups who challenge timber sales and other efforts in court.
   The loss of federal timber payments will lead to further budgetary problems. Commissioner John Elliott called on the federal government to cede the forest to the state if it can’t maintain it. Commissioner Bill Brown was critical of the agency waiting so long after the trees die to salvage their timber.
   “It just doesn’t make any sense to wait for loss of economic value,” he said.
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