Take Action: Clackamas Fires Roadside Danger Tree Assessment Comment Opportunity
The Clackamas River, one of the most important paddling resources for the Pacific Northwest, remains closed several months after wildfires that occurred in September 2020.
Currently the Forest Service is in the process of developing an Environmental Assessment to evaluate the status of National Forest System roads and danger trees within the areas affected by the 2020 wildfires, which include the Riverside, Lionshead, and Bull Complex Fires. The agency is soliciting public input through February 6, 2022 and we encourage the paddling community to provide comment.
The Forest Service has kept the Clackamas River corridor and surrounding lands closed based on an assessment that the area has an abundance of burned trees that are falling and likely to continue to fall from decay and storm events. In the view of Forest Service staff, these burned trees represent a dangerous condition for the public.
The Forest is specifically considering the following actions:
* Close approximately 27 miles of low-use roads.
* Decommission approximately 9.4 miles of potentially unneeded roads.
* Cut danger trees along approximately 200 miles of open roads.
While the specific actions being analyzed are separate from the ongoing work by Oregon Department of Transportation to address the extended closure of Oregon State Highway 224, the issues are related.
American Whitewater has had several conversations with Forest Service staff to express concerns with the lack of a clear timeline or process for reestablishing access to the Clackamas River corridor.
In our comments we state the following:
The fact that danger tree removal has not been completed on all Forest Service roads that intersect with Highway 224 should not be a reason for the Mt. Hood National Forest to continue to keep National Forests lands along the Clackamas River closed. The re-opening of the Clackamas River corridor’s public land and waters is not dependent upon danger tree removal on Forest Service roads being analyzed in this project or that have been previously analyzed in the 2021 post-fire roads projects already authorized.
The Forest Service has already identified all fire-impacted roads and it should now reduce its closure order to focus only on the roads and developed recreation sites which still contain fire-related hazards while re-opening all other National Forest lands and treated developed recreation sites along the Clackamas River and other areas that can be accessed without using untreated, fire-impacted roads. The Forest Service may use its authority under 36 CFR 261.50 to close fire-impacted roads while re-opening unaffected and treated roads without needing to wait for the completion of an environmental assessment for other roads which may be permanently closed.
We encourage the paddling community to provide comment. We know that Forest Service staff are balancing many different issues and concerns and we ask that our members and supporters be polite and professional. Constructive feedback will be most useful. If you wish to take additional action, Senators Wyden and Merkley and Representatives Blumenauer and Schraeder represent the communities most directly impacted and we encourage the paddling community to reach out to them.