Bear Valley NWR Treatments
Nestled amongst the mountains of southern Oregon, Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge is recognized as the largest winter roost area for bald eagles in the lower 48 states. Though eagles have used Bear Valley for years, it wasn't until 1978 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service entered and began managing the area as a national wildlife refuge. From 1978 to 1991, the Service acquired 4,200 acres of timbered lands hosting eagle roosts and nests, and embarked on an adaptive management effort balancing vital bald eagle habitat and the safety of refuge neighbors. The lands were in need of treatment, as there were heavy accumulations of ground fuels posing a significant risk to neighboring homes should a wildfire have started and crossed the refuge boundary or burned uncontrolled through roosting areas.
Management plans and objectives coupled with environmental assessments determined the best approach to managing Bear Valley involved a number of varied fuels treatments, followed with regular prescribed burning and close monitoring. In 1999, a timber sale was administered in the refuge's central areas, followed by hand thinning with chainsaws and prunners. A slashbusting contract started in 2003 to remove unwanted western junipers competing with the bald eagle-preferred ponderosa pines and Douglas firs. Additional hand thinning projects progressed across the refuge and in 2004 a second timber sale was initiated. The sale permitted pre-selected/marked trees to be removed, in turn opening up the canopy, reducing smaller, unhealthy trees and encouraging larger trees to grow. Prescribed fire, used primarily to burn piles over the past few years, was returned on a larger broadcast scale in fall 2005.
Since 1999, more than sixty five percent of Bear Valley NWR has experienced some form of fuels reduction treatments. A third timber sale is planned for the near future, as are additional slashbusting and hand thinning projects along with more than 1000 acres of prescribed burning. The Division of Fire Management works closely with refuge biologists, managers and other specialists from state and federal agencies to plan and complete these projects. Refuge fire crews and personnel are involved in hand thinning, pile and under burning, unit layout, planning, implementation and public affairs aspects of work with the boundaries of Bear Valley NWR.