Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office
Pacific Southwest Region
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Working in Late Successional Reserves

Over the past several years, staff from the Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office (Yreka FWO) and the Klamath National Forest (KNF) have worked cooperatively in developing and implementing forest management projects in Late-Successional Reserves (LSRs) to maintain and promote the development of late-successional habitat.  LSRs are characterized as having a variety of species of trees; a variety of ages and sizes of trees, including big, old-growth trees; large, dead, standing trees (snags); trees with cavities, broken tops, and large, deformed limbs; large logs on the forest floor; and gaps in the forest stands where trees have died and young trees are filling in.  LSRs on the KNF provide habitat for several federally listed or candidate species including the northern spotted owl and fisher.  However, the existing condition in many of these LSRs suggests that they may not be capable of providing long-term, sustainable habitat for these species.  Using an inter-disciplinary and inter-agency team approach, the Yreka FWO and the KNF have worked together to identify the LSRs, or portions of LSRs, that have the greatest need for treatment and to design and implement projects that benefit a variety of wildlife species found in these LSRs.

Increased Yreka FWO involvement in KNF projects began shortly after the Record of Decision for the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) was signed by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior in 1994.  In 1995, to help implement the NWFP, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service increased staffing throughout the Pacific Northwest to coordinate the Section 7 consultation process under the Endangered Species Act.  The NWFP established standards and guidelines for the management of federal lands within the range of the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) through long-term management of late-successional and old-growth forest habitat across the entire Pacific Northwest.  The goals of the NWFP are to contribute to both a sustainable flow of timber and a sustainable environment, with an emphasis on providing habitat for the northern spotted owl and other species associated with late-successional and old-growth forests.  It amended all existing U. S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land and Management (BLM) planning documents or was incorporated into management plans that were being written at the time it was signed. 

An example of desired conditions in a Late Successional Reserve.  USFS file photo. An example of desired conditions in a Late Successional
Reserve.  USFS file photo.

Locally, forests within the California Klamath Province and the California Cascades Province are drier, and subsequently, more susceptible to fire, insect, and disease-related disturbances that can result in loss of forest habitat.  The NWFP provides guidelines and direction for managing dry forest stands in LSRs to protect and maintain them.  Implementing forest management under these conditions, however, takes a lot of planning and coordination within and between the federal agencies and with the public.   

In 2002, the Yreka FWO began charting a new course for involvement in implementation of the NWFP.  Factors such as increased funding from the National Fire Plan, staffing the Forest Resources Branch with biologists who had experience in forest management, and a growing interest to redefine “early involvement” in the consultation process led to a new, cooperative approach to species conservation.  Through early involvement in project design, Yreka FWO biologists and KNF staff have been able to develop projects that allow management of forests such that wildlife habitat is improved, stand health is increased, and the threat of fire is reduced.  Examples of two collaborative projects are the Goosenest LSR Habitat Restoration project and the Mount Ashland LSR Habitat Restoration and Fuels Reduction Project.

Goosenest LSR

The Goosenest LSR Habitat Restoration Project was one of the first collaborative LSR projects between the Yreka FWO and the KNF.  The project is located seven miles west of Macdoel, California.  Yreka FWO worked closely with staff from the KNF to develop the project from the very beginning.  Together, staff from both offices spent many days in the LSR, looking at the condition of forest stands, reaching agreements on how to improve deteriorating forest conditions, and presenting the treatment plan to interested members of the public.  The two agencies worked carefully to design a project that would provide long-term habitat benefits, while minimizing the short-term, negative effects to the wildlife species that currently occupy the LSR.  In the end, the two agencies developed a project to treat more than 2,200 acres of ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forest in the Goosenest LSR.  Treatments included thinning of crowded small to medium-sized trees, underburning dense pockets of ground-fuels, and thinning around trees that have potential to become large, old-growth trees.  Wildlife species that will benefit from the project include northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus leucocephalus), and northern goshawk (Accipter gentiles).  Implementation of this project is currently underway with continued involvement by staff from the Yreka FWO.  Based on surveys in 2008, northern spotted owls, bald eagles, and northern goshawks continue to occupy habitats within the project area. 

Implementation of fuels reductions activities.  USFS file photo.Implementation of fuels reductions activities.  USFS file photo.

Mt. Ashland LSR

The most recent cooperative LSR effort is the Mount Ashland LSR Habitat Restoration and Fuels Reduction Project located at the California-Oregon border, just west of Hilt, California.  Staff from Yreka FWO worked with the KNF to identify the most important areas for treatment, design the vegetation management prescriptions, and worked closely with field crews to ensure that the management prescriptions are accurately applied on the ground. 

Public collaboration was an essential part of the Mt. Ashland LSR Habitat Restoration and Fuels Reduction project planning.  The Yreka FWO and the KNF held more than a dozen office and field meetings with representatives from environmental groups, private timberland owners, and other interested members of the public.  Information gathered during public meetings and field trips was used to address concerns raised by the public.  Ultimately, the KNF developed a new alternative for implementing the project.  As part of the federal planning process, the public was given an opportunity to formally object to the project during a 30-day period before the project was made final.  No members of the public issued an objection to the project.       

 

An example of current, unhealthy forest conditions that will  be addressed in the Mt. Ashland LSR project.  USFWS file photo.

An example of current, unhealthy forest conditions that will be addressed in the Mt.
Ashland LSR project. USFWS file photo.

The Mount Ashland LSR Habitat Restoration and Fuels Reduction Project will result in treatment of over 4,400 acres of mixed-conifer forest to thin crowded, small and medium-sized trees.  Thinning will be followed by underburning and mastication (mechanical shredding of small trees and shrubs).  These treatments will help maintain existing late-successional habitat by making them more resilient to fire, insect, and disease-related disturbances.  The treatments will also improve growing conditions in young forest stands so that they will become late-successional and old-growth forest habitat in the future. Implementation of this project could begin as early as fall 2009.


Early involvement and working cooperatively with the KNF, allows the Yreka FWO to play a key role in the development of LSR projects.  By providing expertise and technical assistance throughout the development of a project, Yreka FWO staff ensures that LSR projects result in maximum benefit to wildlife and their habitats while minimizing potential short-term impacts.  Additionally, this approach increases the awareness of all interested parties to issues as they arise rather than late in the planning process when time and costs to re-evaluate such items are high.  The Yreka FWO and the KNF look forward to continuing this unique and successful partnership.