In November 2015, the Forest Service released a draft environmental assessment for the Silver Creek project, which includes 3,300 acres of commercial timber harvest, road maintenance and reconstruction, and 10.2 miles of road closure and stabilization. The project is located within Silver Creek subwatershed of the Middle Cowlitz River watershed on the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
The CFC commends the Forest Service for including road closures and stabilization where high terrestrial and aquatic risks are present, and excluding inner Riparian Reserves from commercial timber harvest. However, we are concerned about many other prescriptions in the proposed action, including: pre-commercial thinning in inner Riparian Reserves; building temporary roads and landings in outer Riparian Reserves; and conducting regeneration harvest to create early seral habitat on 176 acres of Matrix lands, especially for units that contain older, naturally regenerated stands, suitable northern spotted owl (NSO) habitat, marbled murrelet habitat, and soil stability issues.
The CFC submitted comments outlining our concerns with the project in December 2015, including observations from our on the ground surveys. We requested that the Forest Service consider an alternative in its environmental analysis that:
In June 2016 the Forest Service released a revised EA and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). Many of the concerns CFC has related to timber harvest and early seral creation in spotted owl and marbled murrelet habitat were not resolved in the revised EA and FONSI. In August 2016, we submitted an objection to the sale due to proposed regeneration harvest in spotted owl and marbled murrelet habitat, multiple stream crossings to access sale units, and violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
In September 2016 we met with Forest Service staff and other objectors to attempt to resolve our objections. From this objection meeting, as well as our early involvement in the project through the collaborative, significant improvements. These improvements included:
The CFC believes these compromises significantly reduced the harmful impacts of the sale, and we agreed to withdraw our objection.