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New BLM forest plan in Southern Oregon speeds up wildfire prevention. But it has its critics

A sloped hill covered by trees. Some of the trees have orange markers around their trunks
Roman Battaglia
Jefferson Public Radio
An area the BLM is proposing a commercial treatment for the Late Mungers project. The orange rings around some of the trees signify those won't be cut down.

A major forest management project in Southern Oregon has been approved using a new model from the federal Bureau of Land Management.

A controversial forest management project in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley was approved by the BLM on Friday.

Called the Late Mungers project, the BLM says it’s designed to make forests more resistant to extreme wildfire.

That’s accomplished through 830 acres of commercial logging and 7,500 acres of prescribed fire and smaller tree thinning. It's the first example of the BLM's Integrated Vegetation Management plan, which speeds up community review in order to do those things faster.

BLM District Manager Elizabeth Burghard said since releasing a draft of the project proposal almost a year ago, they’ve been integrating more site-specific analysis, and trying to get as many eyes on the project as possible.

“From our various forestry experts, our fire ecologists, our wildlife biologists,” she said. “Working with all of those entities we can come up with the best possible layout and design on the ground.”

But the project continues to face backlash from environmentalists, including the Applegate Siskiyou Alliance and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.

According to Luke Ruediger, executive director of the Applegate Siskiyou Alliance, the agency is ignoring the possible negative effects of projects like these.

“If they were actually required to meaningfully analyze the impacts of these projects, I’d think that it would be much harder for them to come to the simplistic conclusions that they are,” Ruediger said.

He said past environmental reviews have acknowledged that fire risk could actually increase after logging.

Ruediger and his organization are considering filing an appeal with the BLM to seek changes to the project. That appeals process ends in mid-March.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.