As the snow continues to recede to higher elevations, more people are heading for the hills to enjoy their National Forests. Forestry crews are also back in the woods this summer, and they can be seen along some forest roads.

The Forest Service would like to remind everyone to keep an eye out for trucks and crews, especially in and around recently burned areas on the Whitman District of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. On May 15th, 2017, crews began removing select trees that were killed by the 2016 Rail Fire southwest of Unity, Oregon. Similar work is underway in areas affected by the 2015 Eagle Fire northwest of Richland and Halfway, Oregon. Work in both areas will likely continue through the summer of 2017.

Much of this forestry work involves the removal of fire-damaged trees that pose risks to forest visitors near open roads and trails. “Removing dangerous trees near roads and trails is part of our commitment to public safety,” said Jeff Tomac, district ranger for the Whitman District of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. “We appreciate everyone’s patience while our crews are working to make post-fire areas safer for public use.”

Burned areas will remain open for public use, but visitors should be aware that they may experience some delays and traffic, which will be heaviest during weekdays. Please observe traffic-control signs in these areas.

  • Eagle Fire project: located in portions of T6S R43E. Major roads that will be affected are Forest Service Roads 7700, 7750, and other associated road systems in the area.
  • Rail Fire project: located in portions of T13S R35.5E, T13S R36E, T14S R35.5E, and T14S R36E. Major roads that will be affected are Forest Service Roads 1240, 1230, 2640, 6005, and other associated road systems in the area.

In addition to improving public safety in burned areas, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is providing economic opportunities. The harvest of useful timber from damaged areas, a practice known as “salvage logging,” will focus on trees killed by recent wildfires. While delivering economic benefits to timber companies and communities, revenues from salvage timber sales also provide funding to plant new trees in burned areas.

In planning for salvage harvest, the Forest Service analyzes the potential impacts as well as the benefits. By taking proper precautions, timber harvest operations after a wildfire can avoid damaging soils and maintain the land’s ability to regrow in the future. There are also important wildlife considerations. For instance, forest fires can provide valuable habitat for some species (such as the black-backed woodpecker) that depend on standing dead trees. Therefore, the Forest Service seeks to balance the ecological value of burned areas with the economic value of the salvageable timber.