Forest officials plan to log nearly 8,000 acres in the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests of northeast Oregon to help protect local resources from wildfire within the Granite Creek watershed.
The Ten Cent Community Wildfire Protection Plan includes the tiny towns of Granite and Greenhorn, as well as the popular Olive Lake Campground, historic Fremont Powerhouse and adjacent recreational cabins.
Both forests signed a record of decision for the project Jan. 3, authorizing 7,859 acres of commercial timber harvest, 1,227 acres of small tree thinning, 3,557 acres of hand-thinning in riparian areas and roadside hazard tree removal.
Andrew Stinchfield, project manager and acting district ranger for the North Fork John Day Ranger District on the Umatilla National Forest, said fire safety was the primary driver for the treatments.
“There is a lot of fuel out there, a lot of dead and down (wood) on the ground, a lot of ingrowth of trees,” Stinchfield said. “What we’re trying to do is basically create a series of these strategically placed fuel breaks, ultimately along roads and then in selected stands around private property.”
The project also includes 9,382 acres of controlled burning, though Stinchfield said they will not burn in the North Fork John Day Wilderness Area after objections were raised by Oregon Wild, Wilderness Watch, Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project and the American Forest Resource Council.
The decision does not include 6,743 acres of non-wilderness burning on the Umatilla National Forest, which Stinchfield said will be determined separately.
Stinchfield said the project was planned over three years in consultation with the Grant County Community Wildfire Protection Plan, which ranked the Granite Zone a high-risk, high-priority area.
The last large fire to burn in the area was the Vinegar fire in 2013, which torched 1,351 acres about six miles southwest of Granite on rugged Vinegar Hill.
“We’re excited to get the project started,” he said.
Commercial logging is expected to start this summer, and will be done through several timber sales, Stinchfield said. The overall project should take between seven and 10 years to complete.