The U.S. Forest Service is proposing a timber harvest and fuel reduction project in the Walla Walla Ranger District of the Umatilla National Forest.

Called the Cobbler Timber Sale, it is expected to take place over the next 10 years, as funding becomes available.

The location is about 18 miles northwest of Elgin and within Wallowa County. It includes the Bear, Alder, Cross Canyon, Burnt Canyon, Elbow and Squaw Creek watersheds.

The Forest Services proposes to cut 3,800 acres (11 million board feet) of primarily small (less than 9-inch) diameter trees to produce lumber or chip material.

About 1,920 acres of non-commercial thinning is also proposed.

Along with the harvest, the Forest Service is prescribing 8,000 acres of fire on the Bear and Alder Creek drainages in the Grand Rhonde River canyon. The Forest Service estimates the fire will blacken 60 percent of the area.

The Forest Service said it believes prescribed fire is the best tool to accomplish fuels reduction goals and big game foraging goals in the Grand Ronde River canyon.

Fuels have been building in the area since the late 1800s, according to the USFS. Its grasslands are dominated by timber stringers in the drainages and brush along the forest edge. The Forest Service believes that without fuel reduction, a fire coming out of the canyon would be so severe firefighters may not be able to take initial suppression actions at the nearby rim road system.

This treatment is within the Grand Ronde roadless area and does not involve timber harvest, the Forest Service said.

The Forest Service proposes 275 acres of meadow improvement and 62 acres of aspen protection within the Cobbler planning area.

In the past, periodic fires would have naturally cleared the meadows, said the Forest Service. The Forest Service plans to restore this historic process by cutting and burning the encroaching small trees and burning the meadow.

The Forest Service will install buck and pole fences around the aspen stands and remove conifer completion in some stands.

At the Elk Flats aspen area, the Forest Service will have to reclassify it from a proposed natural research area. Since its original classification, the Forest Service learned the stand had been damaged by defoliation and grand fir encroachment, making it less than ideal for research.

By reclassifying the stand, it will undergo the same restoration treatment as the other 22 aspen stands.

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