- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) - Two conservation groups and a resident want to stop the state from allowing logging on state lands that burned in a massive wildfire in north-central Washington last summer.

Conservation Northwest, the Kettle Range Conservation Group and Kathleen Yockey filed an appeal with the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board last week, saying that logging on about 1,200 acres of forests burned in the Carlton Complex Fire would lead to more erosion and mudslides.

They note that salvage logging would occur in areas already prone to mudslides and erosion as well as creeks that feed into the Methow River, which provides habitat for endangered fish.

The Department of Natural Resources last month auctioned off timber harvests in an area about 4 miles east of Carlton in Okanogan County.

The agency used the best scientific information available in designing the harvest and is confident in its plan, Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark said in a statement Thursday.

Harvesting and planting helps to restore timber stands exposed by Carlton Complex Fire, he said. That fire was the biggest in Washington’s history. It burned more than 300 homes and about 400 square miles.

“Dead trees attract insects and prolong fire risks. These areas need to be replanted,” Goldmark added.

Dave Werntz, who is science and conservation director at Conservation Northwest, said, “DNR’s logging will not likely affect insect activity in the burn area, but it will certainly boost erosion and possibly mudslides.”

The groups argue that the state’s proposal would slow forest recovery because it allows many trees in lightly burned areas to be cut down. Green trees that are partially scorched could survive and produce seeds that could help the forests recover, they said.

Werntz said sediment would overwhelm stream buffers included in the state’s plan.

“The buffers are insufficient,” he said. “It’s based on the assumption that these are healthy green living forests full of vegetation that will help minimize sediment. But since the fire has removed that vegetation, they’re not going to function.”


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