The Forest Service admitted Wednesday to making a “serious” mistake that allowed the logging of 17 acres inside a rare tree reserve as part of the salvage harvest of timber burned by a fire in 2002.
The logging inside the 350-acre Babyfoot Lake Botanical Area, created in 1966 to protect Brewer spruce and other rare plant species in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, was discovered last week by environmentalists after the timber was harvested and a forest closure intended to bar protesters was lifted.
Forest Service personnel mismarked the border of part of the timber sale next to the botanical area, said Illinois Valley District Ranger Pam Bode. Normally trees are marked with stapled tags and paint to show the boundaries of timber sales and reserves within them.
“For us to have changed the ecology in that area through removal of these dead trees is a serious error,” Bode said.
Spokeswoman Patty Burel said the Forest Service would look into the blunder.
Barbara Ullian, conservation director of the Siskiyou Project group that discovered the damage, said the mistake demonstrated the importance of allowing the public to monitor logging operations in national forests.
“This is no small little slip across the border and a few trees,” Ullian said.
The Forest Service closed the area to the public in March after protesters attempted to block logging roads and sit in trees.
The Siskiyou Project counted 290 stumps inside the botanical area, including one that measured three feet in diameter that was 234 years old, Ullian said.
A lightning storm in July 2002 sparked four fires in the rugged Klamath Mountains of southwestern Oregon. The blazes combined into a single fire that threatened 17,000 people in small communities of the Illinois Valley and cost $153 million to control.