LAKEVIEW — After nearly a year of logging private lands burned by last summer’s Barry Point fire, the Collins Pine Company’s Lakeview Sawmill is positioned to begin harvesting on portions of Forest Service lands damaged by the fire.
Last summer’s Barry Point fire burned 92,977 acres of public and private lands in Lake and Modoc counties, including 43,134 acres on the Fremont-Winema National Forest, 21,820 on the Modoc National Forest and 11,200 of private lands.
The Fremont-Winema hopes to clear hurdles that will allow the harvest and sale of up to 25 million board feet of timber (MMBF), possibly beginning later this year. Logging would be done under contracts with the Lakeview Sawmill, formerly known as the Fremont Sawmill.
Lee Fledderjohann, the Lakeview mill’s resource manager, said about two-thirds of the 24,300 acres of Collins land affected by the fire — 3,300 acres in Lake County and 21,000 in Modoc County — have been harvested.
He said the goal on private and Forest Service lands is to harvest trees, especially ponderosa pine, before they lose their commercial value.
“We’re really trying to get the value out before the bugs get to them,” Fledderjohann said, noting trees damaged by fire develop a blue stain and are susceptible to bugs as they dry and crack.
Over the last several months, he estimates 7,500 logging truck loads of logs have been cut and stacked at the Lakeview yard. Collins has contracts with 14 logging companies with a combined total of 65 to 70 trucks that have been delivering 100 to 145 truckloads of logs on a near daily basis.
During hot weather periods crews began work at 10 p.m., began delivering logs to the mill at 1 or 2 a.m. and quit by noon or early afternoon.
During some periods, the Lakeview mill has been operating 50 hours a week, although it is currently at 40 hours. With possible increased timber harvests ahead, Fledderjohann said hours may again be extended.
“I’ve never been through a catastrophic fire of this magnitude,” he said of damage created by the Barry Point fire.
Fledderjohann said logging on private lands has been from all areas of timberlands damaged by the fire, except near streams and in compliance with state and federal regulations to provide areas for wildlife, including black-backed woodpeckers. Earlier this year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it will conduct a full status review to determine if genetically distinct black-backed woodpecker populations in Oregon/California and South Dakota will get protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Along with harvesting trees of various sizes that can be used for commercial lumber, Fledderjohann said trees with less commercial value are being cut to create landscapes for future planting. Contractors have been chipping some trees for Collins’ Klamath Falls mill.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” he said, noting he expects the total harvest on private lands, which includes lands owned by Collins and other private owners, will be 55 to 60 MMBF.
He said Collins recently purchased a Modoc National Forest timber sale on lands damaged by the Barry Point fire after receiving authority from the Forest Service’s regional forester. The Lakeview mill is normally allowed to harvest timber only from the Lakeview Federal Stewardship Unit, which includes the Lakeview and Paisley areas.
Fledderjohann said crews will transition to Forest Service lands if the Fremont-Winema contracts are approved, while continuing to harvest company-owned lands.
“There will be a mixture,” he said. “We’ve got to take care of our property.”