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Common Questions

Scroll down this page to find answers to questions we are commonly asked about restoration efforts on the forest. 


  • Who can participate in the Harney County Forest Collaborative?

    Anyone with an interest in timber harvest, forest restoration, small diameter timber sales, grazing permits, and recreation on the forest is encouraged to participate.

  • What does Harney County Restoration Collaborative do?

    Our goal is to restore healthy and resilient forests. Our projects provide social and economic benefits to the local community. We are continually learning and developing best practices that may be applied in other areas.

  • Why collaboration?

    By bringing together a wide variety of stakeholders and working towards an agreed upon set of goals, we are able to avoid litigation.


  • Why isn’t logging being conducted at the same level it was in the past?

    There are multiple factors that play into the fact that logging has decreased since the 1980’s in Harney County. Some of those reasons are:
    o The amount of desirable material has decreased because it has been utilized and it takes time to regrow that material.
    o The cost to move and process the material we do have exceeds the value of the material, which makes logging this material uneconomical.
    o Management directions have changed since 1980 and additional resources besides economics and timber extraction are considered when conducting planning activities.

  • Why isn't the forest being managed more aggressively?

    We believe in managing the forest so that there are economic opportunities for the community. That means considering whether or not a project might be litigated and stop work altogether. Through the collaborative process, there is hope that working with all sides will allow various interest groups to find common ground and maximize the benefits for everyone and we have made huge strides in coming to consensus on various projects. However, there are still outside organizations that are either not a part of the collaborative process or do not want to participate for various reasons. The best we can do is continue to collaborate and have patience. We are now doing things that we could not have done even 5 years ago such as cutting large trees in certain areas and conducting restorative treatments in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas (RHCA).

  • Why aren't all the resources being produced by restoration being used?

    You may have seen the piles of brush and timber leftover after a restoration project takes place. The continuing problem in restoration on the southern Malheur is the lack of economically viable methods for removing thickets of small diameter timber from the forest. These dense stands of timber, with a diameter of less than eight inches, have little economic value. Presently, only one lumber mill is operating in the area and it cannot handle the volume or all the types of materials that are coming off the Malheur forest restoration projects. As a result, biomass that isn't economical remain on site.

  • So they are just being burned instead?

    Yes. At the present time, this is the the most economical way to effectively restore the forest. However, the cost to thin, pile, and burn treated stands run from $250 to $900 an acre. Treated acreages range from 10,000 to 20,000 acres per project, which makes the cost of restoration treatment prohibitive. Part of Harney County Restoration Collaborative's vision is that Harney County has the presence of infrastructure capable of utilizing wood products from restoration activities and increased contractor capacity to restore local communities and social health.

  • Why is prescribed fire being used as part of the process?

    Fire historically played an important role and frequently took place on the southern Malheur Forest. Fire reduces competition and creates open spaces where trees can grow. It also provides maintenance for the forest by putting nitrogen back in the ground, which is how these forests have evolved to work. The goal of prescribed fire is to maintain a healthy ecosystem. These vegetative species have evolved to out compete the larger trees and fire minimizes this competition.

  • I have seen where prescribed fire ended up burning and killing standing timber.

    This can happen, but it is not the intent of prescribed fire. Prescribed fire is meant to complement logging in a sale and to keep the forest healthy.

Road Access

  • Why is road access being diminished on the Southern Malheur Forest?

    Around 2000, the Forest Service developed the Road Management Policy, which shifted the focus from “transportation development” to “science-based transportation analysis.” The new rule was intended to ensure that new roads were essential to resource management, any maintenance and construction minimized negative environmental impacts, and that roads deemed unnecessary were decommissioned. For more information about this policy go here.

  • We have always had access to all of these roads and we deem them all necessary. Why are they still being closed?

    The Forest Service no longer has the ability to maintain all of the roads on the Malheur Forest due to funding and personnel constraints. When roads cannot be maintained they have adverse environmental effects that affect our water resources and environmental quality.

  • Isn’t restoration work just part of a process to limit our access on the forest?

    The collaborative is here to give you a voice. True, some roads will be closed, but you can have a say in the process. Jack Southworth, the facilitator of Harney County Restoration Collaborative , has developed a matrix to help the group decide what roads should remain open and which ones should be closed. We have already had a number of successful field tours in which collaborative partners from all different walks of life were able to agree upon which roads needed to stay open and which should be closed.

21-Inch Tree Rule

  • Where did the limitation on cutting 21-inch and larger trees come from?

    The 21-inch tree rule was developed by the Forest Service in the early 90s and was intended to be a temporary rule to protect mature trees on the forest.

  • What scientific research supports it?

    To date, there is no research that demonstrates that 21 inches is the correct indicator that a tree is mature. As such, the Harney County Restoration Collaborative is evolving to accommodate the emerging science on 21-inch trees. As we move forward we want to ensure that we protect mature trees, while allowing for the potential harvest of 21-inch trees that do not fit this category and are having a negative impact on the surrounding environment.

  • Why are mature trees so important to the forest?

    Large and old trees where once the primary target for harvest, which has led to a deficit of this structural type. Mature trees require protection since it takes very long for these large trees to get to the size they are in our regions. It is important that the forest has large, mature trees because they provide many ecological processes for a multitude of resources.

  • If a large old tree is dying, why isn’t it being harvested?

    Dying, large mature trees are left standing because they provide important habitat for wildlife. These old snags are rare in today’s forest making them invaluable to species who require them for reproduction and shelter.

Have some more questions?

Didn't find an answer to a question you have? You can attend one of our meetings. Find out when they are happening by going to our event calendar or by following us on Facebook