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Unpaved road fans raise red flag over Clackamas County forest project

Posted by on April 11th, 2019 at 7:13 am

Roads and trees like these could be forever altered.
(Photo: Ron Lewis/Our Mother the Mountain)

The US Forest Service is eyeing 4,000 acres of land near the Clackamas River for a major project and local unpaved road enthusiasts are concerned about how it will impact riding conditions and the environment.

Location of project in red.
(Map: Bark)

Ron Lewis, one of the leaders of the popular Our Mother the Mountain (OMTM) riding group, sent a message to the 700 members of the Unpaved email list yesterday encouraging them to comment on the North Clack Integrated Resource Project.

The USFS says the project would, “Improve forest conditions, provide wood products, manage recreation, enhance aquatic/riparian habitat, manage wildlife habitats, reduce fire hazards, and make changes to the transportation system within the project area.” But Lewis with OMTM isn’t buying it.

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“[The project] would effectively destroy the entire lower section of our Tumala Tank Trap route, which navigates some of the deeper, least-traveled zones in the Mount Hood National Forest, including the rugged and beautiful Abbott Road climb,” Lewis wrote. He’s also worried about the USFS plans to construct 20 new miles of roads and introduce logging on 200 acres of forest.

Lewis says this section of the Mt. Hood National Forest is already under pressure from OHV users, illegal motorcycle trails and unsanctioned target shooting. “Clearcutting and commercial logging will not only decimate this beautiful remote area, but as almost always happens, expand the proliferation of shooting pits, trash dumping and illegal moto activity in the area.”


OMTM is piggybacking on advocacy from local conservation nonprofit Bark, who’s following this project closely. In addition to sensitive streams and animal nesting areas, Bark claims that around 1,200 acres of the proposed logging is in mature forest that has trees over 80 years old.

“Logging has been shown by OSU and the Oregon Global Warming Commission to be a top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon, so it’s important that the Forest Service hear from the public that they want their forests to be a carbon sink, not source,” Bark writes on their website. “We believe the Forest Service should be working to restore the forest in this area by decommissioning old logging roads, rehabilitating illegally-created motorized trails, and improving habitat for species like salmon and beaver.”

For a trail conservation perspective that disagree with Bark, check out

The USFS is taking public comment through April 15th. You can comment and learn more about the project on the USFS website.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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28 thoughts on “Unpaved road fans raise red flag over Clackamas County forest project”

  1. Avatar Rob Sadowsky says:

    More info on this project and the broader issue on this timber sale:

    1. Avatar Jason H says:

      BARK does take a rather mixed perspective to bike access. When an area is threatened with destructive logging or thinning projects they do advocate for bike access (notably just on decommissioned logging roads) in those areas, but when the project is just for bike access like the proposed Timberline Bike Park, they change tack and think building the bike park and the cyclists using it will decimate bumble bees and steelhead.

      It does seem like they don’t have much appreciation for the environmental stewardship off road cyclists can provide in general, and only grudgingly align with our interests when the risk is losing the entire thing. Not really an organization trustworthy to partner or “piggyback” with for our interests IMO until they start advocating for equitable non-wilderness access and recreational opportunities beyond their narrow vision.

      1. Avatar I ride says:

        I ride a bicycle. Year round. On road and off road.

        And I trust BARK.

        1. Avatar Alex says:

          Good for you – it seems like that is a one way relationship though, wish it was more of a two-way street.

      2. Avatar Alex Reedin, now in Albuquerque, NM says:

        Personally, I don’t find this kind of thinking to be helpful . OMTM working with BARK! as a partner to make progress on a particular political issue. They’re not getting into a marriage contract with BARK! to merge their advocacy on all issues.

        Bike advocacy and BARK! have plenty of common ground (preserving natural areas, emphasizing quiet recreation over motorized recreation, etc.) They can work together on issues 1 through 10 where they agree, while also some parts of bike advocacy may choose to work against BARK! on issue 11 where they disagree. If we demand complete alignment with everyone we work with politically, we’re going to have very little political power. (Hmm… we have very little political power now, coincidence?)

        Also, there are plenty of mountain bikers (myself included) who think the paving and logging of Mount Hood has gone quite far enough. If the Timberline Bike Park proposal were an actual progressive proposal that took our current moment in climate and ecological history into account (say, if it included a frequent and free bus service from the metro area to the mountain in the winter and the summer, resulting in much less winter parking needs at the mountain, and thus no net increase in parking lot area and a net decrease in carbon emissions), I think it would be a good thing. As it is, I’m opposed.

        1. Avatar Alex Reedin says:

          As long as I’m dreaming, I may as well state what would probably be necessary in order to move a large percentage of skiers from driving to the mountain to taking the bus – parking at the mountain should cost money. Taking the bus should be free.

      3. Avatar Ron Lewis says:

        It is precisely this type of singular-interest dogmatism that keeps progressive types divided and infighting. This issue is ENTIRELY unrelated to the Timberline Bike Park issue. This. Ain’t. That. Until folks can recognize that alliances and shared interest are a constantly shifting and nuanced landscape from one issue to another….things will continue to be tilted in the favor of industrial-scale extraction.

        Get it together.

        1. Avatar Jason H says:

          I don’t think it’s unfair to be skeptical as a cyclist of an alliance with an organization that can seem like they don’t have our interests at heart. Or to expect that in partnership with them on an issue like this that a dialog would be started and that they may soften anti-bike positions in the future. The enemy of my enemy is my friend doesn’t sound like the best basis for long term stewardship relationships.

          In the end, the most important thing right now however you feel about BARK!, as you said, is giving public comment to the Forest Service before the 15th. I agree that the last thing I want to see is any large scale projects begin there or anywhere in our forest lands and have told the Forest Service that myself.

        2. Avatar Alex says:

          > This issue is ENTIRELY unrelated to the Timberline Bike Park issue. This. Ain’t. That.

          Never said it was that.

          >Until folks can recognize that alliances and shared interest are a constantly shifting and nuanced landscape from one issue to another….things will continue to be tilted in the favor of industrial-scale extraction.

          I agree that it is this type of infighting that stops people from working together, but you know what stops it even more? Lawsuits that cost us all lots of money and time that divide the community and it is these types of conversations that come from them. While I want the fighting to stop, it sure is hard to trust working with these people because of how low they went. If they want to prove they aren’t what they have been, they are going to have to do some pretty big things to overcome the pretty big things they did.

          Get it together.

      4. Avatar Jon says:

        To summarize Bark’s position: Mountain bikers can have the sh*t places to ride while we (
        Bark members) get the nice places to enjoy nature. Nobody riding a mountain bike wants to ride on old logging roads unless it is a route to a real trail. Roads going to hiking trails: OK! Human powered bicycles on trails: NO!

    2. Avatar abomb says:

      I may be mistaken but aren’t most of these roads “logging roads”. Meaning most of the gravel roads in the woods were made by and for logging which then we get to enjoy until that section of forest is ready to be harvested again. I find it a little ironic that if it wasn’t for logging most of these “gravel grinding” roads would never have existed and now you want to stop the logging.

  2. Avatar Alex says:

    This looks like where they banned mountain biking on the Clackamas River Trail not too many years ago.

    While I don’t want them to clear cut this forest, I also find it ironic that they have kicked out valid, environmentally friendly user groups out of this location (which in the past BARK has seemed to be on the side of banning) and now wants to cut it down.

    I am torn, I want to support cycling and the environment, but I don’t want to support BARK based on their use of bad science (which was thrown out of courts because there was not basis to it) in regards to Hood/Timberline. Once BARK actually supports mountain biking somewhere and doesn’t just pay it lip service in PR articles, I may be more supportive. They (and the Sierra Club, etc) have created a rift in the environmental community and maybe they could start by advocating to get mountain bikes re-introduced in that area.

    1. Avatar Jon says:

      BARK is 100% anti mountain bike. From what I can tell they want to see the forest set aside for their personally approved uses which does not include many other users.

      1. Avatar Alex Reedin says:

        BARK! is most certainly not 100% anti-mountain bike. It may be that they could stand to be more pro-mountain bike; I don’t know enough about them to say. But, to quote from their website:

        “Bark, Northwest Trail Alliance, Oregon Timber Trail Alliance, Trailkeepers of Oregon, the Mazamas, and Wildearth Guardians have all come together to make [the Waucoma Backcountry Recreation Area] project a reality and we’re looking forward to bringing more groups into this campaign!

        The proposed Waucoma Backcountry Recreation Area will be a unique opportunity to showcase collaboration between diverse advocacy groups to achieve both conservation and recreation goals in Mt. Hood National Forest. By partnering with recreation advocates, Bark is charting a new course to protect the forest, enhance wildlife habitat and create more opportunities for quiet recreation near Mt. Hood. The new bicycle and hiking trails we envision will provide a fun, memorable riding environment that welcomes beginners and more experienced bike packers. Converting old, logging roads into trails is a proactive restoration strategy in an area that’s important for the recovery of Threatened summer steelhead, coho and Chinook salmon. ”

        1. Avatar Alex says:

          100%, sure? I guess. It’s easy to not be 100% anything with a simple spin of the words. They just don’t want to share what they have access to with us and make bs arguments to keep mtbs out and fighting it in the courts (throwing away how much tax payer money?). They have a lot of ground to make up from how they have handled themselves previously (at least in my book).

          In person, I have felt they act like they are the keepers of the planet and have a very patronizing and paternal tone any time I have spoken with with them regarding mtbs. They have done more to tear this partnership up than to foster good faith.

          So not 100%, sure. But what kind of argument is that?

    2. Avatar Alex Reedin says:

      The Clackamas River Trail is on the south side of the river (Hwy 224 is on the north side, making that side less attractive for a trail alignment). So, this particular parcel doesn’t include the Clackamas River Trail.

      But, point taken – I think most environmental groups have an unfortunate anti-mountain-biking bent. Fortunately, this is a tiny part of their advocacy work.

      Overall, I’d rather see everyone get together over big aims rather than get mad at each other for advocating for the scraps. Big aims like:
      1) Supplement the Wilderness Act with another designation that’s equally protective, but allows bikes. (“Bicycle Backcountry” is a catchy phrase I saw used by the writer of the Wy’east Blog, I forget his name?)
      2) Increase the funding for Forest Service trail construction and maintenance. The number of maintained trail-miles in the MHNF has dwindled over the years, even as the number of users has increased dramatically. I think this is part of the reason for the fighting over the scraps.
      3) Bike-friendly local natural areas and a high-quality MHNF bus service so that people can access the natural areas that are so beneficial to us, while minimizing the carbon emissions and impact on the environment.

  3. Avatar bikeninja says:

    I think it is sugar coating it to call it a “forest project”. The US forest service , since it was captured by the industry in the 1970’s, is about “projects” about the same as ODOT is about building infrastructure for vulnerable road users. This is a logging sale plain and simple and must be stopped. Natural forest land this close to major population areas has so much more value as habitat, water catchment, recreation and education than it does being turned in to 2×4’s and toilet paper. Not Here, Not Now, Not Ever.

    1. Avatar Gary B says:

      This is a strange take. The Forest Service’s mission includes managing utilization (extraction) of national forests. That’s always been the case. While I may not like this project, it is part of their mission to do logging sales, so it is indeed a “forest project” and it has little to do with agency capture in the 70s. Rather, the environmental reforms of that era restricted extractive utilization of the forests.

      I agree this land probably has a better use, and we can certainly discuss the means of harvesting timber in other places (extent of harvest, road building), but “not now, not ever” seems a bit hyperbolic to me.

  4. Avatar John says:

    I’m not saying I support logging the area but it probably makes sense from a Forest management perspective.

    However, I would take issue with the statement
    “Logging has been shown by OSU and the Oregon Global Warming Commission to be a top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon”
    I would agree with that if they said deforestation. But Lumber permanently lock carbon in it so that it doesn’t enter the atmosphere. Then the replanted trees continue to sequester carbon into new trees.
    Yes the logged area looks ugly for a decade or so. But you’re back into pre-commercial thinning before year 20, so the forest comes back relatively quickly in the long term.
    Also, if it’s logged responsibly, some trees will be left for habitat and bio-diversity.
    As for stream contamination, etc., Oregon has strict laws on how to manage a timber operation and usually a forester will check on a logging operation to ensure the rules are being followed.
    I also doubt if any trees are 80 years old. The local mills can only handle 24in diameter logs and I think there is one in Oregon that can handle 28in logs. But the transport cost doesn’t make it economical to transport logs too far. A 40 to 60 year old Doug Fir is about the max size for that species.
    The things one learns at tree school and the Small Woodland Owners association…

    1. Avatar turnips says:

      logging leads to greenhouse gas emissions by tearing up dirt that’s rich in organic carbon. while it’s certainly possible to log without causing that problem, such conscientiousness isn’t terribly common (to put it rather mildly).

    2. Avatar Bobcycle says:

      “Yes the logged area looks ugly for a decade or so. But you’re back into pre-commercial thinning before year 20, so the forest comes back relatively quickly in the long term.”

      What existed before logging was a bio diverse forest of multiple species, what it’s replaced with is a tree farm composed mostly of Doug firs. There is a difference. We have room for tree farms, but we need forests as well.

  5. Avatar Ron Lewis says:

    So, another thing to consider is while commenting here with strong opinions on Bark or forest management is fine, it might be more helpful to contribute your perspectives to the public commenting period which ends April 15th where it can be considered relative to the issue. That was the whole point.

  6. Avatar Bobcycle says:

    I like to bike gravel roads. I financially support BARK. ‍♂️I think they can work together very nicely.

    1. Avatar Brian says:

      I ride singeltrack trails, including mixed use singletrack trails. BARK doesn’t support that, which is why I don’t financially support them. I still think we could work nicely together, and I’m hopeful we will some day. I believe that environmental groups will become more open to mountain biking on trails as the years go by.

  7. Avatar mark smith says:

    I ride
    I ride a bicycle. Year round. On road and off road.And I trust BARK.Recommended 2

    Ok, that’s great. Perhaps you should do some research before really jumping into bed with them.

  8. Avatar X says:

    Barkers don’t hate bikes. (I’m not one but friends are). They just feel about trees the way you feel about bikes. Bark is all about keeping the Forest Service inside the lines and playing by their own rules at least. Hardly anybody else does that. So they came out against some mountain bike trails on Mt. Hood? See above. They’re not haters, they don’t want to own the forest, they’re just pro-tree. The enemy of your enemy may not be your friend but it’s nothing to be bitter about.

    1. Avatar Brian says:

      Mtb’ers are “pro tree,” as well. That’s what many in the enviro groups tend to forget, unfortunately. I am optimistic that as pressures by the anti-tree people increase, more alliances by mtb groups and groups like BARK will be forged.

  9. Avatar I wear many hats says:

    Its rather ironic that the only recreation access we have is done on the roads that were originally forged for resource extraction. Some of the best recreation we have now in the Mt Hood National Forests is on the rapidly fading logging tracks. The only reason we have roads to ‘gravel grind’ is because they were meant for hauling logs. A timber sale and road building however, is anathema to accepted scientific theory regarding climate change. I do not support BARK because of their repeated attempts to exclude bicycling. I do however support their mission to conserve. Its a tight spot to be in. Its worth partnering with them if it means continued tree growth and old forests returning. I anticipate that the only wilderness that will exist will be in abandoned tree farms as the BARK protected wildernesses get overrun with ‘sanctioned’ and ‘approved’ passive recreators. A partnership in this instance could serve BARK and the antiBARK equally.

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