Warner Creek Fire collection , 1991-2001

Overview of the Collection

United States. Forest Service. Pacific Northwest Region
Warner Creek Fire collection
1991-2001 (inclusive)
11 linear feet, (23 containers)
Collection Number
Coll 287
The Warner Creek Fire collection consists of documents related to the Warner Creek Fire in Willamette National Forest, Oregon in October 1991, and its aftermath. The majority of the collection is the Administrative Record presented by the U.S.F.S. during DISTRICT OF OREGON lawsuit 94-6245: SIERRA CLUB, et al v. UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Additional Reference Guides

See the Current Collection Guide for detailed description and requesting options.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

U.S. Forest Service Records of the Warner Creek Fire and Recovery Project, 1991-1996

The Warner Creek Fire was set by an unknown arsonist on October 10, 1991. By the time it was controlled on October 27, it had burned 8,973 acres on the Oakridge Ranger District, at a cost of $10 million. The burned area lies north of State Highway 58, about 12 miles east of the City of Oakridge, Oregon. The entire fire area lay within what was soon (January 1992) to be designated a Habitat Conservation Area (specifically, HCA 0-10), a designated management area primarily for Northern Spotted Owl habitat [1]. It was the first large fire in a Spotted Owl HCA, and thus a major test of the Forest Service's application of spotted owl conservation guidelines.

During November 1999, Willamette National Forest Supervisor Darrel Kenops directed a 21-member Interdisciplinary Team (IDT) to develop recovery alternatives consistent with the need to protect the Northern Spotted Owl habitat. The IDT performed a variety of analyses and identified issues to be addressed in the development of alternative approaches. Kenops also appointed a "board of directors", made up of other Willamette NF officials, to provide support for the project staff and facilitate connections among agencies. In addition he formed a "Public Participation Group", which included representatives of environmental, timber industry, and government organizations. Members of these three groups are listed in the "List of Preparers" section of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the recovery project [2].

Beginning in November 1991 the "scoping" process began, to identify the issues to be analyzedin planning for the recovery project. This process involved a public participation program, including a series of hearings and tours, the publication of a newsletter, The Warner Creek Bulletin, the appointment of the Public Participation Group, and the invitation for comments from the public. Twenty-five issues were identified through this scoping process, to be dealt with in the environmental impact analysis. On October 27, 1992, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) [3] was released, with the deadline for comments eventually extended to February 12, 1993. The DEIS presented nine alternatives. The Forest Supervisor's preferred alternative was Alternative F, "Removal of Fire-killed Trees Using Existing Roads". The selected alternative would permit salvage logging of 39 million board feet (MBF) of dead timber, on 1,197 acres. Six of the alternatives identified smaller harvests. The options ranged from zero to 56 million board feet. The Forest Service estimated there was a total of 180 MBF of dead timber in the burned area.

Controversy over the proposal was intense, with timber industry groups demanding a larger salvage harvest, and some environmental groups insisting upon no salvage cuts at all. A key point in the discussion concerned the arsonist origins of the fire. Some groups suspected the fire had been set by those who stood to benefit from the resulting salvage logging, in an area otherwise off-limits because of its HCA designation. They claimed that any harvest at all would reward the arson, and set an undesirable precedent. Protests also greeted the Forest Supervisor's decision to go against the advice of his IDT, which had recommended Alternative FB, the "Fuel Break Scenario". An internal USFS review team of biologists and foresters, on December 29, 1992, also recommended Alternative FB, criticizing Alternative F as inconsistent with the Forest Service's owl protection plan. The Northern Spotted Owl Conservation Group, an inter-agency committee that included BLM, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the Forest Service, gave a similar assessment.

The Final EIS and Record of Decision that were released on October 13, 1993, selected a level of salvage logging (9 MBF) that was 25% of the original proposal. The selected alternative was Alternative L, which was a blend of strategies contained in Alternative E Modified, "Area controlled tree retention", and FB, "Fuel Breaks". An Alternative EF "Ecology of Fire", which was authored by members of Cascadia Earth First!, was included in the FEIS, although it was not selected.

Thirteen appeals were submitted to the Regional Forester (Region 6, Portland) prior to the December 3, 1993 deadline, and that office agreed to a Sierra Club request to delay awarding logging contracts until the appeals had been decided. In April 1994, the Northwest Forest Plan [4] was approved, which replaced the HCA's with a system of "late successional reserves", or LSRs. In May 1994, the Regional Forester, John Lowe, denied all thirteen appeals, and the Washington Office of the USFS declined a discretionary review of his decision. Action was still delayed, however, until the Northwest Forest Plan, which created the LSRs that now embraced the fire area, was approved by U.S. District Court judge William Dwyer in Seattle. Once Dwyer rendered his decision, the Warner Fire strategy still needed to undergo a review by a team that the Northwest Forest Plan had mandated. That review, by the White House Office of Forestry and Economic Development, was passed in January 1995.

Meanwhile, in June 1994, the Sierra Club and the Oregon Natural Resources Council filed a suit [5] in U.S. District Court in Eugene, seeking to block the timber sales. [NOTE: In defending this lawsuit, the Forest Service gave to their attorneys the "administrative record", a set of documents drawn from its more extensive files on the Warner Fire Recover Project. It is this administrative record, reassembled in chronological order for the government attorneys, that comprises the majority of the documents in this present collection. The larger set of documents, including the "project analysis file", was destroyed in the arson-set fire of the Oakridge Ranger Station on October 29, 1996.] On March 27, 1995, U.S. Magistrate Tom Coffin issued an opinion rejecting most of the plaintiffs' arguments. He did, however, accept their assertion that the Forest Service had erred in dismissing arson as an issue when preparing its recovery plan. Magistrate Coffin's opinion was a non-binding, advisory opinion to U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan, that logging be halted until the Forest Service had considered arson as a factor. Coffin rescinded his opinion in April, but reinstated it in May. Judge Hogan issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the Forest Service from awarding any Warner Creek timber contracts until he had ruled on the merits of the lawsuit.

On July 27, 1995, President Clinton signed into law a provision, commonly referred to as the "salvage rider" or "salvage timber rider", which waived environmental protection laws to expedite the harvest of dead and dying timber in federal forests, and reduced the available avenues for judicial challenges to proposed sales under the law. The law, section 2001 of P.L. 104-19 (109 Stat. 240), took effect immediately and was set to expire on September 30, 1997. On September 6 Judge Hogan dismissed the lawsuit on the basis of the salvage rider provisions, despite plaintiffs' objections that Congress had not intended the law to be applied retroactively. The Forest Service had, on June 13, evaluated the bids for a 520,000 MBF sale, and determined the successful bidder to be Thomas Creek Lumber & Log, Co. Demonstrations against the sale began shortly thereafter.

On September 7 Thomas Creek Lumber & Log, Co. was sent the salvage sale award letter and contract. The environmental groups appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which on September 15th rejected their request for a temporary injunction against logging at Warner Creek. The Court scheduled a February 1996 date to hear the appeal. Following Hogan's decision, dozens of environmental activists set up a long-term encampment and blockade of Forest Service Road 2408 leading to the sale area. In May 1996, the Forest Service announced its intention to auction off 11 MBF of timber in the southern part of the burned area. The "Warner South Timber Sale" was outside the LSRs created by the Northwest Forest Plan, but within the "matrix" of lands still open to logging, and was later renamed the "Matrix" sale. The two sales combined would open a total 19 MBF to harvest.

On July 2 Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman issued an order limiting salvage logging, to ensure that any salvage timber sales represented true emergency actions necessary to control insect infestations and reduce forest fire danger. The ruling also prohibited logging in roadless areas. Nearly all the Warner Creek burn is in roadless areas. On July 29 USDA and the Forest Service announced a tentative settlement with Thomas Creek Lumber & Log Co, canceling the sale of 520,000 board feet, which had been awarded the previous September. On August 16 Forest Service law enforcement officials began evicting protesters on Road 2408, and bulldozed the blockades and trenches. Several protesters were arrested, as were two Eugene Register-Guard reporters. On August 23 the agreement with the Thomas Creek Company was made final, and the sale was cancelled.

1. Final environmental impact statement on management for the Northern Spotted Owl in the national forests: states of Washington, Oregon and California. Portland, Or.: U.S. Forest Service, 1992.

2. Warner Fire Recovery Project, Oakridge Ranger District, Willamette National Forest, final environmental impact statement. Eugene, Or: U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, 1993.

3. Warner Fire Recovery Project, Oakridge Ranger District, Willamette National Forest: draft environmental impact statement. [Portland, Or.?]: U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, 1992.

4. Record of decision for amendments to Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management planning documents within the range of the northern spotted owl ; Standards and guidelines for management of habitat for late-successional and old-growth forest related species within the range of the northern spotted owl. [Portland, OR : Interagency SEIS Team, 1994].

5. Sierra Club et al. v USFS, No. 94-6245-R (Warner Project).

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The majority of Warner Creek Fire Collection consists of the Administrative Record for the Sierra Club et. al. v. U.S. Forest Service lawsuit. These files largely date from 1991 to 1996. There are additional documents from after the Warner Creek Fire Recovery Project and lawsuit were completed.

The collection consists of the U.S.F.S. documentation relating to the creation of the initial Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)and follow-up Final Environmental Impact Statement, public comment during the DEIS and FEIS process, USFS-Interdisciplinary Team notes and communications, governmental review of the EIS products, and the DEIS and FEIS published work. Additionally, copies of major USFS management protocol as related to the Northern Spotted Owl are included in the collection.

The collection preserves the order of the Administrative Record, and maintains the organizational headings that the supplementary documents had upon delivery. The supplementary documents are organizanized in chronological order and sub-headings within the pre-existing headings.

Major correspondants include: Darrel Kenops, Terri Jones, Tim Bailey, Tim Ingalsbee, and Charlie Ogle.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Arson--Oregon--Warner Creek Region (Lane County)
  • Environmentalists--Oregon
  • Forest fires--Environmental aspects--Oregon--Warner Creek Region (Lane County)
  • Forest fires--Law and legislation--Oregon--Warner Creek Region (Lane County)
  • Forest policy--Oregon--Warner Creek Region (Lane County)
  • Forest reserves--Oregon--Management--Planning
  • Logging--Environmental aspects--Oregon--Warner Creek Region (Lane County)
  • Logging--Political aspects--Oregon--Warner Creek Region (Lane County)
  • Northern spotted owl--Government policy--Oregon--Warner Creek Region (Lane County)
  • Northern spotted owl--Habitat--Oregon--Warner Creek Region (Lane County)
  • Wildlife conservation--Oregon--Warner Creek Region (Lane County)

Personal Names

  • Bailey, Timothy W.
  • Ingalsbee, Timothy
  • Jones, Terri L.
  • Kenops, Darrel

Corporate Names

  • Oregon Natural Resources Council
  • Sierra Club
  • United States. Forest Service. Pacific Northwest Region
  • Warner Fire Recovery Project

Geographical Names

  • Warner Creek Region (Lane County, Or.)
  • Willamette National Forest (Or.)