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Friends of the Black Butte Trail

BLACK BUTTE TRAIL ENVIRONMENTAL ANALYSIS

Friends of the Black Butte Trail support Alternative 3, the alignment of a paved multi-use trail from Black Butte Ranch to Sisters, as described in The extensive US Forest Service Final Environmen Assessment, June 2014. The planned 7.6 mile Black Butte Trail will be a multi-use, non-motorized, non equestrian, paved path from the community of Black Butte Ranch to Sisters. revealed no significant impacts from trail construction (map). The trail winds its way through a “roaded natural” area, exclusively within the Wildland Urban Interface of the Deschutes National Forest, crisscrossed by numerous USFS and other user roads. Much of the area along the alignment has been thinned to minimize wildfire threats to nearby residential areas. The path will be 10 feet wide with a one foot gravel shoulder on each side, and the planned grade will be 5% or less, allowing for handicapped access, and will involve a ground disturbance of about 19 acres, calculated using a 20 foot average clearing width along the path alignment. The trail will be constructed to standards established by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which typically match or exceed relevant Americans with Disabilities standards. In addition, the trail will be carefully positioned to avoid large trees and to maintain significant separation from existing residences and other structures.

The trail will be located south of Highway 20, northeast of Tollgate, and no closer than 371 feet from the nearest private property boundary. The trail will depart from the public - commercial section of Black Butte Ranch near the Welcome Center and Police Station, and in Sisters the trail will enter the west Highway Commercial zone. Most of the trail use is expected to take place during summer months, when the population at Black Butte Ranch swells to almost twice the size of Sisters. The Oregon Department of Transportation will be consulted to ensure that trail entry and exit locations are positioned to enhance user and vehicular safety. Additions include a spur to Tollgate and the Sisters High School trail. Access will also be available to the nearby Forest Road 11 (Green Ridge Road) and Camp Polk Road, for those individuals willing to cross Highway 20.

The majority of the project area occurs in ponderosa pine forest and a small amount of aspen near Black Butte Ranch. Approximately 1.6 miles of the path at the northern end near Black Butte Ranch occurs within old-growth pine trees. The trail here primarily follows an old road that parallels Highway 20. Two other trails will be closed or decommissioned after trail construction, so there will essentially be no increase in open road density for wildlife species.

A sensitive plant called Peck’s penstemon is present in the area, but the impact on the plant will be minimal, according to the U.S. Forest Service, and trail construction will not lead to a federal listing because of the limited size and scope of the trail project. Archeological concerns may cause minor adjustments to the trail.

The construction of the paved path will require three crossings to mitigate impacts to riparian and other wet areas. Trout Creek will need a boxed culvert and several smaller relief culverts to allow for stream braiding. Indian Ford will have a bridge, and near Black Butte Ranch a raised boardwalk or similar structure is planned to mitigate impacts to a pine/aspen wet area to allow the free flow of water in the wet area.

No more than 250 trees are designated for removal along the trail alignment. Seventy-two of those trees will have a diameter of less than 8 inches diameter at breast height (dbh). None of the other trees that need to be cut will exceed 21 inches dbh. The removal of trees must be viewed in the context of the many thousands of similar trees in the Sisters area that have been and are being removed to try to prevent catastrophic wild fires (see our section on forest management and catastrophic forest fires). Similarly, the tree removal, and the potential ability of those trees to absorb carbon dioxide, must be contrasted with the carbon emissions from automobiles in Sisters communities where the car currently is the only practical transportation option (see our section comparing CO2 absorption by trees vs. CO2 emissions by automobiles).

One must also consider that once the trees are removed, there will be more sunlight available to the nearby remaining trees, and more water will be available to recharge the groundwater. As a result those trees will be able to grow more vigorously, expand in girth and thickness of bark, and canopies will expand. The goal of current forest management in the Sisters area is to promote the development of fire resistant large older trees that can resist ground fire, to restore proper forest ecological functions, and to increase quality habitat for birds and other wildlife. The goals also strive to provide recreational opportunities and scenic beauty.

Residents of the Sisters community are also part of the environment, and the positive impact on emotional and health benefits associated with the use of the paved trail must also be considered. We need alternatives to the sole practical mode of transport currently available to so many of our residents: the automobile. Our latest generation of children are expected to have a shorter life expectance due to lack of exercise. Let us make a concerted effort to make sure that this negative trend does not affect our community.

Any adverse effects form the construction of the Black Butte Trail are far outweighed by benefits. This is an opinion stated in the 2014 Final Environmental Assessment, Sisters Community Trails Project: Sisters to Black Butte Ranch Multi-Use Paved Trail, Sisters Ranger District, Deschutes National Forest. We at the Friends of Black Butte Trail can only fully agree with that conclusion.

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Discovery Trail, Long Beach Peninsula, WA. A raised boardwalk or similar structure, as seen above, is planned to mitigate impacts to a pine/aspen wet area to allow the free flow of water in the wet area near Black Butte Ranch.

 

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