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Restoring the Santiam State Forest

About the Santiam State Forest recovery

Over 16,000 acres of the Santiam State Forest was damaged in 2020's Labor Day fires. The fires took an extensive toll on popular recreation sites, roads, and natural resources. Read on to learn what happened in the 2020 fires, ODF's plans for recovery and restoration, and opportunities to get involved.

Santiam State Forest recovery map

Through this interactive map, you can find information on burn severity throughout the Santiam State Forest as well as post-fire imagery, how parcels of state forestland are classified, stand ages pre-fire, aquatics and more. View the map in full screen (Microsoft Edge browser not recommended).

Recovery and restoration

ODF's strategy to restore the Santiam State Forest strives to re-establish a healthy, working forest through a range of reforestation methods. This process also includes recovery timber sales, road repair, restoring recreational amenities, and removing hazardous trees that pose a danger to the public.

To address these needs, ODF has prepared a revised Implementation Plan for the North Cascade District, which covers the Santiam State Forest and reflects circumstances after the fires. This revised plan covers Fiscal Year 2021 through the end of Fiscal Year 23 (June 30, 2023) and provides a broad overview of strategies and activities with the aim of re-establishing a healthy, productive forest that provides the economic, environmental, and social benefits required by law on state forests.​​

As part of ODF's public engagement efforts, the agency accepted public comment for 42 days and hosted a virtual public presentation and forum on initial restoration plans on Dec. 8, 2020. View the public meeting​. Written comments received are linked below.​

Recreation and public access

Currently the entire Santiam State Forest is closed to the public. Re-opening will occur in phases as it is safe to do so and ODF can protect forest resources. That information will be posted here as it's available.

Burned trail sign for Shellburg falls

Some of the Santiam's most popular destinations were severely damaged, including Shellburg Falls, Rocky Top/Niagara area, and the Rhody Lake/High Lakes areas. Damage include full tree mortality around many campsites, complete or partial sign loss, and vault toilet heat damage. Additionally, the ODF district office in Lyons was destroyed in the fire.

Approximately 24 of 32 trail miles in the Santiam State Forest were within the fire perimeter. Trail damage varies in degree of severity and includes tread collapse due to root burnout, sloughing and rock fall as well as blowdown during and after the fires and accompanying wind event. Hazard tree assessment and removal is needed on all impacted trails.

Unaffected areas include the Rock Creek and Butte Creek Falls Campgrounds as well as the Butte Creek Falls Trail and the Crooked Finger OHV area.

With 190 miles of forest road in the fire perimeter, repairing and restoring road access is a top priority. For example, opening interior sections of the forest that did not burn will, in many cases, require access through areas that did burn. Work being planned or underway include repairing and replacing culverts damaged in the fire, and addressing 19 sections of road that require debris removal, road bed repair, or bank stabilization.

About the fires

Managed by the Oregon Department of Forestry, the 47,000+ acre Santiam State Forest saw extensive damage in the Beachie Creek Fire of 2020. See a map of the Santiam State Forest. The Beachie Creek Fire was slowly growing in a remote, steep and rugged portion of U.S. Forest Service land in the Opal Creek Wilderness. Historic drought conditions exacerbated by climate change, combined with high temperatures and low humidity, created conditions for fire to spread rapidly. A historic wind event on Sept. 7, 2020 caused the fire to grow from about 500 acres to over 130,000 acres in a 24-hour span. Firefighter walking through the burned forestCommunities throughout the Santiam Canyon were evacuated. The fire claimed five lives, destroyed 470 homes as well as numerous businesses, decimated private and public forestland, and altered the Santiam Canyon for decades to come. 

About 16,600 acres were damaged in the fire, and 24,700 acres were within the fire perimeter. But the fire burned in a mosaic pattern across the landscape with varying intensity. ODF-managed lands are working forests that, by law, must provide economic, social and environmental benefits to Oregonians. As part of this mission, ODF forests are managed for fire resiliency, including thinning activities that can help slow intensity and spread of fire. Several large ODF-managed tracts within the fire perimeter showed low-intensity burns, and it's possible that this management strategy contributed to reduced impact in these areas. Even so, many areas saw high or extreme fire intensity that killed most trees on the landscape and caused extensive damage to roads, trails and other infrastructure.

Contact

Public Affairs
503-945-7427

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