The U.S. Forest Service agreed to cut fewer trees within the scar of the Labor Day fires in a decision over how the federal agency should make its roads safe and return access to 170,000 acres of public lands east of Salem and Eugene.

For more than two years, the Forest Service and environmental groups have battled over the scale of “hazard tree removal” — the cutting of fire-burned trees along hundreds of miles of roads in Willamette National Forest torched in the Beachie Creek, Lionshead and Holiday Farm fires.

Last week, the Forest Service issued a final decision to remove fire-killed trees along 253 miles of roads within the scar of the three fires. It was far fewer than the 404 miles originally planned for logging.

A barrier blocks access to further travel on the North Fork Road near the edge of the Willamette National Forest.

The purpose of the project is to remove trees that could fall across roads. Work will begin in the coming year and result in the reopening of roads that have remained closed, mainly in the Detroit area.

The forest and trails reopened last autumn but many of the roads providing access remained closed, leading to longer-than-normal hikes to reach popular destinations including Jefferson Park, Tumble Lake and what remains of Jawbone Flats in the Opal Creek area.

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