Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will hold a town hall-style session Tuesday in Medford to discuss a local forest restoration pilot project and other issues.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will hold a town hall-style session Tuesday in Medford to discuss a local forest restoration pilot project and other issues.

Joining him will be Dan Ashe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director, Butch Blazer, U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy undersecretary for natural resources, and Neil Kornze, the Bureau of Land Management's acting deputy director for policy and programs.

Salazar's last visit to southwest Oregon, in October 2010, was to encourage interests to work together to protect both the ecosystem and jobs on BLM-managed forests in Western Oregon, officials said.

During that visit, he met with representatives of local counties, the Coquille Indian Tribe, the timber industry and environmental groups.

On Tuesday, Salazar is expected to visit the Pilot Joe timber sale in the Applegate Valley early in the morning, then hold the town-hall session beginning at 11 a.m. at the BLM district office at 3040 Biddle Road in Medford, said district spokesman Jim Whittington.

Salazar will make an announcement pertaining to the pilot project during his visit, Whittington said.

Invitations to the town hall have been sent out to more than 200 people who have been actively involved in the effort to find a collaborative solution to the debate over managing public forestlands, Whittington said. The session will also be open to the public, he added.

"They have sent out invitations to just about everyone who spent a lot of time in the collaborative process to get the pilot projects going," Whittington said, referring to county commissioners, timber industry representatives, environmental groups and others.

During his 2010 visit to the region, Salazar met with forest ecology professors Norm Johnson of Oregon State University and Jerry Franklin of the University of Washington who, along with environmental activists and timber industry representatives, convinced him to try a restoration forestry approach on three pilot projects in southwestern Oregon.

The principles devised by Johnson and Franklin call for preserving trees older than 150 years and avoiding entry into roadless areas. The goal is to preserve the largest trees and improve forest health, including northern spotted owl habitat, while producing wood for mills and reducing wildfire danger.

In addition to the middle Applegate Valley project, two other pilot projects are underway on BLM land in Douglas and Coos counties.

However, the 1.5-million-board-foot Pilot Joe timber sale in the Applegate, where logging began late in December, is the first where trees have been harvested.

In addition to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the BLM is working with the Southern Oregon Small Diameter Collaborative, Applegate Partnership and the Applegate Watershed Council in designing and monitoring the project.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.