Forest for Posterity, Not Profit by Jeremy Hall
"Where once stood a majestic rock outcropping, piles of spent shotgun shells and bullet-ridden windshields, mattresses, and milk jugs now litter the bottom of a gaping hole in the earth."
On a recent hike out of Portland to one of the major tributaries of the South Clackamas River, it became as clear as clean water why saving what is left of our national forestland is so important. There, on Memaloose Creek, I saw what is both right and wrong with public policy on national forestland.
Most of the tributaries of the Clackamas River, like those of the other major rivers in Oregon, have been chopped up. Hundreds of miles of logging roads been built to clearcut thousands of acres of public forest land, resulting in ever greater risk of degraded drinking water for 185,000 Oregonians. Not only have a few corporations benefited from the selloff of public resources, but taxpayers have subsidized the destruction of our own forestlands at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars every year. This, in stark contrast to the fact that the American public, in poll after poll, is ready to end private resource extraction from public lands. There is a rising groundswell of public support to free our forests from corporate profit taking overseen by career bureaucrats of the U.S. "get out the cut" Forest Service.
On the drive into the Memaloose watershed, clearcuts have denuded the landscape. Old logging roads have become mud-bog havens for off-road-vehicles and illegal dumping sites. Decades of quarrying the annual gravel for these roads have resulted in three massive quarries carved deep into the stone faces of the mountainside. Where once stood a majestic rock outcropping, piles of spent shotgun shells and bullet-ridden windshields, mattresses, and milk jugs now litter the bottom of a gaping hole in the earth.
The landscape changes dramatically after bushwacking down to the creek in one of the three large roadless areas in the Memaloose watershed. The whine of dirt-bike engines and the bangs of shotguns fade as I hike deeper into the ancient forest. The direct sunlight, so harsh in the clearcuts, gives way to a softer light, filtered through the needles of the tallest trees and the new leaflets of salmonberry and vine maple. Ruts from dirt bikes give way to game trails. The bright orange of the witch's butter fungi sprouting from decomposing branches replaces the bright orange potato chip wrappers that clutter the earlier landscape.
But all this is at risk from more timber sales and more road construction. In this first year of the millenium, two timber sales are planned that will irreversibly and permanently alter the landscape of a significant portion of the last wild forest in the Memaloose watershed.
Protecting the roadless, pristine forests finally got the attention of the Clinton administration last year. Hundreds of thousands of people had sent in official comments, calling for the end of logging, mining, off road vehicle use and road building in all unroaded sections of the National Forests that exceeded 1,000 acres. In response, the Forest Service has proposed banning road construction in the very largest and highest elevation roadless areas in Oregon's Forests. This is a welcome start, but it doesn't help lower elevation roadless areas, like Memaloose Creek. These are the most diverse and most threatened, yet they're not afforded adequate protections under the policy.
The good news is that we still have time to change this! Please take a few minutes to comment on this policy.
Please include the following in your letter to the US Forest Service
The final policy should protect all roadless areas of at least 1,000 acres.
No exemptions should be made to this rule. All National Forests should be included, especially the forests of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska's Tongass.
Road building and logging should be permanently and immediately halted in all inventoried roadless areas.
Follow-up planning should be mandated to identify/protect unroaded areas 1,000 acres and larger, and permanently ends damage to both inventoried and un-inventoried areas from mining, off-road vehicles, down hill ski developments, etc.
wInstitute an interim moratorium on development and damaging use of all roadless and unroaded areas until they are permanently protected.
Send your letters to: USDA Forest Service-CAET Attn: Roadless PO Box 221090 Salt Lake City, UT 84122 Comments must be received by July 17, 2000.
Jeremy Hall, having lived around industrial logging his entire life, started to devote his energies to pristine forest advocacy in 1995. When not out eating salmon berries, swimming under waterfalls or photographing proposed clearcuts, Jeremy works in the Oregon Natural Resources Council offices in Portland. He can be reached at 503-283-6343.