My View: Rethink clear-cut logging plans in gorge
In Oregon, we love our trees. We even have an old growth Douglas fir featured on our state license plate.
Oregon's forests provide critical habitat for wildlife, clean water for salmon, and abundant public recreation opportunities. Oregon also needs our forest products industry, but logging needs to be done in a sustainable manner that is consistent with our community values. This is especially true in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
Our communities are within the protected boundaries of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, one of only nine such areas in the nation. It has been rated by National Geographic Traveler magazine as the world's sixth-best sustainable tourist destination.
One would not expect clear-cuts to be allowed within a national scenic area. However, due to a loophole in the 1986 law, clear-cuts are exempt from the National Scenic Area Act on nonfederal land in certain parts of the national scenic area.
Recently, corporate giant Weyerhaeuser Co. bought land in the national scenic area between the communities of Hood River and Mosier, and obtained a permit to create the biggest clear-cut in the gorge since the passage of the 1986 National Scenic Act. Parachuting into our community and clear-cutting these lands flies in the face of Weyerhaeuser's conservation pledge, which states: "We recognize that some lands have special value to the people who live in communities surrounding them. Respecting that, we seek opportunities to protect areas that have exceptional historic, visual, recreational, forestry or wildlife habitat attributes."
Despite these platitudes, Weyerhaeuser has not contacted the communities of Hood River or Mosier, which will be significantly impacted by their clear-cutting plans. They do not seem to value the exceptional attributes of the Columbia River Gorge, an international treasure. To Weyerhaeuser, this is just another unit of forest land subject to industrial logging industry practices, designed to maximize profit and minimize expense.
So far, Weyerhaeuser has failed to engage the public. Their clear-cut plans remain unchanged despite concerns raised by the Gorge Commission, Friends of the Columbia Gorge and community members.
A 2012 clear-cut on the steep slopes above the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail between Hood River and Mosier is still highly visible and has not noticeably grown back, despite replanting. Weyerhaeuser's proposed clear-cut, totaling nearly 250 acres, will add to the damage of this earlier cut and compound the visual scars left in the gorge by the Eagle Creek Fire.
Sustainable forestry requirements have been in place since 1991 within the Special Management Areas of the Columbia River Gorge. These requirements allow commercial timber harvest while also protecting clean water, wildlife habitat and scenic views. Although these forest practices rules are not legally required to apply to Weyerhaeuser's lands, Weyerhaeuser could and should voluntarily apply these rules to its forest practice activities at this site in order to protect highly sensitive resources in our precious national scenic area.
Clear-cutting a national scenic treasure is morally unacceptable; a thing of our past. Most Oregonians value clean drinking water, wildlife viewing opportunities, recreational opportunities and scenic beauty on forest lands. Clear-cuts compromise these values. Scenic resources and healthy forests enhance Oregon's quality of life, which may, in the end, be its most valuable economic development asset. We ask Weyerhaeuser to engage in a dialogue toward a sustainable solution.