What’s Best for Oregon Trees? The Lorax Knew

Final in This Series about Oregon Forests-

The remedy…

for this question was prescribed by the infamous Dr. Suess during an era when the Environmental legislation, including the Endangered Species Act, was being hammered out and refined. He wrote this prescription over forty years ago in the conclusion of his book, The Lorax.

Why?

It’s a message vital for ALL to heed.

Because…

The earth’s environment is threatened by human demand for resources. Dangerous consequences result when resource removal depletes or exceeds Dynamic Nature Cycles’ abilities to replace or replenish what is harvested to make “product.”

The research I’ve done to write this series of posts (focused on understanding forest management legislation) leads me to believe that we are in similar times now as we were when Dr. Suess penned his prophetic prescription.  In an effort to fix economic woes at county, state, and federal levels- Oregon’s forests are a prime target for “product.” The most impacting action is the extraction of trees in the form of timber, and biomass fuel. Who, what, when, where, why, and how this harvesting will be achieved are at the root of legislation that is currently being created in both the House and Senate. In the House, the Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act: H.R. 1526 is active. In the Senate, the Oregon and California Land Grant Act of 2013: S.1784 is active.

At a recent Town Hall meeting held in Columbia County by Senator Wyden…

I asked Senator Wyden to talk about his bill- S.1784, and the Oregon and California Land Grant aka (O & C) lands. In his remarks, he referred to Oregon forests  as:

  • our  “treasures.”

I also heard the senator emphasize that the O & C forest areas are landholdings that need to:

  • remain under the administration of the Federal Government,
  • be logged using variable retention harvesting to provide income and jobs for economically depressed counties,
  • undergo thinning to remove the ladder fuels that often create conditions for catastrophic forest fires.

Thoughts and Reflections-

Since that meeting, I’ve given the bulleted ideas more thought and reflected about why this matters all to me.

Our “treasures”-

I view Senator Wyden as one who respects Oregon’s people and resources. There is sincerity in his voice when he describes his goal for transparency in communication. That goal is backed up by trips he makes each year to all counties in the state to hear points of view and concerns in Town Hall meetings like the one I attended a week ago. To date, Senator Wyden has made over 684 of these visits during his career.

I mention this as a way to help me wrap my head around the talking point that Oregon’s forests are our “treasure.” The word treasure can be interpreted in ways that could potentially inspire two very different policy outcomes. Treasure by one definition would consider the value of forests as something to be preserved, revered, prized, and safeguarded. Treasure by another definition would consider the value of forests as something to be exploited for wealth, fortune, money, and gain. I think the word “treasure” needs to be used with prudence in connection with law-making by both the representative and those represented. Oregon forests are not infinitely renewable. Some of the ancient forest trees that once grew here can never be replaced. Remaining ancient forest “treasure” should fall under the first definition and be safeguarded. Other forest areas in the O&C lands should also be revered when decisions about harvesting for economic gain are legislated so that the Rx written by Dr. Suess is followed. Prudent legislation must provide for the management/ replanting of forests that sustain the ability of “friends to come back” in the form of healthy forest ecosystems.

Administered by Federal Government-

Under the provisions of the Oregon and California Land Grant Act of 2013, the 2,651,764 acres of forest would remain under the management of the Federal Government. Currently, those lands are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. In the past (during 1908’s), the BLM made some poor choices that caused areas of ancient forest to be sold and timbered. Since then practices have improved, however, to prevent catastrophic management decisions from occurring in the future,  my opinion would be that management be aligned with Northwest Forest Act guidelines. Adherence to the National Environmental Policy Act’s provisions for environmental analysis and public review should also remain unchanged.

Variable Retention Harvesting-

This provision in Senator Wyden’s bill is where I notice a lot of controversy. And I think this is for good reason. Many consider the “science-based” method of harvest a way to package clear-cutting in a 21st Century wrapper. How the harvest plan is conceived and written, where variable retention harvesting is done, and who will provide long-term monitoring of the affected forest ecosystems are important elements. I’m not convinced that the pending legislation clearly addresses these factors. Research has shown that retentions of 15% closely mimic clear-cuts and cause negative outcomes for: bio-diversity/habitat recovery, and riparian zones integrity. It wasn’t until 40% retention or more that negative impacts declined. According to articles written by British Columbia forestry agencies, the cost of variable retention harvesting is more expensive than clear-cut harvesting. This causes me to be concerned that Oregon counties who are promised revenues from the sale of timber on Federal lands under the O&C Land Grant of 2013 could be sorely disappointed.

Forest Thinning-

Simply said on this topic- I would be concerned how this kind of legislation is written. It seems this could provide a “loophole” that establishes a pathway for logging old growth forest under the guise of thinning for fire suppression, insect control…

Why this all matters to me-

Future generations will always have a lot riding on what the generations before them did with forest ecology. Now, more than ever, forests play a key role in the well-being of our watersheds, air-quality, and carbon foot-print. With technology so pervasive in our global culture, it could be easy for people to simply not understand what vital importance nature and natural places play in the survival of our planet. As an aspiring Naturalist, I wish to support activities that promote understanding, reverence, and intelligently-informed thinking to guide the decisions that effect our natural world. To do so, for me, involves not only learning the Natural History aspects of being a naturalist, but also being aware of the Political Science elements that can profoundly affect wildlife homeostasis.

A couple days ago, I read a copy of a letter written to Senator Wyden. The letter was written on behalf of supporters in Oregon, and supporters nationally who are disappointed with the Senator’s Oregon and California Land Grand Act of 2013. My struggles to clearly articulate my concerns with the bill were eased immensely by the letter. It expresses my thoughts, and provides a conclusion to this series of posts in my quest for coming to terms with “What’s Best for Oregon Trees.” This is the link to a copy of the letter: Ltr to Wyden

2 comments

  1. You’ve worked really hard on this series. It’s given me a sense of some of the issues surrounding forest management and preservation. Thank you!

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    1. I could still keep going on this… there are a lot of issues, it’s a very complex topic, as you have discovered. Thank you very much for reading through the posts. I sincerely appreciate the time you took to explore forest management and conservation/preservation concepts with me. It will be interesting to see what happenes now that our senator has been appointed as chair of a new committee. Ron Wyden was a key player behind one of the bills currently active in the Senate.

      Like

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