by Janice Reid
Timber harvesting and related activities such as road building can devastate forest ecosystems and biodiversity. Monitoring public land and the activities in our forests is of utmost importance from a conservation organization’s perspective to minimize the negative impact on the environment. Monitoring projects and activities on our public land allows conservation organizations to expose activities that do not comply with established guidelines, regulations, and management plans that often result in habitat loss and the disruption of ecological balance. By actively monitoring projects on public land, organizations can identify discrepancies between project expectations and the outcome enabling the organization to alert management agencies about infractions. This oversight helps protect vulnerable forest areas and preserves biodiversity as long as the perpetrators are held accountable. We rely on our public land managers, law enforcement, and prosecutors to follow through on the information acquired to safeguard our forests for future generations and ensure our planet’s long-term health and resilience. Allowing illegal activity to go unpunished leads to further infractions as perpetrators learn that the risk is minimal. If the law is not enforced, our civil and legal system is eroded.
At Umpqua Watersheds, we would like to work with the agencies to prevent illegal activities, discourage ecologically destructive practices, and hold those accountable for not safeguarding the public trust. Communication is important, and there is no substitute for an in-person meeting. Dialogue can be informative for all parties and can help save time and resources. My interest and dismay in right-of-way laws have revealed a system of deeply destructive practices by private landowners to perpetrate an egregious act of destruction on our public lands circumventing environmental laws, current management plans, and public scrutiny. In some cases, the agencies are unable to prevent the destructive activities. But in other cases of illegal activity, which they can do something about, they refuse to press charges. How utterly irresponsible. Our monitoring team recently discovered an illegal activity of large old-growth trees cut and milled on site. The agency was alerted, evidence was gathered, and the case was referred for prosecution. But the agency solicitor declined to do what is required: hold the perpetrators accountable.
Monitoring can be a tireless and unrewarding process. Is shame enough if we don’t have the law on our side? I recall the line from the movie Jurassic Park where the mathematician, played by Jeff Goldblum, essentially states something to the effect that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.