Umpqua Watersheds Blog

Conservation

Summer 2018

Published June 7th, 2018 in Conservation

J. Patrick Quinn

Eco-terrorism! This misleading and insulting label was applied to conservation organizations by uninformed individuals. Participation in the National Environmental Policy Act process is not only a privilege under the law, it is also a responsibility to its membership that Umpqua Watersheds takes very seriously. These careful, well considered actions are not vindictive or intended to harm residents of our region, human and otherwise, quite the opposite. Thus, when an egregious request for yet another 1,400 ft of road through old growth on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in order for Lone Rock Timber (LRT) to access 6 acres of their second growth near Susan Creek Falls, we objected. Despite meeting with supervisors at the Roseburg District of BLM, and suggesting reasonable alternatives, ancient trees were felled, so that machinery designed to greatly automate clear cutting could gain access. However, as of this writing, LRT has put their harvest of that particular 6 acres on hold. The devastating road built for access to their land, apparently is not being used for that at all for the initially stated purpose.

Ecological Terrorism! That is the more complete and correct term for the barbaric and relentless clear cut butchering of vast portions of the Western Oregon watersheds we call home. This latter form of environmental terror is a policy war; a long-running conflict between environmentally responsible management of forested landscapes and a Silvan financial model designed for the highest monetary return on investment, delivered in the shortest possible amount of time. In this “Wall Street Equation” the integrity of intact natural systems do not compute. The health, happiness and quality of life of human beings is also directly impacted by this management style; a model that requires large acreages to be “slicked off”, replanted in sterile monoculture corn rows, and sprayed with toxins and immense quantities of synthetic nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers. Using funds acquired by the Oregon Department of Revenue from Oregon Forest Products Harvest Tax, timber industry organizations produce TV advertisements telling us how wonderful this clear cutting is for watersheds. There is no other way to characterize such shameless and self-serving timber industry propaganda: a lie. And paid for by funds which should be returned to support county governments or school districts, where those trees were cut.

When Big Timber and its enablers in elected government call for more extraction from our Federal lands, we remind the federal agencies of this inappropriate relationship, both environmental and financial. We offer strong objection to federal projects that propose to introduce large canopy openings onto landscapes already badly degraded by private land clear cutting. We remind the BLM of its statutory obligation to protect watersheds, regulate streamflows and provide for recreation as quoted in the 1937 O & C Act which does not stipulate the protection and regulation of only public lands, but of watersheds, period! Despite UW’s relentless citation of these obligations, the BLM persists in a myopic overview of landscape conditions, a perspective that encompasses only the public lands it manages, effectively ignoring the landscape-wide ecological and revenue inequities. We protest that blindness, and when denied, appeal those denials. Such advocacy is not any kind of terrorism but a fulfillment of the duty our organization owes to the present and future communities and to the ecosystem on which they depend.

We believe our persistent citation of the Perry-Jones Study on the relationship of low summer flows to clearcut logging has led to a scientific forum on April 4th at the Pacific Northwest Research Station, in Corvallis. Conservation organization representatives, including UW were in attendance. A panel of hydrologic and sylvan experts explained what has been so far determined by means of painstaking empirical observation. No theory nor sound evidence presented by anyone present, was able to gainsay the dire conclusions of Perry-Jones. Indeed, the best that a hydrologist for the Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Investment Trust (Weyerhaeuser was one of the several forum sponsors) could do was to declare rather testily: “Well, people want two by fours!” So much for the hydrology of depleted summer flows. We continue to seek funds to underwrite sound research to assert the relevance of the conclusions of Perry-Jones to Western Oregon watersheds. Please stay tuned.

As another wildfire season arrives, we have been assessing post-fire operations in watersheds adjacent to the Umpqua. The 4090 ac salvage of the Chetco Bar Fire on the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest (RRSNF) includes over 2,000 acres in primary stands, some intensely burned. We have asked the RRSNF to abstain from building roads and clear cutting where such activities have not occurred before. Nearly 10,000 acres of private industrial holdings within this fire footprint will be clear cut and heavily restocked impacting streamflow and water quality. UW insists that this RRNF forest must take these contextual facts into serious consideration. We have applied the same logic to the even more extreme post-fire salvage logging proposals made by the Klamath National Forest. Judging by these extractive plans, strongly opposed by the resident indigenous peoples, we have joined with the Geos Institute and other credible environmental groups in formally opposing this environmentally harmful activity. Challenges such as “old growth thinning” west of Grants Pass, proposed by the RRSNF, the endless efforts to install a 231 mile long, three foot diameter high pressure gas pipeline through area properties and under and through rivers and streams, and the increasing impacts of climate change are daunting, indeed. Considering the actual environmental condition of Oregon’s world class forested watersheds, all is not as Big Timber and its political enablers would have us believe. Nevertheless, folks who are aware of the truth of what is being done to our precious watersheds must join with UW’s Conservation Committee in shouting to the state, the nation and the world that the emperor has no clothes!