Speech to The City Club of
, Oregon (1938 ) Portland
Few areas on the planet are as amenable to the growth of lush coniferous forests as the
If the Oregon Cascades and Coast Range have a tragic flaw, it can be found in a geology and summer climate that make them relatively easy to log compared to the precipitous North Cascades or Olympics of Washington State. National forests managed by the U.S. Forest Service—which, revealingly, is an agency of the Department of Agriculture—encompass most of the Cascades, while forest ownership in the
Clearcuts strip the living vegetation from a mountainside, baring the mineral soil and subjecting it to erosion. Heavy equipment compresses the topsoil, making it more difficult for plants to reclaim the slopes. Water quality is damaged by silt and landslides. Air quality is impaired by the practice of slash-burning the woody debris that remains on the ground after clearcutting. The result is a visual nightmare that degrades and fragments the mountainous landscape for decades. (In the official literature, this is often described as a "mosaic of forest conditions," as if it were a work of art.)
During the nineties, timber production declined markedly for a variety of reasons, including lower prices, intense international competition (especially with
But, with friends in the White House, Congress and the state legislature, the timber corporations have been recovering nicely.
Subsequent fires, through 1951, further devastated the area and its topsoil. About 1.5 million trees (7.5 million BF) were salvaged by commercial loggers in the Burn. The state took over the private timber holdings in the Burn and eventually created the
Despite official rhetoic about "structured forest management," not one square inch of the Tillamook is designated as protected wilderness or wildlife habitat. But there are 200 miles of "motorized trails" where off-road vehicles are permitted to run amok. And, under Oregon law, the highest priority of the Tillamook and other state forests is to produce logs and revenue.
Ballot Measure 34
The fate of the Tillamook's 550 square miles of forestlands has been the subject of much controversy as plans for its management, with a heavy emphasis on timber production, have been developed by the Oregon Department of Forestry. In this state
In 2004, citizen groups attempted to take on Big Timber and its political allies by placing Measure 34 on the statewide ballot. If adopted, it would have de-emphasized timber production and promoted other values for the Tillamook such as forest restoration, recreation, wildlife habitat and water quality. Proponents argued that the state Forestry Department’s current plan would cut up to 85% of the trees in the Tillamook within twenty-five years. Big Timber responded with a predictable media onslaught of disinformation, leaving no doubt about its intention to crush BM 34 (4). And so it did, by a statewide margin of 61-39% (with nearly 4-1 opposed in
Even at the allegedly liberal
The Future of the Tillamook
So now it’s back to business as usual in
In twenty-five years, will the Tillamook look like the rest of
(1) Industrial forestry has always been permeated with euphemisms, from the currently popular “Healthy Forests Act” (read: more logging of old growth) to “intensive management” (clearcutting) to “multiple use” (clearcutting). “Harvests” suggests that trees are just another crop, another renewable resource like corn, that can simply be replanted after the land is stripped of vegetation down to the topsoil. Anyone who believes that this comparison is valid should examine the total wasteland of a clearcut one year after it’s done. Clearcuts are prominent features of a landscape for decades, not just a few months.
GRAPHICS: The first photo (by the author) shows a recent clearcut on private lands in Washington County right next to the boundary of the Tillamook State Forest.
The aerial photo, from Google Earth, shows a portion of the Coast Range to the northwest of where I live. The image is an overlay of two series of photos, including one set obviously taken when there was snow on the ground. If you question whether this scene is typical, see for yourself on Google Earth by “flying” north and south over the