You may have recently seen a statistic floating around in the news or on social media lately that 80% of the forest acres burned in Oregon were on federal public lands. This line has most recently been aggressively trotted out by logging corporations and their PR firm, Portland-based Gallatin Public Affairs, to attack efforts to protect clean drinking water. Gallatin even managed to tell an especially pants-on-fire whopper through several rural newspapers and OPB's Think Out Loud claiming that federal public forests are completely “unmanaged.”
There is a quote, often misattributed to Mahatma Gandhi, that says something along the lines of “A civilization is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” It appears that Gandhi actually never said these words, and the closest attribution is actually from Pearl Buck, a novelist and recipient for the Nobel Prize for literature, who wrote its closest attributable analog: “...the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.”
This week, Oregon Wild activists urged Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to address concerns with the Secure Rural School (SRS) program. Although money in this program is intended as a safety-net for cash strapped counties to pay for services like schools, roads, and public safety, some county politicians had tapped the funds to pay for travel expenses and junkets to Washington DC to lobby for more aggressive logging on public lands.
Habitat fragmentation is a major concern for those who care about wildlife.
As more land is developed, more animals find it difficult to disperse and migrate, and those travels become ever more dangerous. Farms, clearcuts, and subdivisions increasingly encroach on what was once much more connected forests and grasslands. Roads spider-web across the landscape, bringing more vehicles, trash, and wildfire (80% of forest fires in the US are human-caused) deeper into the backcountry.
Everyone says they want healthy forests. It’s easy for a politician to stand on stage and declare that we want “healthy forests” and have both conservationists and the logging industry nodding along in agreement. However, the words “healthy forest” can mean entirely different things to different people, differences that can easily be distilled as who can see the forest for the trees.
This week, Governor Kate Brown’s Council on Wildfire Response unveiled their final proposed management plan for the state. An earlier draft of the plan attracted headlines for its eye-popping cost - $4 billion - but little attention has been paid to the substance of the report and whether the recommendations will work.
The short answer is: probably not.
When Secretary of State Bev Clarno and her deputy Richard Vial released their unprecedented decision to reject three initiative petitions to modernize Oregon’s logging rules, they made a pretty embarrassing mistake. Their press release claims that voters would be confused by the initiatives and “how the Oregon Forest Council manages forests.”
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of watching from the back of the room as my co-worker, Chandra LeGue, introduced Oregon’s Ancient Forests – A Hiking Guide at a book launch in Portland. The guidebook was a labor of love for Chandra and the first foray into book publishing for Oregon Wild in 15 years. We’re all really excited that it is now out in the world.