What good are laws if they do not serve their intended purpose?
This is a Guest Blog, written by Micha and Dan of Myrtle Glen Farm, outside of Coquille, Oregon
Currently, a clear-cut along the East Fork of the Coquille River is putting to test the laws that dictate the Oregon Forests Practices Act. These outdated laws are supposed to prevent sedimentation in rivers, protect landslide prone areas from washing out roads, and keep waterways shaded and cool for salmon and steelhead spawning.
I’ve officially revolved 33 years around the sun today. Each annual marker of my place in the world gives me pause to think about the impact I make. Am I doing enough to make positive change? Am I taking up space where I shouldn’t? How do my actions or inactions affect my intimate and broader communities?
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 loss and fragmentation are major concerns 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.