It's taken millennia for the ancient ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest to become towering forests with rich soils, teeming biodiversity and the ability to support clean water, clean air, salmon, game, climate stability, sustainable living and the carefree Northwest lifestyle we take for granted. Nevertheless, Oregon’s own elected Democrats seem bent on cutting down our last ancient forests. Here are some legislative highlights -- and pay no heed to the euphemistic bill handles.
Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection, and Jobs Act, SB 1301
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden’s bill could seal the fate of 15,625 square miles of national forests east of the Cascade Crest. In an apparent bid to save Oregon’s failing mega-tree-fiber operations and biomass extraction industries, the bill would:
- Slate not less than 60,000 acres of eastern Oregon’s national forests for “treatment,” with saw-timber as a “byproduct” in Year One.
- Order 80,000 acres be chain-sawed to “health” in Year Two
- Slate 100,000 acres for “treatment” in Year Three
- Mandate not less than 25,000 acres per year for “treatment” until 2029
- And allow trees up to 200 years old to be logged.
O&C Lands Grant Act, SB 1784
Senator Wyden has also introduced SB 1784, the Oregon and California Lands Grant Act of 2014, which would double logging in one million acres of western Oregon’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) forests. The mandated 350 million board-feet per year would fill 600 miles of log trucks lined up end-to-end. To clear the way, the bill would:
- Allow the BLM to log 150 year-old trees and eliminating already weak protections for hundreds of Oregon native species that would be in the way by throwing out the strongest provisions of President Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan, Survey & Manage.
- Require the BLM to prepare only two large Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) for over 1,500 square miles of impacted area, with the Statements expiring after 10 years.
- Shield possibly illegal logging from challenges in court.
Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, HR 1526
In August 2013, this bill sponsored by Democratic congressmen Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader passed the House of Reps and could endanger 2.6 million acres of western Oregon ancient forest that are now managed under President Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan, and that are home to several Endangered species including Coho Salmon. The Act would essentially privatize 1.5 million acres of BLM land in southwest Oregon. HR 1526 awaits the “compromise” bill offered by Democrat Senator Wyden and one wonders what President Obama will do.
Meanwhile, at the Statehouse…
In 2011, Democratic Governor Kitzhaber voted to nearly double logging in Oregon’s state forests and followed up in November last year with an order to auction off the 93,000 acre Elliot State Forest, a rare coastal rainforest where salmon rear their young, albeit only a few thousand acres per year to get around a federal court order to protect the Endangered marbled murrelet. Kitzhaber then announced in January 2014 that environmental laws must be “modernized” for all national forests to accommodate logging and biomass extraction. Allyn Ford of Roseburg Lumber and Hampton Lumber, among other Oregon timber barons did contribute a cool $85k to Kitzhaber’s re-election campaign in December 2013, just saying. And since 1999, loopholes like the Timber Harvest Severance Tax Exemption granted by Kitzhaber and Democratic legislators to industrial forest owners have cost the state and counties billions according to the Oregon Department of Revenue.
If we put up with all this “forest planning,” Oregon may well take the lead and set a precedent for the West… in shipping the last of its pristine forests to Chinese construction sites while cash-strapped services for communities in Oregon get privatized or cut entirely. These forest ecosystems are the very character and lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest. Oregon's diverse economy doesn't need to chainsaw them to thrive. Once the diversity upon which these ecosystems depend is gone, it’ll be gone for good and we'll be broke no matter what we’ve got in the bank.
Fortunately there’s a lot you can do and it doesn’t hurt to do it all:
- Support direct action or jump in yourself by connecting up with Eco Advocates North West and the Cascadia Forest Defenders. You can donate, you can get their email updates, you can jump into direct action yourself.
- If you live in Oregon, call or email your Democratic representatives and let them know that our pristine forests are off-limits to logging.
- And last but not least, you can leave the Democrats in the 20th century and Register Green.