Logging and Forests

Jeff Alworth

Bear_camp_1Logging and old growth forests were again in the news this past week, as the battle over Oregon's forests rage on.  On Saturday, about 150 people gathered to protest planned logging of old-growth forest in Southern Oregon.

The planned logging operation, dubbed the Fiddler timber sale and located along a popular road leading into the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, would be the first old-growth Biscuit sale to move forward.

Everyone instinctively understands the value of ancient trees, but saving old growth may not be the most important reason for hoping the salvage logging will stop:

Old growth is wonderful and vital, but it is not the be-all and end-all of forest preservation.  Wild forests are mosaics of tree species, and it's tree diversity that allows forests to adapt to change. The Siskiyous are part of the Klamath Mountains, which has the world's highest known diversity of temperate conifer species. Clear-cutting and salvage logging are bad for the Siskiyous and the Klamaths not so much because they damage ancient forests but because they threaten what's been called the gene pool for western North American forests.

Southern Oregon forest are among Oregon's most precious assets.  Because they are so precious, there is an enormous need for forest management--the lack of which led to the devastation of the Biscuit fire in the first place.  Yet it's hard to imagine scenarios in which real solutions for rehabilitating the Biscuit and preserving forests in future decades will come from court decisions or the Bush White House. Instead, it seems like Oregonians are going to have to craft political solutions: face-to-face talks between ecologists, loggers, and citizens.  At risk in our failure to do so are unique ecosystems like the Kalmiopsis. 

So where do we go from here?

  • (Show?)

    Extreme environmentalists, like Tre Arrow are on one end of the continum. The simi-trailer painted with black letters on the white surface of the truck with sadly burned trees, had the stern message, 'Kerry =Death to West'was parked on the mainstreet of Grants Pass. The other end of the continum.

    A hotbed of environmental activists living in the Cave Junction area work through the Siskiyous Project to spread their message. A continous drumbeat of 'save the Kalmiopis' is pounded out in Ashland coffee shops, health food stores and food co-ops.

    Five wig-wam burners used to glow in the dark as you decended Sexton Mountain into the Rouge River Valley. The mills meant food on our table, savings for a college education or enough money to go camping once a year in Florence. We waved and smiled at the log truck drivers as they rolled their huge logs through town. They were the father's of our friends. All of us knew the language of undercuts, chockers, catface, piss-fir, high lead and whistle punk.

    Finding common ground is more possible now than 20 years ago. It still won't be easy. A way of life, the smell of wet sawdust, the glow of the wigwams still lives on, even in progressives.

  • (Show?)

    I think often good-intentioned enviros confuse loggers and logging companies. I think often good-intentioned loggers confuse Tre Arrow types with standard-issue, forest-loving Oregonians.

  • brad (unverified)

    Tre Arrow is not an "extreme" environmentalist. He's among the still-small group of people who have realized that "compromise" is pointless in the fight over whether the forests will survive. He's among the people who are willing to actually do something to stop the land rapists instead of sitting around talking about it. He's someone who has figured out that letting timber companies continue to drain the shrinking reservoir of life that sustains all of us has only one logical conclusion.

    I often think "good intentioned enviros" confuse writing a letter to their congressman and sending a check to the Sierra Club with demanding that Weyco, Maxxam, etc. get the hell out of the forests.

  • engineer (unverified)

    Jeff writes "..salvage logging are bad for the Siskiyous and the Klamaths not so much because they damage ancient forests but because they threaten what's been called the gene pool for western North American forests."

    Please tell me how salvage logging a dead tree hurts the gene pool? It's been awhile since I had biology 101, but if I recall correctly, in order for an organism to pass on its genes (pollen in this case), it has to be alive?

    This is just symptomatic of the same old tired rhetoric we've heard for years-why cant people be honest-just tell the truth-this is about asthetics, clearcuts are ugly no doubt (but then so are shopping malls, highways, cities, etc)but at least clearcuts grow back-they will always be forests. The biggest danger to the forest is not those mean nasty logging gompanies (who after all have a vested interest in the clearcut area being reforested) but in environmental restrictions which will result in a change in land use from a forest to something else.

  • jj ark (unverified)

    Brad: the day you no longer live in a wood framed home, refuse to read newspapers and books, and eschew the postal service for an entirely online existence is the day we can get rid of the logging companies.

    The choices we have all made in our society (stick frame vs. cobb, paper vs chalkboards, books vs. computers) have driven the need to have those companies there. Now. Today.

    Tre Arrow is very much an "extreme" environmentalist. Most of us in our fine state realize the need for wood products, and act accordingly.

    Now, don't get all high and mighty here. I used to be on the side of Tre Arrow. My daddy, granddaddy, uncle, aunt, and mommy all worked for Weyco. I was raised at the teat of the timber industry, and when I hit my teen years in Eugene, I rebelled BIG TIME.

    But then, something happened: I got a look at home construction. And Libraries, and clothing manufacture, and so on. How can we sustain all the above without using the products of the forest? We can't. Not without a massive paradigm shift to hemp, cobb and wool. Which would be good, but isn't likely.

    Ultimately, we all should have a place to live, and clothing on our backs, and books to give us knowledge, and the medicines that come from the forest. At the same time, we need that same forest, so we need to find some way to balance our needs.

    So we need to inject the process with well-reasoned and temperate view, not ledge climbing and burning logging equipment.

    On the other hand, it is the Tre Arrows of the world that make folks like me look moderate, so in THAT light, carry on! We'll take care of the real work for ya!

  • (Show?)

    Brad and "engineer" offer perfect examples of why we're where we are now. For Brad, even environmental groups like Sierra Club are the enemy. If you're not willing to take out a logger, you're not really pro-tree. So for Brad, even environmentalists aren't really friends. Heaven help those who actually want to earn a living cutting down trees.

    Engineer, on the other hand, hopes to wish away the problem as a difference of aesthetics. But he unwittingly quotes not me, but author David Rains Wallace, writing Tuesday in the LA Times. Wallace is, of course, not alone. The issue isn't one of subjectivity (geez, clearcuts are ugly), but as Engineer suggests, facts: and the facts tell us that the trees to harvest are the small ones, that the way to harvest is by thinning, and that these efforts must work in concert with others, like limiting roads, clearing slash, protecting riparian regions, and even using controlled fires.

    But the biggest problem isn't the one forests confront, it's the vast gulf that separates good folk like Brad and Engineer. Until that gulf shrinks, we're doomed.

  • engineer (unverified)

    Jeff writes "The issue isn't one of subjectivity (geez, clearcuts are ugly), but as Engineer suggests, facts: and the facts tell us that the trees to harvest are the small ones, that the way to harvest is by thinning, and that these efforts must work in concert with others, like limiting roads, clearing slash, protecting riparian regions, and even using controlled fires."

    Given that federal forest land managers are very conservative (so might argue that they are over-conservative) in their harvesting and management practices (and use all the techniques you list above and others as well) I think the fears you express are overstated.

    Having said that I appreciate that we are able to share views without it degenerating into trading personal insults as seems to happen much too often on this blog.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Yes, we need to rid ourselves of those extreme environmentalists who don't know how to compromise with the fine stewarts of our forests.


    U.S. Scientists Say They Are Told to Alter Findings

    More than 200 Fish and Wildlife researchers cite cases where conclusions were reversed to weaken protections and favor business, a survey finds

    by Julie Cart

    More than 200 scientists employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say they have been directed to alter official findings to lessen protections for plants and animals, a survey released Wednesday says.



  • brad (unverified)

    Engineer: A tree farm is not a forest. Most clear-cuts are replanted as tree farms, or something much closer to it, than being allowed to regenerate into a real forest. An alfalfa field is not a prairie.

    jj ark: Of course we all have to live in the society that we inherit, and I make no claims to perfection, but as long as we refuse to acknowledge the wrong, the right will always just be a pipe dream. A paradigm shift is coming, regardless of what you or I think. The quesion is whether it will happen on our terms or on Mother Nature's. And if the collective "you" is doing the "real work" for me ... well, I think the results to date speak for themselves, don't they?

    Jeff A.: I never said anything about being willing to "take out a logger." That kind of hyperbolic slander is the sort of smear tactic that has been used without justification by government and industry for years to try and discredit any type of civil disobedience/direct action. The fact is that the only people who have been "taken out" in the battle for the forests, are people who are there to save trees. Not one logger has been "taken out" or even injured by an activist.

    The reason the gulf between people like me and people like "engineer" continues to grow is that the logging companies have shown time and again that their idea of compromise is to take as much as they can, as fast as they can, and then fight over the rest. Can't you see that we have been "compromising" for 200 years? Some of us are here to say that enough is enough. You can't keep giving ground forever.

  • engineer (unverified)

    Brad says "Most clear-cuts are replanted as tree farms, or something much closer to it, than being allowed to regenerate into a real forest."

    Brad, it's apparent you are not aware of harvesting practices on federal land-which are far from creating a "tree farm". I respectfully suggest you educate yourself on current practices as opposed to relying on out-of-date perceptions.

  • (Show?)


    Most loggers now days are ardent supporters of managed forestry practices. Sit down in a tavern next to a guy with his logger's world red suspenders on over his railroad stripped shirt, stagged off pants and have a listen. These are good hard workin' people who may never have seen a spotted owl in all the time they worked in the woods, but they will tell you clear cutting was a bad practice.

    My original post used the word continum. Until we find commonground, the extreme positions will continue to marginalize the voices of reason.

  • brad (unverified)

    Pam -

    My beef is not with the loggers. My original post makes no mention of loggers, only timber companies. Jeff accused me of wanting to "take out" loggers and I made it clear that neither I nor anyone I know has ever made such a suggestion.

    As for engineer, all I can say is that clearcutting is an inherently unnatural forestry method, and the reforestation practiced in clearcut areas is done to enhance future timber harvest, not the health of the ecosystem. Some more enlightened "forest management" practices are indeed being practiced. My underlying thesis is that we have enough "managed forests" without converting more wild and semi-wild areas into them. We need to live with what we've already taken.

  • iggi (unverified)

    not to toot my own horn, but i wrote an article about this awhile back that i'm rather fond of:

    Paul Bunyan or Big Timber

    it may be off-topic by now, but have at it.

  • (Show?)

    Brad, no aspersions intended on my part. I was using your post more as a pole against which to measure Engineer.

  • mcbanx (unverified)


    I didn't know if you all were aware that there is currently a senate bill in the Oregon legislature, Senate Bill 294, that would allow the commercial production of hemp. Wouldn't that be working towards a solution?


  • Alex (unverified)

    Hey folks,

    Just a few facts to clarify this issue. There are lots of reasons local folks are upset about the proposed logging of old-growth forest reserves in the Siskiyou. People looking in from the outside who automatically believe this is another "tree-huggers vs. loggers" story need to learn more about the Biscuit project.

    1. FISCAL WASTE The Biscuit project, according to the non-partisan Taxpayers for Common Sense, could lose tens of millions of taxpayer dollars if carried out.

    2. FIRE SAFETY Local Forest Service resources and personnel are being consumed by the monstrous Biscuit logging project (the largest anywhere in the modern history of our National Forests) while communities like Selma, Cave Junction and O'Brien are left at risk of fire. Every year fires move through the wildland urban interface. This past summer, homes were burned and a death was associated with one fire. Why log roadless areas and backcountry reserves when work is needed in and around communities? Restoration and fire safety work in our forests creates jobs too.

    3. QUALITY OF LIFE Logging at the Fiddler Timber sale (the first old-growth reserve sale on the chopping block) would spoil a favorite place locals use for hunting, hiking, etc.

    4. HURTS LOCAL VISITOR INDUSTRY Logging at Fiddler would also degrade the T.J. Howell Memorial Drive - a keystone resource for folks in the Illinois River Valley trying to grow the local visitor industry. Fore more info, check out http://user.cavenet.com/rpbrandt/botanydrive/

    5. OUT OF STEP WITH LOCAL ECONOMY No analysis I've seen mentions industrial logging a driving economic force in the future of the Illinois River Valley. While we might regret the effects of complex national and global economic forces of rural communities, we also can't easily control them. Folks in the Valley have been told that tourism, small businesses, cottage industries and retirees will likely shape the economic future of their home. Should the government actually spend taxpayer dollars to hurt this economic transition?

    6. UNSUITABLE TIMBER LANDS The Siskiyous, and the Kalmiopsis wildlands in particular, are unlike other forested regions in western Oregon. There is a reason that Oregon's largest unprotected roadless forests are there -- and it's not because of anyone's charity or some spectacular conservation victory. It has just never made economic sense to try to do industrial plantation forestry out there. Slopes are too steep. Soils in many places classified as "unsuitable" for timber production. Summers are hot and dry. The fire regimes are too unforgiving. Local folks know this. In fact, anyone who has actually been to proposed logging units on Fiddler will see several large clearcuts from decades ago that have been terrible failures. Some have been replanted three times without success. It's really hard to stand at edge of one of those failed plantations and say: "we need more of this in the Siskiyou - at heavy taxpayer expense!"

    7. ATTACKS ON FOREST RULES This project isn't about getting logs to mills. It's a deliberate, calculated attack on forest protection rules engineered by the Bush administration. Old-growth reserves are supposed to be set aside as a safety net for sensitive species, and natural processes. They haven't been logged on this scale for the more than 10 years that the Northwest Forest Plan created the reserve system. Same for roadless forests. The Biscuit project is proposing the first logging of roadless forests covered by the overwhelmingly popular Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Simply put, the Bush administration is trying to unravel protections for literally millions of acres of forests across the nation using fire - and Biscuit in particular, as their cover.

    8. AFTER A FIRE - WORST TIME TO LOG Post-fire logging is not about logging "dead trees." Confusing trees for forests is one of the worst mistakes we can make when entering into conversations about federal forest management. After a fire, a forest ecosystem is more sensitive than usual. It's just common sense that impacts you normally get from industrial logging are multiplied after a fire. Impact on soils, erosion, spread of weeds and disease, injury to natural rejuvenation and surviving trees...the list goes on.

    9. BAD PUBLIC PROCESS The Forest Service is rushing to log these old-growth reserves areas before a judge can decide whether the logging is illegal or not. Bad form. Not a good way to increase public trust, or build bridges.

    10. SPREADING DISEASE Wet-weather logging in the Siskiyous brings with it risk of spreading Phytophthora lateralis - a non-native disease that is killing Port-Orford-cedars in the region. Again, the issues are way more complex than "logging dead trees."

    That's probably enough for now. Not sure I'll have the time to respond to critical comments, but I do encourage folks to learn more about these important issues.

  • Azeal (unverified)

    Engineer, I know quite a bit about federal forests and current management practices. Clear cuts are still common (though now strategically located away from roads to avoid the public getting antsy about it.) When logged areas are replanted only commercially valuable species are generally used, which leads to mono-cultural "tree farm" forests that do not support the array of plants and animals found in a wild forest.

    I have hiked in areas affected by the 2002 Biscuit Fire, and the land is already regenerating. Even in areas of severe burn, seedlings are already resprouting (seedlings that are the offspring of trees native to the area). Last spring areas within fiddler that will soon be logged were ablaze with wildflowers. The last thing this forest needs to "recover" is the assistance of chainsaws, bulldozers, and log trucks, or the US Forest Service coming in after logging these steep hillsides and replanting them as mono-cultural douglas fir plantations, with seedlings raised in a nursery in Eugene that have no genetic connection to the area.

    There is room for common ground on forest issues, and I'd invite you to read the Oregonian story from January 2nd on the Siuslaw National Forest to see what it looks like ("Finding Silver Linings" - http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/front_page/11045841649720.xml). Unfortunately, as the story noted, this sort of responsible thinning is not the norm for the US Forest Service, and the Bush administration is pushing the agency back into logging old growth and in roadless backcountry areas.

  • kalmiopsis (unverified)

    Dr. Jerry Franklin recently said the proposed Biscuit post-fire logging is not about recovery and that none of the large snags and logs of decay resistent species can be judged as being in excess of those need for natural recovery to late-successional forest conditions. The Siskiyou National Forest has ignored Dr. Franklin and other scientists. They've ignored their own records on the impacts of past logging and on-the-ground examples where it took the agency 20 years to re-establish conifers, once they logged the native forest, because soils were so impovished.

    In the Biscuit Fire logging project, the Forest Service is logging lands in Late-Successional Reserves that were put off-limits to logging, even under the lawless Reagan era Forest Service, due to the high rock content/low moisture holding capacity of the soils.

    The agency has deliberately mislead the public into thinking that this largest-ever-logging-project - on National Forest lands - is "modest" and broadly dispersed across the 500,000 acre Biscuit fire area using the oft repeated, but we're "only" logging 4 percent of the land.

    The real picture is quite different. For example, the Biscuit project will log 53 percent of the beautiful Fall Creek Watershed (a direct tributary of the National Wild & Scenic Illinois River) in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area and the Briggs Late-Successinal Reserve. It will log 42.5 percent of the post-fire late-successional habitat in the 53,000 acre Briggs Late-Successional Reserve (LSR).

    The about-to-be logged Fiddler timber sale is entirely in the Briggs LSR. The sale includes one 442 acre contiguous cut in the headwaters of Babyfoot, Fiddler & Fall Creeks, in the much loved Babyfoot Lake area.

    The Forest Service is permitting logging (Fiddler TS) during the high risk wet-season in the headwaters basin of Babyfoot Creek - an area they'd previously permanently closed to all motorized use, including car camping, because of concerns over introducing the non-native Port Orford cedar root disease into the adjacent Kalmiopis Wilderness.

    The Forest Service is in the process of preparing another of the 45 or more Biscuit timber sales. This one - in the 105,000 acre South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area and Briggs LSR - is called Mikes Gulch. The sale is made up of 3 contiguous units totalling 335 acres. The presciption describes the cuts as "clearcuts with reserve trees" (1.5 snags per acre). Think about it - a 335 acre cleacut in a reserve set aside for the protection of old-growth forests and related species and in an Inventoried Roadless Area.

    Please don't argue philosphy, about whose most extreme or about who lives in wood houses, etc. The Biscuit Fire "so-called" Recovery Project is a cut-and-run plan to take apart a unique, rugged, wild, 60 million-year-old landscape of great integrity.

    You can't intellectualize or justify what's likely to be lost. It is unimaginable to those who know and love this place, called the Kalmiopsis Wildlands - who've walked across its harsh landscapes in the heat of summer or the drenching rains of winter, swum in the clear emerald waters of its spectacular wild rivers or sat in the stillness preceeding sunset, in contemplation of ridgeline upon wild ridgeline, fading into the increasing haze of a fog drenced costline. Debate the "real values" and about what counts, the land.

  • (Show?)

    Some friends of mine were killed a few years back, when their nieghbor's logged off hillside slid over their house in the Sutherland area. That hillside should not have been clearcut.

    On the other hand, forests where I live (SE of Sandy) are routinely clear cut and do not grow back as the dreaded monoculture. Longview Fibre is one of the large timberlandholders and they do replant Doug Fir. What actually happens is that the alder and other hardwoods and undergrowth grow right back up along with a few volunteer cedars and provide some cover for the fir that is planted.

    The south coast logging claims rejuvinate even faster. Much of the logging down there is alder and Doug Fir mix as well, with some hemlock and other species mixed in.

    As for the 60,000,000 year figure, Puhleaseeeeee.

    Volcanic activity, earthquakes, and natural selection have completely changed the makeup and distribution of flora and fauna in this state dozens of times in that period.

  • mark rey (unverified)

    To Pat Ryan: The Siskiyous are an ancient mountain range that predate the Cascades and which have not experienced the same kind of glaciation or volcanic activity. 200 million years old is more like it. This is part of what makes the Siskiyous so bioligically and geologically unique, as well as and unsuitable for the kind of industrial forestry practiced in the Cascade foothills near Sandy or in the Tillamook.

    So called 'salvage' logging of the largest diameter snags is the most brutal simplification of this wild and diverse ecosystem and completely inapproriate in the postfire landscape.

    Check out the following two paragraphs from this Forest Service website:


    BOTANICAL RESOURCES During his studies here in 1950, Dr. Robert Whittaker found that only the Great Smokey Mountains rival the Siskiyou Mountains in plant diversity. The old and complex geology, the global position and transverse orientation of the Siskiyou Mountain Range, which connects the Cascade and Coast Ranges, are responsible for creating this myriad of species. Geologic parent rocks range in age from 200 million years old to the recent ice-age alluviums that are about 50,000 years old. The rocks vary in composition from granitics to the metamorphosed peridotites (serpentine) that support the habitat for many of the sensitive species of plants. By contrast, much of the Cascade Range (a mere 60 million years old) is composed of relatively recent igneous rocks, and the Coastal Ranges are dominated by sedimentary rocks.

    Together the varied geological substrate and the climatic extremes of the Siskiyou Mountains provide a range of niches for a rich reservoir of genetic material. There are 28 different coniferous species, 20 of which are used commercially. Of the approximately 400 sensitive plants in the region, about 100 are found in the Siskiyous. The area has been sectioned into 15 plant series that can be divided into 92 plant associations, each of which vary in potential and react to management activities differently. The Siskiyou Mountains biologically challenging to manage.

  • Dick (unverified)

    Just finished McKibben's 'End Of Nature, written in 1989, which mentions the kalmiopis Wilderness. Obviously, if there's a road though it and it's being logged, it ain't a wilderness anymore. But, I'm happy to hear that it's still there and that loyal people are still working to preserve what remains.

  • LT (unverified)

    Anyone else have strong feelings on Kulongoski contemplating nominating AuCoin to the Forestry Board as an "environmentalist"? As the Oregonian article says, AuCoin has been on both sides of such issues. In 1992 there was a major US Senate primary at least partly on this issue. It was settled by a recount --330 votes. Some thought the level of nastiness in that primary was only exceeded by the 2004 Swift Boat ads.

    Any comments?

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