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Get serious about habitat and species protection

this was submitted to KBC by the Tri-County Courier

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Tim Wigley

The old saying "the proof is in the pudding" is very applicable at this time as we attempt to rehabilitate the forests in Southern Oregon scorched by the Biscuit Fire of 2002.

First, take a step back to the '90s when groups such as the Sierra Club, the Oregon Natural Resource Council and others were pushing for zero cut on all federal lands in Oregon and the Northwest in an attempt to protect spotted owls and their habitat. The groups' cry was "spotted owls need old-growth forests to survive."

Over the next 10 years we witnessed rural Oregon's economy bludgeoned in an effort to protect this species -- and others added to the list. Once-thriving communities turned into ghost towns while their schools and community services suffered tremendously because of high unemployment and lack of local tax revenue.

But this column is not about the economics of forest management. Like most Oregonians, I assumed the real agenda of these "environmental" groups was truly to protect wildlife and their habitat. This has turned out to be anything but the case.

As Oregon and other Western states have watched huge areas of federal forests burn in recent years, we've also started to see the true colors of these groups -- and it's not green. The Biscuit Fire burned more than 500,000 acres of forests, much of which was wilderness area set aside specifically as a haven for species such as the northern spotted owl. This area is a moonscape now -- blackened and charred by the fires of 2002.

Oregon State University scientists predict a recovery of close to 200 years if no active management is implemented in this area. You would think that the citizens of Oregon would demand the same management scenario for the Biscuit Fire area as we used in the rehabilitation of the Tillamook Forest that burned several times in the past century. Why would we not want to create a healthy forest environment in as short a period as possible? Oregonians should ask these "environmental" groups this important question.

The Biscuit Fire restoration project would affect less than 10 percent of the land burned in the fire. We can choose to implement common-sense, science-based approaches to forest restoration, or we can choose the path of these groups who helped create this mess in the first place -- and watch forest health get even worse, creating an even more dangerous fire scenario.

It's time for sanity and truth.

Tim Wigley of Wilsonville is director of Project Protect, an Oregon-based grass-roots organization composed of resource organizations, companies and activists throughout the Western United States.


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