CONSERVATION REPORT, July 96 Storm Petrel1

Private land logging harms Port Orford drinking water. Impact of "Riders"2 on timber sales3. Hatfield gives Federal land to "Indian tribe"4.


The city of Port Orford has had constant problems with our water supply ever since logging and road building in our watershed created sediment problems for our treatment plant which required us at times to switch from our primary water source, Hubbard Creek, to our back up one in Garrison lake, a source generally considered by local residents to be much inferior to Hubbard Creek.

But because we had to move to this secondary source in the lake, we now have a situation where Port Orford now has two sources for our drinking water, Hubbard creek where the water is of the highest quality but the volume of water is limited, and a secondary source where the quality is not as high but the volume is for all practical purposes unlimited. The two intakes for our water treatment plant can now be switched back and forth easily and this has created a real potential problem for our community.

For many years development interests have eyed the undeveloped area north of town as ripe for expansion but there has never been a water source to serve it. Now that we have an intake pipe in Garrison Lake the potential exists for almost unlimited build out of our urban grown boundary.

Last month a draft strategic plan for our community was presented by a group of consultants and local folks and its centerpiece was an industrial park north of town and a specific plan to run water and sewer lines to this area. When word got around a large number of citizens turned out for the meeting where this plan would have been adopted and forced a vote on the parts of the plan that committed us to this course of action. In that vote the portions of the plan that dealt with water and sewer were overwhelmingly rejected by about a 15 to one margin and the plan was sent back for revision.

While this was a victory for those who are committed to Hubbard Creek remaining as our excellent primary source of water it is beginning to occur to the residents that as long as we have an urban growth boundary and a master water plan that provides for eventual services for the north part of town, there will always be the threat that we will be forced into drinking inferior lake water in the future. I expect that there will be growing interest in addressing the revision of some of Port Orford's basic planning documents that have been created over the years without most citizens realizing what their implications for development and water really are.

Timber sales

If you have lived in Oregon for the last year or so you will know that the infamous salvage rider has allowed and even forced the forest service to resume logging old growth in the Pacific Northwest. The way this was done was to simply revoke the environmental laws that govern federal land logging and remove citizens rights to enforce those laws. Locally this has meant that four timber sales on the Elk river, Father Oak, Elk Fork, Boulder Crab and Toast berry, that had been abandoned years ago as too risky for fish and Marbled Murrelet were resurrected from dusty vaults and sold. While we lacked any ability to stop these sales the Forest service did make some modifications to eliminate the worst parts of these sales.

This is how we finally made out. In general a little more than half of the 500 acres which could have been clear-cut was moved elsewhere or abandoned and the places which were spared were the ecologically most significant. The acres that got a reprieve were the steepest and most potentially environmentally damaging ones. These modifications were only possible because of good cooperation between the Forest Service, the companies who held the timber contracts, the Clinton Administration and Congressman DeFazio's office.

Results for the four individual sales

The Father Oak sale on the Elk River originally had 8 units with 218 acres to be clear-cut. Thanks to an obscure provision in the law that provided for withdrawal of units where marbled Murrelet, an extremely elusive sea bird, could be proved to be nesting, about 3 units consisting of 123 acres were withdrawn. This occurred because Jim Rogers of the Friends of the Elk River went out into the units night after night for months and he was actually was able to find and videotape these particular extremely elusive birds in the units. So the Forest service had no choice but to withdraw three units although their own surveyors claimed not to be able to find any when they surveyed the same area.

The Elk Fork sale was scheduled to clear cut 2.76 million board feet in four units of 70 acres. One unit of 33 acres with 1.35 million board feet was replaced with volume from another part of the forest

The Boulder Crab sale was scheduled to clear cut 6 million board feet in 8 units of 143 acres. Two units, consisting of 4.6 million board feet on 71 acres was withdrawn as the Forest Service found other timber east of the Elk River in the Eden Ridge area to swap for this volume.

The Toast berry sale was scheduled for 3.8 million board feet in 4 units of 92 acres; the two units consisting of 92 acres and 1.78 million board feet were dropped.

While Kalmiopsis Audubon worked to bring these sales to public attention the credit for the work that saved the parts that were, should go to Jim Rogers of the Friends of Elk River, who worked on these sales for the better part of a year and Headwaters in Ashland.

Coquille Land transfer

The proposal to give BLM land in Coos county to the Coquille Indian tribe continues to work its way through the congressional process being fast tracked by Senator Hatfield despite the overwhelming opposition of the national and regional environmental community, and the wishes of the citizens of Coos County as expressed in an overwhelming referendum on the issue. The size of the transfer has been reduced from 59,000 to 5000 acres but the precedent is extremely troubling and we continue to oppose any transfer at all, as do all major environmental groups in the Pacific Northwest and nationally. While we are sympathetic to Native American issues and values, in this case the justification for the transfer has been based on the possibility of increased logging, as Indian land is not subject to the same rules and restrictions that govern the BLM and to Forest service, and opportunity for citizen input is much less. Also there is a distinction between the tribes themselves and the tribal corporations that actually oversee the economic activities of tribes. it is not generally well understood that often non-natives serve on these corporations and just because a tribe gains a control over land it does not mean that anything like traditional native American values will be expressed or reflected in the management of these lands. In fact free from the rules that govern most federal lands Native American corporations have done some of the worst environmental outrages to be found anywhere.

In our struggle against this proposal we have found ourselves working with some unlikely allies as some of the wise use groups and timber workers organizations are as opposed to this transfer as we are albeit for different reasons and it has been interesting to cooperate in a coalition that includes members who we have only known by reputation.

The really sad thing about this whole affair is that from the beginning the tribe has reacted to any opposition to this transfer and even questions about it by charging its critics with racism and this has paradoxically injected this factor into this debate. Previously there seemed to be a good climate for white-Indian relations around here.

I am afraid that any proposal for Indian involvement anyplace on federal land in this area is going to bring out a lot of opposition and we are already seeing it about a relatively minor BLM land transfer on the Rogue river which has sparked a lot of organizing in the south part of the county against it; probably more than would have occurred absent this Coquille transfer. The underlying problem with fighting timber issues where the Indians are going to be doing the cutting is that progressive politicians have a sort of knee jerk reaction to anything that smacks of helping Indians and they are terrified of being seen as politically un-correct. If this land grab succeeds we can expect to see Indian tribal corporations lined up for their shares of federal land so they can get their hands on public timber to cut.

We urge out members to call senators Wyden and Hatfield, and governor Kitzhaber to oppose this and to call Congressman DeFazio and thank him for being out front in opposing this. He is about the only elected federal official who is willing to make a stand on this.

Clear cuts and Flooding

For decades environmentalists have warned and predicted that clear cutting and road building in the national forests were severely reducing the ability of the forests to handle large storms. Last February's storm certainly proved that our predictions were right. Pacific Rivers Council has produced a study that used aerial photography to document the extent to which landslides were related to past logging practices and they analyzed 650 individual landslides. They found that most of the landslides originated from clear cuts and roads.

Natural Forests are complex entities and through complex networks of relationships ameliorate the effects of fire and flooding. In unmanaged stands the water will flow clear even through the worst storm events. Over logging impairs the capacity of the natural ecosystem to handle water runoff and you get flooding and sediment delivery. Someday we will probably find that the costs we are imposing on ourselves by clear cutting our forests are far greater to fish and our rivers that any possible short term benefits.

Fortunately if you fly over the forests from California to Canada you will see that the forests around here are in better shape, and more intact than on most other forests in the Pacific Northwest.

  1. Kalmiopsis Audubon Society - Storm Petrel Newsletter
  2. Researcher Note: the odious process of using legislative riders or timber riders to suspend laws and allow federal forest clearcutting despite court orders and federal laws that forbid them, had a variety of names including: Hatfield Riders; Section 318; 318 riders or Sec. 318 sales; or after their implementing processes e.g. Advisory board; Timber Advisory Boards; Forest Service or FS Advisory Board; BLM Advisory Board; or their local names i.e. Siskiyou Forest Advisory Board or Coos Bay BLM Timber Advisory Board. Articles concerning my experience with these boards: timber quotas, advisory board abuses, congressional testimony, 1995 Rider, Rider local effects, my congressional testimony about them from April 90
  3. For other articles about Elk River Timber sales see: forced sales, appeal, rider effects, sale status, sales withdrawn, status under rider, status of four sales
  4. An article about the ethics of stopping destructive projects that claim to be undertaken for the benefit of minorities, the oppressed or disabled and how to deal with the accusations of racism, colonialism, sexism, and ageism etc. which can result is discussed is this essay.

#68, (v 1.3) 3/13/11

©1996 Jim Britell
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