Protect forests, oppose bills before Senate
By Lloyd Vivola
As many scientists and citizens have known for decades, forest fires are part of a natural cycle that enhances the enduring long-term health of a biome in which associated flora and fauna have flourished over tens of thousands of years. Accordingly, indigenous people have utilized fire for centuries to better sustain their ongoing place in the life-giving lands they call home.
Unfortunately, when modern news media report that forests were “destroyed” by fire, and accompany such language with dramatic if newsworthy images of extraordinary blazes as was the case this past summer, they often impress upon the public a general misunderstanding about a forest's ongoing ecological value. Far more troubling, this false impression opens a door to the flat-out lies of those who seek political and economic gain in the aftermath of these conflagrations.
On Wednesday night, friends and supporters of the Columbia River Gorge packed a Portland, Oregon auditorium to hear what was an upbeat analysis of last summer's forest fire in Eagle Creek, a beautiful, much-beloved trail venue in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The fire burned some 49,000 acres, but an assessment by the Burn Area Emergency Response of the US Forest Service estimates that only 15% of that forest suffered high burn severity, while across some 55% of the area there was very low or no burn. A recent photograph taken by the Forest Service in a burned-out area showed fresh bracken fern already standing a foot tall. In the weeks ahead, flora and fauna of all kinds will reestablish themselves in the biome according to a time-honored script. In a few short years, scorched forest will regain a lush green carpet of first stage undergrowth. As one scientist summarized after observation: “This is a good burn.”
But all of this is lost on too many of our politicians in Washington DC, and already there are two bills that have been passed by the House of Representatives with explicit designs to open burned forest areas to the sort of snag logging that will interfere with natural cycles to the detriment of wildlife, soil and water while, ironically, making these areas less resilient – not more resilient, as sponsors of the bills claim – to future fires. The bills would also gut many established policies that regulate logging on public lands and currently ensure some degree of public oversight.
One bill is H.R. 3715 ( introduced by Rep. Greg Walden, R-OR ).
The other bill is H.R. 2936 ( introduced by Bruce Westerman, R-AR ).
Both bills have been received by the US Senate for consideration. If passed by the Senate and adopted by the Trump Administration, they will impact forest and public land policy across the nation. Whatever your state of residence, it is imperative that you contact your US Senators and voice your opposition to these or any like bills as soon as possible. Let them know that you know what is taking place in the US Congress.
Also note that aside from environmentalists and nature advocates, many rural communities, businesses and agricultural firms are opposed to these bills. One such organization is Cascadia Locks Strong, representing the interests of a river town of some 1200 residents that was spared the flames of the Eagle Creek fire but not its ongoing economic impact.
To learn more, visit:
To view an aerial assessment of the Eagle Creek Burn Area from Trip Jennings, Balance Media, and The Oregonian, visit:
To learn more about H.R. 3715 and send an email to your representatives, visit Friends of the Columbia Gorge at:
To learn more about H.R. 2936, visit Cascadia Wild at:
To email your representatives, visit Forests Forever at:
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November 17, 2017