While many of us are still grieving the fires in the Columbia River Gorge and the loss of a treasured forest, others are using the event as an opportunity to rush through a “salvage logging” bill. The bill would fast-track clearcut logging of National Scenic Areas, while suspending environmental protection laws and restricting public comment and legal action.
Ironically, Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, calls his bill the “Scenic Columbia Gorge Restoration Act 2017” (HR3715). Here are some of the highlights of Walden’s approach to “restoration:”
* The bill specifically targets National Scenic Areas, including the Columbia River Gorge, for post-fire logging, which typically includes clearcutting areas up to 10,000 acres.
* The Secretary of Agriculture would be legally required to propose logging within 30 days after a fire, regardless of how much information is available on the effects of the event.
* HR3715 allows the Secretary of Agriculture to utilize a “categorical exclusion” to avoid environmental analysis of the area affected by the fire.
* The bill allows the Secretary of Agriculture to “self consult” on whether logging may harm salmon or other endangered species. No further scientific review is required. Please research Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to get the full implication of this.
* HR3715 makes no mention of genuine restoration — such as stabilizing roads and trails, preventing erosion and protecting streams and wildlife habitat — or of requirements regarding native species use in re-planting, or the impact of logging on soil compaction.
* The bill reduces or eliminates public review and input. Now, I wonder why.
If you feel that the Columbia River Gorge deserves a thoughtful restoration that considers the natural forest habitat, please contact your representatives and senators.