Some say land trade with Longview Fibre may affect watershedThere were some who questioned the Oregon Department of Forestry's proposed land exchange with Longview Fibre Co. at a public hearing Monday night, but it has yet to generate the staunch opposition that faced another recent swap in Clatsop County.

Concerns were raised over impacts the trade could have on Vernonia's drinking water.

Pam Birmingham, who, with her husband Jeffrey Birmingham, lead the charge against the G & N exchange, and continues to fight it through an appeals process, said she is not necessarily opposed to the State-Fibre trade, as it is known.

Like many who testified at the Clatsop County Courthouse Monday, Birmingham was happy to see a parcel including popular recreation area Lost Lake, among the lands Oregon would acquire in the trade.

Bill Lecture, assistant Astoria District forester, presented the trade to about 16 people at the hearing; only seven gave oral comments.

"The recreation potential for the lands we are receiving is greater than the lands we are exchanging," he said.

The impetus for the trade, when work began on it some four years ago, Lecture said, was to improve the aesthetic value of Spruce Run Park, operated at the time by Clatsop County. The county asked ODF to acquire lands adjacent to the park.

After discussions with Longview Fibre, ODF realized it needed to address larger ownership issues throughout the Clatsop State Forest, Lecture said.

One of ODF's goals is to connect large tracts of landscape for wildlife habitat and more efficient forest management.

Despite the recreation gains the trade would produce, two Columbia County men expressed reservations.

Cory Colburn and Bill Langmaid said that the city of Vernonia - which draws its drinking water from a large watershed that includes the Selders Creek parcel to be traded to Longview Fibre - was not notified of the public hearing.

Langmaid, a watershed planner who lives near the Selders Creek parcel, said clear-cutting could imperil Vernonia's water.

Lecture said ODF, by statute, was not required to give notice of the public hearing in Columbia County. Asked if ODF would hold another hearing to get input from residents of Vernonia, Lecture said, "I don't know. I'll have to research that." He added that "people in Vernonia are certainly welcome to make a comment between now and Jan. 16 (when the public comment period closes)."

Dan Fink, an inventory forester for Longview Fibre, who delivered a statement to The Daily Astorian, said his company was already working lands immediately to the north and east of Selders Creek. He said he wasn't aware of any complaints or problems with Vernonia's watershed from that work.

The land exchange "would enable Longview Fibre to consolidate some of its timberlands in Clatsop County for improved forest-management efficiency," the company's statement says, "while providing lands for the state that feature significant wildlife habitat and public-recreation development potential."

Longview Fibre owns about 208,000 acres of timberland in Northwest Oregon, including 48,000 acres in Clatsop County.

The exchange would send 3,438 acres of state land to Longview Fibre, in exchange for 4,148 acres that the company owns.

The proposed trade is one of the largest ever in Clatsop County. In 1993, ODF traded 2,170 acres to Stimson Lumber. In 1996, another trade with Longview Fibre involved 2,113 acres of the company's lands and 2,095 acres of ODF lands, according to Rod Nichols, an ODF information officer.

Martin Nygaard, a private land owner involved in the G & N exchange, said a lot of work has been put into developing the State-Fibre exchange.

"I think consolidating these lands (is) what should be done," he said.

Written public comments can be submitted until 5 p.m., Jan. 16. They should be sent to: Oregon Department of Forestry, Attn: Patty Cate, 2600 State St., Salem, OR, 97310.

Detailed information about the trade is available on the ODF Web-site:

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