The recent herbicide accident in Curry County made nearly 20 people ill and killed at least four deer on one man’s property. The resulting lawsuit is shining a laser on a frequently ignored aspect of clear cutting: The herbicides that are routinely sprayed over the clear cut to retard the growth of indigenous plants are also highly toxic to humans and other species. The herbicides eventually wind up in the water table, in streams that salmon migrate to and in the Columbia where many species rely on clean water for survival.
Is Astoria’s water supply safe because its in a managed area? Somewhat. But as we have now seen there can be accidents and wind-driven over spray from clear-cuts on adjacent timber parcels. If you shoot a deer or elk that has grazed on land sprayed with herbicides, when eating the meat you’ll be ingesting the poisons, too, and increasing the odds that you will develop cancer.
Beside downgrading the visual environment, increasing the risk of mudslides and flooding, and destroying natural habitat for wildlife, there’s clear cutting’s contribution to global warming. The bottom line here is that the process of clear cutting releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere while destroying a major natural sponge the planet has for eliminating it – trees.
There are no rational arguments for the continuation of clear-cutting. Reducing the amount of timber made available on the global market and turning to selective logging could actually produce more jobs, especially if the lumber is milled locally. Current practices are being driven by wealthy timber company owners and complicit organizations who are unconcerned about the degradation of our environment and endangerment of our health as long as their huge profits continue to roll in.
As a step toward a more sustainable and healthy future for Clatsop County residents, I ask the county commissioners, who are developing a 30-year vision plan, to include a call for an end to all industrial use of herbicides in the county, and a moratorium on clear cutting in favor of a rapid transition to selective logging and the development of alternative sources of revenue for the county.
Commissioners need to quit saying that clear-cutting isn’t in their jurisdiction, and at least take a stand on paper. The commission should give us a vision that addresses the problem of clear cutting, not one that ignores it.