The Nature of Things: Measure 34 is no friend of the forest

The Nature of Things: Measure 34 is no friend of the forest

To borrow a phrase from former President Reagan: "There they go again." I'm referring to the radical environmentalists who have managed to get another ill-conceived initiative on the November ballot. Its title is Measure 34 and is misnamed the "50/50" plan. This ballot measure has everything to do with the management of the Tillamock/Clatsop State Forest on the west side of the state.

But first, we need to look at some background information in order to properly evaluate the merits of this measure. In the 1930s and 1940s there were catastrophic wildfires in Oregon's Coast Range. I am old enough to remember them well, as there were several weeks where we could not see the sun when the smoke engulfed most of western Oregon and beyond. Over half a million acres of mostly old-growth Douglas fir were burned.

The project beginsTillamook and Clatsop counties didn't have anywhere near enough money to replant such a huge amount of scorched earth, so they transferred ownership to the state of Oregon in exchange for a share of the revenues when the forests matured. Thus began the most massive reforestation project in history. Most of the tree planting was done by hand using volunteer labor such as Boy Scout troops and service organizations, and if memory serves me right, there were CCC boys who were already engaged in forest projects.

All this was done for future generations during an era when if you used the word "environmentalist," anyone would have had to look it up in the dictionary. Anyway, the future is now. These fir trees are mostly 60 years old and ready for pre-commercial thinning.

In anticipation of reaping the rewards of this investment, the Oregon Department of Forestry spent seven years of planning and holding hearings to devise a scientifically sound management plan which would encompassed all the values of a properly functioning forest. This included a logging schedule, watershed protection, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation and aesthetics.

The biggest recipients of this new source of wealth will be the two counties, which bore the brunt of the devastation. Tillamook and Clatsop counties will get 66 percent of the logging revenues as per the original agreement. This will be used to pay off the bonds and finance their schools. The other 34 percent will go to the Department of Forestry for firefighting and maintenance of the project. Perhaps the best economic boost will go to the local rural communities in the form of restored jobs that were lost due to the spotted owl.

Wait 200 years more?Despite this well-planned, science-based management plan of the ODOF, the well-financed environmentalists are so paranoid about chain saws, they want 50 percent set aside never to be logged, so it can grow back to old growth. This, of course, will take 200 more years, providing there are no more wildfires.

Actually, the current plan already has 23 percent of the forest off limits to logging in sensitive areas, so it would end up more like 40/60 rather than 50/50. Regardless of the statistics, it would be a breach of trust with the people who worked to leave a fountain of wealth for the next generation. Today's tree-huggers contributed nothing to this investment, so why should they have any standing?

To me, it's like telling a farmer who has 200 acres of corn ready to pick, that he can only harvest 100 acres and leave the rest for the crows. Never mind that the farmer planted, fertilized, cultivated and irrigated his crop for eight months.

Measure 34 is especially untimely in a state that leads the nation in unemployment. Haven't we had enough from the elite greenies who tried to make us fence all the streams, tried to outlaw trapping, stopped the hunting of cougars and bears with dogs, and now want to bring back the wolves?

Even though the Tillamook forest is not in our backyard, we cannot afford to let the anti-logging groups lock up more or our resources in the name of conservation, only to have them burn or deteriorate from insect infestations and disease.

Measure 34 should be defeated.

E.H. Van Blaricom is a long-time columnist for the Chieftain. He can be reached in care of this newspaper.

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