Eastern Oregon Legacy Lands, sponsor of Wallowology Discovery Center, has watched the Lostine River Fuels Reduction project unfold over several years. The conflation of values, science, politics and strong emotions has left little room for productive dialogue. Nonetheless, everyone agrees they love the Lostine River and Eagle Cap Wilderness. The Lostine provides us with an abundance of cold, clean water, rich fish and wildlife habitat, a riverine paradise, and access to our state’s largest Wilderness Area.
It would be beneficial to find a solution to this problem and avoid actions that would cause lasting divisions in our community, or a lost sense of place for the Lostine River Corridor. For whatever reason, relatively low interest in the project resulted in at least one bid that was eventually withdrawn. While a slightly modified version of the sale has already been advertised, there is still time for a different course of action.
In the spirit of solving this problem in everyone’s favor, we’d like to proffer a compromise. Move forward with an 8-inch diameter limit and remove the smaller, most flammable trees where appropriate. This approach will save the mature and older trees with their thick fire-resistant bark, large carbon stores, and cool understory microclimate. It will also protect valuable fisheries and wildlife habitat, and reduce impacts on the sensitive cool-adapted forest understory species. This way we can move forward reducing tree density and fire risk where it matters most (small trees and flashy fuels) while retaining the large, older structures, in this cool, moist, riparian forest environment. Local fire crews do an excellent job removing small-diameter trees, and could provide an efficient way to get this important work done.
This simple approach would reduce fire risk, provide employment opportunities, and largely maintain the character of the Lostine River Corridor we all cherish. It might also help soothe the wounds and scars many people on both sides of this issue have experienced, and provide opportunities for everyone to move forward together in a more unified manner.