We recently became aware of Weyerhaeuser’s plans to clearcut approximately 250 acres south of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail located east of Hood River. Many residents and visitors recreate on this trail to enjoy the scenic beauty and natural splendor the experience provides.
We are very concerned by the size and visibility of the proposed clearcuts and their effect on the quality of life that we enjoy in our communities. A loophole in the federal National Scenic Area Act may allow Weyerhaeuser to clearcut its forests in this area. We’re particularly disappointed that Weyerhaeuser never contacted Gorge community leaders to discuss their plans and open a dialogue to allow our communities to express their concerns and suggest logging practices that would better protect our scenic Gorge.
Taken cumulatively, these clearcuts are the largest proposed in one area at one time since the passage of the National Scenic Area Act in 1986. To make matters worse, the proposed clearcuts are near another large clearcut on Bureau of Indian Affairs trust land and SDS lands that created a huge scar on the landscape in 2012. The cumulative visual impact of 350 acres of clearcuts will be severe and would become the largest concentration of clearcuts in the National Scenic Area.
The logging methods proposed for the project will create more damage to resources. The use of cables to haul logs up the slope will tear apart the topsoil, cause erosion and make regeneration more difficult. Wildlife habitat and native plant communities will be destroyed, non-native invasive plant species will spread, leading to the use of toxic herbicides to suppress the spread of these invasive plants.
The project is located near the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Clearcut logging is likely to detract from the recreational experience. Recreation along the trail provides an economic boon to the nearby communities of Hood River and Mosier. Large clearcuts along the state scenic trail may harm the local economies of that depend on recreation and tourism. We have already lost much beauty due to last year’s fires. These clearcuts add insult to injury.
Large-scale clearcutting does not represent sound or reasonable forest management activities within a place revered for its natural scenic beauty and visited by millions of tourists every year. Other landowners in the scenic area have to develop their land in ways that protect the scenic beauty of the Gorge and Weyerhaeuser should not be any different.
We urge Weyerhaeuser to develop a forest management plan that is more consistent with the protection of our national scenic treasure. Selective harvest of trees, much smaller clearcuts, and the phased implementation of the project would lessen adverse impacts to scenic, natural and recreation resources and our economy. We can and must do better. And community input on should always come before the cutting starts.
The authors submitted this editorial as individuals. Burns is also the Mayor of Mosier. Cornelison is also a Hood River City Councilman and Friends of the Columbia Gorge employee.