Burt Edwards, communications director | 971.634.0595 (Office) | 703.861.8237 (Cell) | email@example.com
PORTLAND, OR – Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) recently introduced a bill (H.R.3715) to expedite salvage logging within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in the wake of the Eagle Creek Fire. Michael Lang, conservation director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge, said in response:
"Salvage logging is completely inappropriate for the Columbia River Gorge. If passed, Congressman Walden's bill (H.R. 3715) would mandate commercial logging in areas impacted by the Eagle Creek wildfire and require the Forest Service to develop plans to log the Gorge without environmental review, short-circuiting public involvement and limiting legal challenges. This is unacceptable.
"The Columbia Gorge is a natural scenic treasure and an icon of the Northwest. The Walden clear-cut bill could undo over 100 years of forest protection, resulting in road building and logging in areas that are extremely sensitive and set a dangerous national precedent for undermining wilderness protections.
"There is no strong, scientific evidence of an ecological benefit from salvage logging in a post-fire environment. The National Scenic Area Management Plan already has rules for emergency and disaster response and recovery. We should let existing laws work and not add confusion with new laws and regulations."
On the afternoon of Sept. 2, a wildfire erupted in the Eagle Creek area within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The fire subsequently jumped to the Washington side starting the smaller, Archer Fire. The Eagle Creek fire has affected over 48,000 acres in Oregon with the majority of the forests effected occurring within the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness Area. The fire burned unevenly, with large tracks of forest left untouched, other areas are partially burned and some areas have been completely burned.
H.R. 3715 specifically:
- Requires the Forest Service to develop a proposal for salvage logging within 30 days of the conclusion of a "catastrophic event" and would supersede more important and ecologically beneficial post-fire remediation;
- Categorically excludes logging and replanting plans within National Scenic Areas from environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act;
- Restricts public involvement and appeal rights;
- Includes an expansive definition of "catastrophic event," which is defined to include "rain storms" in an area that annually receives up to 100 inches of rain a year, allowing for salvage logging after almost any natural disturbance of any magnitude;
- Alters current Endangered Species Act consultation procedures, creates a new ESA exemption process for selected projects and exempts those projects from ESA coverage if the consultation process takes longer than 60 days.
As currently drafted, the bill would apply to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area as well as other National Scenic Areas around the country.
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Friends of the Columbia Gorge is a nonprofit organization with over 6,000 members dedicated to protecting and enhancing the outstanding resources and communities of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.