The Eagle Creek fire has closed most trails from Wyeth to Troutdale.

Why Post-Fire Logging Is Wrong for the Gorge

Greg Walden's bill could undo over a century of forest protection for this natural scenic treasure

Why Post-Fire Logging Is Wrong for the Gorge
The result of salvage logging and road building at the Babyfoot Lake Trailhead in the Siskiyou National Forest, Oregon, following the Biscuit Fire of 2002. (photo by Luke Ruediger, thesikiyoucrest.blogspot.com)

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 and started 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.

Just six days into this weeks-long inferno, and with no prior consultation with Columbia Gorge communities or elected officials, Oregon Representative Greg Walden filed H.R. 3715, the "Scenic Columbia Gorge Restoration Act of 2017." This bill expedites salvage logging within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in the wake of the Eagle Creek Fire. Salvage logging is the practice of clear-cutting trees in forest areas that have been damaged by wildfire or other natural disturbance. Read the specifics of the bill here.

Salvage logging is completely inappropriate for the Columbia Gorge. If passed, the Walden clear-cut bill would mandate commercial logging in areas impacted by the Eagle Creek fire 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.
 

Why Salvage Logging Won't Help the Gorge Ecosystem Recover

There is no strong, scientific evidence of an ecological benefit from salvage logging in a post-fire environment. In fact, available research shows that salvage logging has many negative impacts on surviving organisms and structures in disturbed areas and on vegetation that re-establishes naturally following the disturbance. Salvage logging can further soil erosion, introduce invasive species and disrupt wildlife for many years.

To the contrary, experts have determined that recently burned landscapes that are not logged are some of the richest and rarest in the Pacific Northwest. 

Dead trees help the ecosystem recover. Standing dead and dying trees, called snags, are important for wildlife in both natural and landscaped settings, providing a valuable habitat for an array of wildlife. Birds, small mammals and other wildlife use snags for nests, nurseries, storage areas and foraging.

Other Approaches Will Help the Gorge Recover From the Fire

As devastating as it seems, fires like the Eagle Creek fire are a regular occurrence in the Cascade Mountain range and play a critical role in forest health and biodiversity. The Eagle Creek fire burned in a mosaic. There are still large areas with intact forests and green trees that the fire has skipped over.

The Gorge is a very resilient place. It's no stranger to cataclysmic events.  From the Missoula Floods 10,000 years ago, to the Yacolt Burn 115 years ago, to the Eagle Creek fire, the Gorge will recover and endure.

Instead of pushing salvage logging on the Gorge, Congress should instead focus on giving the Forest Service and state and local partners the resources need to keep invasive plant species out of the areas that burned, helping Gorge communities and businesses recover from the impacts of the fire and funding trail repair where it is appropriate.

Rep. Walden's Bill Could Undo Over a Century of Forest Protection

The Columbia River Gorge is a natural scenic treasure and an icon of the Northwest. The majority of the forests affected by the Eagle Creek fire are also within the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness area. Much of this area has been off-limits to logging and road building since 1915.

Walden's bill could undo over 100 years of protection, resulting in road building and logging in areas that are extremely sensitive, and set a dangerous national precedent for undermining wilderness protections. 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.

Take Action

Please send a letter to your governor and members of Congress today in opposition to the Walden bill.
Send Letter (Walden Constituents)

Send Letter (Non-Walden Constituents)
 

Contact

Questions about this bill or forest recovery issues: Contact Conservation Director Michael Lang, 971-634-2030, michael@gorgefriends.org
Media inquiries: Contact Communications Director Burt Edwards, 971-634-0595, burt@gorgefriends.org
 

Resources

Photos from top of page: The result of salvage logging and road building at the Babyfoot Lake Trailhead in the Siskiyou National Forest, Oregon, following the Biscuit Fire of 2002. (Luke Ruediger, thesikiyoucrest.blogspot.com) / Salvage logging after 2013 Rim fire, Stanislaus National Forest, California. (photo courtesy of High Country News) / Naturally regenerating post-fire habitat, Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area, Oregon. (photographer: Luke Ruediger, thesikiyoucrest.blogspot.com)