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Chapter 2.2

Four People Die From Clearcut Landslide

By Francis Eathrington

On October 29, 1986, the ODF forester, writing in his diary, records that he talked to Rick Moon (builder of the house on Rock Creek, who later died in the landslide). ODF writes: "We let him know what we were doing there and what was proposed for the area. He does not oppose the logging, but is concerned about any slide that may block the creek and flood out at a later date."1

Logging started in early 1987. The slopes were extremely steep, an average of 80%, and some say they were up to 120%. It was so steep, people remember that the loggers had to use repel ropes to get in to cut the trees down. They completely clear-cut 168 acres, not even leaving a single tree along the edges of Rock Creek.

The 1975 USFS study concludes that landslides from clearcuts continue for 20 years after the hill is cut. Slides will happen after the old tree roots decompose and can no longer hold the soil.2 Only 9 years after Champion clear-cut their land, it slid. On November 18, 1996, during heavy rains, the water and mud moved through the clear-cut, and down the slope to Hubbard Creek, crushing a home and four lives in it's path. The two children, now orphaned, were able to flee the catastrophe.

In response, ODF District Forester Steve Truesdell acknowledge that the Department of Forestry recognized the danger of landslides in the logging units in 1986, but had no power to prohibit the logging. ''It's all private land. We don't have the authority to not allow activities."3

So the clear-cutting continues. The remaining residents on Hubbard Creek now know they live in 'unstable' mountains. One recently said, "I am willing to take my chances with Mother Nature regarding slides but I will not willing see the chance of a slide increase threefold just so a company can make some money."4

Less than two miles down the road from the former Moon house, Hubbard Creek residents also know about the new roads now being built above their houses. They asked Roseburg Forest Products what their plans were, and RFP responded by saying they could have their harvest plans completed by February, 1997. This potential clear-cut would be directly above five people's homes. According to the Oregon Department of Forestry, some of the new roads are being built on slopes up to 65% (steep), on sites with old slides and evidence of small failures. In response to these recent events, ODF area director Craig Royce said, "The Oregon Department of Forestry is not in the business of protecting houses."5

Indeed, human houses are not included in the ODF goal of: "sound management of fish and wildlife resources." Considering the plight of our endangered fish and wildlife species, ODF doesn't seem to be in the business of protecting the home of any species. The first goal of the Forest Practices Act seems to insure the continuation of industry profits.6

But now there is a new voice that can be heard above the roar of chainsaws and mudslides, in the up-to-now unchallenged area of sacred 'private' industry land. That is the voice of the old-timer, living on Hubbard Creek for 50 years, saying, "I don't want to be labeled an environmentalist, I feel in a bind over this. But wondering what Roseburg Lumber will do is like waiting for destruction. It's like having a sword dangling over your head and not knowing when it will fall."7 It's also the voice of a nurse and neighbor on Hubbard Creek, saying, "Cut away the old growth forest above me and what will happen? Will we be the next people on Hubbard Creek to lose our home? Will we be the next to die? At least if we get killed in a slide, there will be some good documentation of our feelings before they logged. Please help us stop destructive logging in hazardous, slide-prone areas."8

References and notes

1 Associated Press, December 3, 1996. back

2 Impact of clear-cutting and road construction on soil erosion by landslides in the western Cascade Range, Oregon, 1975, F.J. Swanson, Department of Geology, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon. C.T. Dryness, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station, Corvallis, Oregon. Published in Geology, July, 1975. [excerpted here] back

3 Associated Press, November 26, 1996, written by Jeff Barnard. back

4 from interview with Karen Henderson. back

5 News-Review, December 6, 1996, written by Erik Robinson. back

6 Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, WWW home page. back

7 News-Review, December 4, 1996, written by Paul R. Huard. back

8 Ibid. back


Table of Contents
Chapter 2 Intro/Chapter 2.1/Chapter 2.2/Chapter 2.3/Chapter 2.4

Copyright (c) 1997-98 OLIFE -- Oregonians for Labor Intensive Forest Economics. All rights reserved.

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