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New Restoring Paradise

Chapter 1.1
Save Our Forests -- Stop Clearcutting

It is believed by archaeologists that the original human residents of the Pacific Northwest of North America arrived here tens of thousands of years ago via an Aleutian Island land bridge across the Bering Strait, connecting the Siberian mainland to what is now Alaska. This is supposed to have occurred after the last Ice Age, as the planet warmed and the glaciers retreated. 1 Anthropologists have found human remains and artifacts that give us clues to the life-styles of these native peoples.

Recent histories, since Europeans came to the region in the mid-1800s confirm the idea that Native Americans settled in Oregon lived close to the earth. Indigenous people relied on a long history of understanding and using the plants and animals that surrounded them. They developed tools and cultures that made efficient use of these living beings for food, shelter, clothing, medicines and play. In the book "Ethnobotany of Western Washington," written by Erna Gunther in 1945, we get a remarkable look at the cultural life-style of these early inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest, as well as the a better understanding of the properties of the native vegetation throughout Western Washington and Oregon. [2]

Due to violence and disease inflicted by Europeans on the Native American populations of Oregon, much less of their cultures live today than did only a couple of hundred years ago. Portions of that culture have been preserved. Pride in Native American culture has been promoted much more in recent years. Yet, the natural world that existed prior to the European incursion of the Pacific Northwest can be found only in relatively small pockets of ecosystems that have survived the last one hundred plus years of industrialization and ecosystem destruction. When we seek out the wild places that once predominated the Oregon landscape, we must travel long and far to find places that truly remind us of how Oregon once was in an ecologically balanced state.

We have surmised that as long as human activities are driven by forces of greed and exploitation, it will not be possible to preserve the diversity we see rapidly disappearing in our forest ecology. We must combine an attitude of thrift with creative understanding of ways to meet our economic needs and to preserve and restore the natural heritage of our forestlands. Otherwise, we will watch as species after species declines and disappears.

A difficult journey lies ahead for us to overcome the political, social, economic and cultural forces that seem bent on exploiting and destroying the last of our native ecosystems and the myriad life-forms that have evolved there over millions of years. Already species, such as the wolf, and grizzly bear have been extirpated from our forests to regions north. Other species: the wolverine, the northern spotted owl, the marbled murrelet and the coho salmon are on the verge of extinction, with populations and habitat fragmented and struggling to survive.

Ecology and economy are not of necessity conflicting values. While abundance and healthy ecosystems are, in fact, complimentary; human greed and healthy ecosystems are not. We are witnessing the greatest destruction of living ecosystems that human civilization has ever been witness to and it is a destruction that is occurring because of greed and carelessness. The vast majority of the human population does not consciously support such destruction. Most people, making a conscious choice, would choose to be a part of a planetary life support system that would continue to contain the diversity now existing on Earth. But, only when we truly cherish this miracle of diversity will we, as individuals and groups, take the necessary steps to protect this ecological treasure. Our hope is that this guide lends a helping hand for you to understand the role you can play in these efforts.

OLIFE (Oregonians for Labor Intensive Forest Economics) has also put this guide together in order to promote the 1998 Oregon Forest Conservation Initiative (OFCI), a statewide citizen initiative that we are working to place on the November 1998 Oregon ballot. This booklet can be used as a resource to understand the necessity of ending clearcutting and the chemical pesticide spraying that often accompanies this destructive forest practice. We encourage you to join us in our signature gathering efforts and to help OLIFE pass the OFCI in 1998.

A look at recent laws and trends

In 1994, shortly after their election as President and Vice-President, Bill Clinton and Al Gore made a trip to the Pacific Northwest to try to find a solution to the so-called "jobs vs. owls" controversy. They set up a forum that was to be attended by hundreds of people who held an interest in the way the forests of the Pacific Northwest were to be managed. Environmentalist, millworkers, scientists, foresters, industrialists and lawyers came together to lay out before the new Administration their claims and commitments to the future of forests in the Pacific Northwest. After a week of discussion, testimony and media, the drama continued to be played out in meeting rooms where administration officials would arrive at a strategy for managing these threatened ecosystems. The final plan, called by the Clinton Administration, "Option 9" or later, the "President's Forest Plan" drew the wrath of almost everyone involved. In a comic/tragic commentary Bill Clinton quipped. 'We know that we've reached a good compromise since all sides are unhappy': a true "lose-lose" solution.

Some media pundits looked for a silver lining in the clouds surrounding the Option 9 attempt at a 'final solution' to the forest health crisis. Others, less generous, accused mainstream environmentalists of giving their guarded approval to the plan in order to cozy up to the administration for future negotiations or to reassure their membership that they'd made some gains in the deal.

On the ground we learned that environmentalists and ecosystems had been sold down the river. The concessions granted to the forest environment in the Option 9 plan were weak, largely unenforceable, and merely a way for the Clinton Administration to position itself to further weaken protections conservationists had worked for decades to obtain.

Though the Option 9 plan was resisted, both in court and through grassroots political action, neither strategy was very successful. The requirements of the Option 9 are still being debated in the courts and on the ground, where the plan is being put in place. Tens of thousands of acres of federal forest have since been clearcut. Many hundreds of thousands of acres will be logged with little regard for environmental needs if the plan is carried to completion.

Option 9 was not the end of the story for Bill Clinton's actions as President and the fate of the forests of the Northwest. Two years later, on July 27, 1995 , Clinton, amidst a din of controversy, signed into law the draconian Salvage Logging Rider, a legislative rider tacked onto a Rescissions bill approved by the Republican-led Congress and sponsored by Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC). The Salvage Logging Rider required the logging of hundreds of timber sales that had been by stopped previously because of their violation of environmental protections and their threat to the health of the forest ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest. The Salvage Rider required the sale of 4.5 billion board feet of timber during a two-year period--a time of "logging without laws".

Conservationists looked on in horror as thousands of acres of old growth forest began falling to the chainsaw. Greedy timber companies grabbed the chance to subvert legal protections based on decades of scientific study and analysis. Native forests and wildlife bore the brunt of the attack.

Unless we can reverse them, the effects of the Salvage Rider will continue to be seen through the end of the century, as the vast acreage of forest sold under contract because of the rider will continue to be cut through the 1990s.

We are witnessing similar ecological disasters on private and state forestlands in the Pacific Northwest. The Kitzhaber administration has worked hand in hand with the Clinton administration to effectively gut the intent of the Endangered Species Act and to advocate for inapt solutions to the crisis facing salmon and other endangered species in Oregon. The Oregon legislature has turned a blind eye to these problems and continues to allow and encourage a host of industries to keep on degrading Oregon's forests and threaten the survival of Oregon's diverse wildlife.

Overview of options for new directions

Conservationists are now working on ways to protect our rapidly disappearing native forest heritage. We are working through legal channels by requesting of judicial authorities that existing environmental laws be followed. We are working through legislative channels to promote new laws to strengthen our forest ecosystems' chances for survival. And many people are working through direct action and educational efforts to inform, involve and empower concerned citizens in protection of forests and wildlife.

OLIFE has produced this Guide in order to help conservationists network efforts to protect our forests. We are also promoting our statewide citizen initiative, the 1998 Oregon Forest Conservation Initiative to ban clearcutting and chemical spraying on Oregon's forests and to require that only ecological forestry methods be used. Articles in this booklet discuss a variety of issues related to ending clearcutting.

OLIFE's 1998 Oregon Forest Conservation Initiative can put an end to clearcutting on state and private forestlands in Oregon by amending the Oregon Forest Practices Act. It requires the State of Oregon to amend their program for non-point source water pollution--under the federal Clean Water Act--and encourage the federal EPA to adopt this plan to stop clearcutting and chemical spraying on federal forestlands.

Following, we have listed some other citizen-backed conservation efforts that OLIFE supports:


International efforts to stop deforestation -- We support RAN (Rainforest Action Network) and other organizations who are working to educate people about rainforest destruction and to work proactively for an end to this destruction.


Legislation to protect national forests -- OLIFE supports ecological use of our public lands. Because of the gross mismanagement of federal forestlands, ecosystems nationwide are facing environmental crisis. Until federal agencies end clearcut logging and adopt strict conservation regulations for forestry, we support legislation to end all commercial logging on federal lands. Private corporate interests must not continue to benefit from ecosystem destruction.


Purchase of threatened ecosystems -- We endorse work by the Nature Conservancy and other organizations that are placing threatened habitats into land trusts to allow these lands to maintain and restore native biological diversity.


Strengthening of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) -- OLIFE opposes all efforts to weaken the ESA. Protections for endangered species under the ESA must be strengthened.


Opposition to the use of so-called Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs), which permit actions to harm endangered species and their habitat -- OLIFE opposes use of HCPs. HCPs are used solely to approve destruction of threatened and endangered species and their habitats. Most HCPs are misapplications of the spirit and meaning of the ESA. We oppose the HCPs proposed for Weyerhaeuser and other private companies in Oregon. OLIFE also opposes the HCPs that the State of Oregon is now proposing for the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests and for other state forestlands in Oregon.


Election of Candidates who make environmental protection their #1 goal -- Until we elect public officials who make environmental protection their #1 priority, we will have a very difficult time conserving our forests. OLIFE endorses candidates for office on the local, state and national level who will stand up for ecosystem protection.


Education about ecological forest uses -- OLIFE works to educate the public about forest ecosystems and their conservation and supports those working to apply principles of ecological preservation to forestry practices on the ground.


Monitoring existing environmental requirements -- OLIFE supports efforts for implementation, administration and enforcement of laws to protect the environment.

We encourage your involvement in the projects of OLIFE. Please join our statewide network of Oregon voters working to pass measure 64 in Oregon's upcoming November elections. We are accepting no contributions from corporations.

We have already talked with thousands of Oregonians and gathered tens of thousands of supporters for the OLIFE Measure. We are confident that, with your help, we can pass the Oregon Forest Conservation Initiative in 1998. Contact OLIFE today at our Eugene or Portland office and get involved. Our forests and wildlife need your help.

Notes and references

1 John Sauter and Bruce Johnson, Tillamook Indians of the Oregon Coast, Binfords and Mort, 1974, p. 15.

2 Erna Gunther, "Ethnobotany of Western Washington--The Knowledge and Use of Indigenous Plants of Native Americans," University of Washington Press, 1945.

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