An ad campaign launched by environmental groups opposed to increased logging in Western Oregon is misleading and not helpful.
The campaign, titled "Oregon, Home of the Clearcut," takes aim at the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act sponsored by three of Oregon's congressional representatives — two Democrats and one Republican. The legislation, which is likely to get a vote in the House this month, would change the way the former Oregon & California Railroad lands are managed, with the intent of increasing timber harvests and therefore revenue for the 18 counties that historically shared logging proceeds with the federal government.
Environmental groups are understandably alarmed at the prospect of increased logging. Their response, however, is to assume the worst possible outcome of the legislation and predict a return to the worst excesses of past logging practices. The reality, pardon the expression, is far less clear-cut.
The legislation would divide 2.6 million acres of O&C land into two trusts. Roughly half would be set aside and managed for conservation while the rest would be managed for sustainable timber production. The bill also would add 58,100 acres to the Rogue Wilderness Area in the lower Rogue River drainage — something environmental groups have long said they want — and add 93 miles of Rogue River tributaries to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
Would some of the logging be in the form of clearcuts? Possibly. But it's important to remember that not all clearcuts are bad.
Historically, logging practices that cut down huge swaths of old-growth trees did long-term damage to forests. But small, carefully planned clearcuts are an accepted technique of modern forestry that can be the best way to harvest trees in specific situations.
It's also important to understand the political reality of the legislation. While the bill likely will pass the Republican-controlled House, the Senate is another matter.
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden is working on his own bill, which will likely differ from the House version, and what ultimately passes, if anything does, is liable to look different from the present House bill.
Environmental groups have spent decades blocking timber harvests on public land through the courts. This legislation threatens to take that weapon away from them, at least on some public land.
The legislation offers compromise by protecting more than a million acres from future logging and setting aside new wilderness areas. But the groups behind the new ad campaign clearly are not interested in compromise.
One of the standard arguments of anti-logging groups is that income from tourism and recreation on public forest lands can replace timber sales as a source of revenue. But their "Home of the Clearcut" slogan uses an emotion-laden term that threatens to tarnish Oregon's image as a destination for outdoor recreation.
That's hardly a constructive way to participate in the debate.