Cascadia Forest Defenders are meeting the challenge issued by timber-sponsored forest ecologists, Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin, at the White Castle Timber Sale located 20 miles east of Myrtle Creek. Tree sitters, blockaders, and the support crew have found their new home near the head waters of Myrtle Creek on O&C land about to be logged in the name of science. Yesterday, after being discovered by a survey crew, they were visited by various levels of law enforcement including the Douglas County Sheriff and Myrtle Creek Police.
This experimental pilot project called a Variable Retention Harvest or VHR is the latest excuse to log trees that would otherwise be protected. Norm and Jerry have come up with a sloppy method of clear cutting in older forests that leaves clumps of trees standing to regenerate the stands that have been logged. The land will not be replanted. Instead, they expect to see meadows and brush abound to provide habitat for butterflies and food for dear. They claim that these late seral habitats are lacking in Oregon because of the high levels of pesticides and herbicides used after conventional clear cuts. Rather than a decrease in toxins used on land already cleared, they propose to log Native Forest with Old Growth trees to make room for meadows. “We’re asking people to look at that and not see forest destruction but see forest renewal — and that’s hard,” says Johnson when interviewed by the High Country News in April 2013.
“The White Castle project is a cynical attempt to pass off clear-cutting century-old trees as restoration,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild in a press release. “In reality, the true focus of this project is providing cheap timber to old-growth dependent logging mills at taxpayer expense.”
White Castle could have far –reaching impacts on the 2.6 million acres of O&C land scattered across Western Oregon. In May, Senator Ron Wyden announced that he would be crafting his own plan for these vast Commons in response to the Defazio-Schrader-Walden proposal that would share the goal of increasing the cut for private timber companies in our public forests. He mentioned that “harvest will be consistent with the most advanced forest management practices advocated by Northwest experts and demonstrated in pilot projects.” If this new way of clear-cutting Old Growth and Native Forest is accepted by the public here, it will likely become the model for Wydon’s plan for the O&C Lands. Cascadia Forest Defenders demand that all Native Forest and Old Growth trees on the O&C be preserved. The faltering health of our planet cannot be further compromised to solve the unrelenting fiscal crisis brought about by a single-crop economy dependent upon unsustainable extraction of natural resources.
White Castle includes 77 acres of Native Forest that has never been logged. It did burn 109 years ago, but many Old Growth trees survived the fire. These towering ancestors are surrounded by their 108 year old progeny in a lush moist forest punctuated by flowering rhododendrons, trilliums, and wild iris amongst salal and Oregon grape. It is considered critical habitat for 5 pairs of spotted owls. Three fens, rare forest wetlands, are located within the sale. Though Norm and Jerry propose to leave clumps of trees at their borders, the clear-cuts above them will doubtlessly cause these habitats to dry out.
Having run out of big trees on private land, the timber industry is playing an industrial scale shell game with Oregon’s O&C Forests. Between Defazio’s proposal, Kitzhaber’s timber panel recommendations, and Wydon’s framework , Oregonians could easily fall into the trap of trying to choose the best plan for our forests with the timber barons walking off with our trees in their back pockets at the end of the day leaving us in the same fiscal crisis we are in now but without a vast Native Forest on the Commons. Cascadia Forest Defenders sees through this trap and encourages Oregon not to play.
“The new fight in Westside forests is over these 80- to 160-year-old future old-growth forests. This is really where the battle is going to be fought out,” Franklin told the press in an interview at White Castle last spring.
Cascadia Forest Defenders are ready.