Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Old Growth Forests: A Pacific Northwest Cultural Icon

There is perhaps no greater defining resource issue in the Pacific Northwest than management of old growth forests. Old growth forests are not just incredible stores of carbon, key wildlife habitat, sensitive plant species refugia, biodiversity strongholds, etc., old growth forests are spiritual places for humans, they are ancient living beings, they are a defining and irreplaceable part of our natural heritage, they are very important for recreation and science, they bring mental peace and well being too many people, and our complex relationship with these forests might even represent the initiation of a modern form of traditional ecological knowledge. Certainly old growth forests give our region great cultural identity. A friend once returned from Europe and commented, “We don’t have ancient cities, but we do have ancient living beings.”

While HCPC works hard to find common ground on timber sales and does a first-class job in my opinion, we are staunch defenders of our old growth heritage. But this kind of cultural identity didn’t start for me when I accepted the job of Ecosystem Conservation Coordinator at HCPC. I have been defending the old growth forests, an irreplaceable part of my cultural heritage that I want protected for all present and future generations and all living beings, for many years. Here is a timber sale poem I wrote some years ago where the names of old growth logging projects I was involved with are embedded in nearly every line. Maybe you will recognize a few! I hope that someday soon, old growth logging will be forever banned as it is so controversial that is hampers all efforts to find common ground. You will note that Snow Basin, a project proposed for the southern Wallowas whereby the preferred alternative would cut down over 40,000 trees greater than 21” diameter has qualified for the poem!

I saw a Bear on the Knoll before they cut it down
Hi Lynx used to always be around.
They plan to clearcut the Creek and send it to the Mill
Turn our temperate rainforests into a tree farm, what a steal.
Cutting native forests and they call it Swell.
It’s like being dirt sick and saying your feeling well
Their not Solo, there’s even lower levels they can go.
Cut old growth trees until there aren’t any more.
Cut down a place called Lemolo.
That lives on the Earth like a place in our soul.
And where wolverines lived, will be an extirpated hole.
Sacrificing Spotted Owls in the name of Snow
That’s the kind of Ridge that Breaks one’s Back.
And into your face comes a Slap.
You see a huge problem when you take a Peak.
It’s a lie, we know that a Cougar’s not a Monster.
Old growth trees are not Junc in the Rock.
Time for us to speak with courage when we talk.
Places like Goose Egg, are already on their last leg.
Beta, Omega, Lock and Alpha.
Clearcutting fun in the shape of a Jigsaw.
And all this stuff leaves me in a stupor.
You’d think they’d know better than to cut Polallie-Cooper.
On a fast track to make the Warm Spings, cold.
Who the hell is Ferris Bugman, and what’s he got against the old….
Growth, or maybe like Kelsey he drinks too much Whisky.
This is public land, and they call it a Slinky.
They’ll take an old growth forest and cut it level.
It makes you look to the East and wonder about a Devil.
Eyes to the sky as you ask what causes it.
Things that shouldn’t happen like the one named Blodgett.
And just when you think reality we’re a'facin.
They propose to do it all again, in the name of Snow Basin.
And although all this adds up to impacts that are scary.
I know that in the North we can Win the Berry.

by David Mildrexler
Ecosystem Conservation Coordinator

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