A measure on the November ballot in Oregon gives voters there the opportunity to ban clearcutting, the use of herbicides and other environmentally irresponsible logging practices in Oregon s forests. The Oregon Forest Conservation Initiative (OFCI) would require environmentally sensitive and labor intensive logging methods. This could create more forest related jobs in Oregon logging communities that have lost jobs, even as the pace of deforestation in Oregon has increased.
After more than 100 years of logging, less than 5 percent of the original old growth forests remain in Oregon. Over-cutting and road-building have caused significant soil erosion and have eliminated wildlife habitat. Repeated clearcutting and poor forestry practices will eventually render Oregon forestland incapable of producing any wood products at all.
The OFCI, if passed by voters, would provide that clearcutting shall no longer be a lawful forest practice on federal, state and private forestlands in Oregon. Clearcutting is defined as any timber harvest which leaves fewer than 70 well-distributed trees at least 11 inches in diameter per acre. The measure also bans cutting any tree in Oregon that measures more than 30 inches in diameter at breast height, effectively preventing the cutting of the oldest trees. The ballot measure requires that the state Board of Forestry rewrite logging regulations to minimize the use of heavy equipment and roads to prevent soil compaction and erosion and maximize the replanting of a diversity of native tree species. The Board of Forestry would also have to require timber harvesting methods which maintain or maximize areas of large, live trees, standing dead trees, and large, downed logs to provide habitat for species dependent upon such habitat on at least 50 percent of each harvest unit.
The OFCI also contains a citizen suit enforcement provision that would award attorneys fees to citizens suing to enforce the law. Finally, the law contains provisions aimed at triggering Federal Clean Water laws to restrict logging on Federally owned lands, which cannot be controlled by the Oregon law. The measure is an impressive example of how environmentalists can use the ballot initiative process to put supposedly unrealistic laws to a vote.
Oregonians for Labor Intensive Forest Economics (OLIFE) director Gary Kutcher writes of attempting to get forest protections passed by the Oregon legislature: In the Oregon legislature, we came face to face with the dozens of lobbyists representing the timber industry, chemical companies and other huge corporations. We watched with dismay as legislator after legislator capitulated to the political pressures these lobbyists exerted and we came to the earnest conclusion that if the forests of Oregon are to be given serious protections through tough ecological forestry standards, that it will be the people of Oregon who will accomplish this via a stateside ballot initiative.
OLIFE collected almost 100,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot. Most were collected by volunteers. Now they hope to get 2,000 Oregon volunteers to leaflet and campaign to pass the initiative. OLIFE expects a vigorous, and well-funded, campaign against the measure by the timber industry and corporate interests.
To help pass the OFCI, contact OLIFE at 454 Willamette #211, Eugene, OR 97401, 541-683-1494 (Eugene) or 1017 S.W. Morrison #301, Portland, OR 97205, 503-294-0681 (Portland). They are also seeking donations. For a copy of the OFCI and lots of other excellent information about ecological logging methods, purchase the new book Can We Restore Paradise? from OFCI for $5 ($2 each for 5 or more copies). Please include postage $$–they weigh about 6 ounces each.