A winter mudslide on ground logged last year in Douglas County illustrates the trouble U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s timber plan could cause, two environmental groups said Thursday.
Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands blamed a “Wyden-style clear-cut” for a slide that the groups said they were alerted to earlier this week by landowner Ann Chamberlin.
The groups said the slide occurred on land harvested as part of the 59-acre Buck Rising timber sale, about 15 miles east of Myrtle Creek.
The Bureau of Land Management timber harvest tested logging practices that Wyden has embraced to increase timber production on Oregon & California Railroad trust lands.
A Wyden spokesman, Keith Chu, said the groups were drawing big conclusions from an insignificant event.
“Landslides in the winter in Oregon aren’t exactly newsworthy, especially when you have a dry spell and then you have heavy rains,” Chu said.
Oregon Wild’s conservation and restoration coordinator, Doug Heiken, said today the landslide occurred above and below a logging road. The slide undermined the road, which provides access to at least one home, he said.
“Landslides do happen naturally, but when you clear-cut an area already susceptible to mudslides, you are dramatically increasing the risk,” Heiken said.
Efforts to reach a BLM spokesman were unsuccessful.
Chamberlin, an opponent of the Buck Rising timber harvest while it was being planned, said she lives 2 miles from the slide.
“Everyone is calling this ‘science,’ including Sen. Wyden, however, it isn’t science. It’s never been tested or proven in the field,” Chamberlin said. “It is pretty obvious there was bound to be a slide when they cut the trees.”
Cascadia Wildlands Conservation Director Francis Eatherington said she saw the slide and described it as about 40 feet wide extending 100 feet above the road and 100 feet below the road.
“It was very muddy. My shoes are ruined. It was very wet and very muddy and clear-cuts do that,” Eatherington said today. “This sediment, if it hasn’t already, will eventually go down the hill into the watershed and reach our streams and dirty our water and degrade our fish salmon habitat in North Myrtle Creek.”
Chu said Wyden worked with top scientists in the West and that his plan has numerous safeguards to make sure water quality is not harmed.
Chamberlin said this is the first mudslide she has witnessed since moving to her home on North Myrtle Road in 2005 from New Jersey.
Oregon Wild has used Buck Rising in previous blasts against Wyden’s proposal. The group used pictures of the harvest on a billboard along Interstate 5 near Eugene.
Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands are suing to stop another experimental timber harvest east of Myrtle Creek, the 187-acre White Castle timber sale.
•You can reach reporter Christina George at 541-957-4202 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.