When we saw a press release titled “Most Endangered Places in Oregon” last week, we imagined all kinds of locations and concerns that would make the list.
The Formosa Mine Superfund site near Riddle immediately came to mind. The acid runoff from the abandoned mine has killed all aquatic life in a 13-mile stretch of Middle Creek and could eventually jeopardize the water supply for the city of Riddle. Yet removing the pollutants could cost as much as $50 million and the Superfund is broke.
Formosa’s toxins are dwarfed by the much larger Superfund site, the polluted Willamette River in the Portland Harbor, designated back in 2000. And that’s in the backyard of half the state’s population.
Moving beyond pollution, other dangers facing Oregon include the 100-year earthquake expected to wreak havoc throughout the state, the threat of tsunamis to our coastal communities, the active volcanoes in our Cascade Range, flooding that regularly devastates communities, the wildfires still raging that have become as common as summer vacation for students and teachers, and the methamphetamine abuse that has destroyed so many families.
If you look to the Oregon Legislature, our elected officials say the biggest threat to our state is the lack of job creation and income growth.
Our list takes in a much bigger overall picture of the Beaver State, however. The issuer of the press release, Oregon Wild, has its sights firmly locked on eliminating logging on public lands in Oregon. This special-interest group announced that a proposal before Congress to increase logging, boost employment and give Western Oregon counties financial stability puts the Oregon & California Railroad lands at the top of the “Most Endangered” list.
Actually, the lands might be most endangered by the threat of wildfire, and that would put the private lands adjacent to them in a checkerboard pattern under similar threat.
When Oregon Wild make its case, it fails to mention the protections for Oregon treasures in the bipartisan legislation. It would set aside 1.1 million acres of old growth forest, increase riparian zones on public lands and establish a fund to expand riparian areas on private lands. More Wild and Scenic River designations and wilderness areas also would be established through the act.
Oregonians should soon see a proposal by Sen. Ron Wyden on how he envisions increasing logging on the O&C lands. Lawmakers then will get to utilize the legislative process to come to an agreement.
Rather than employing scare tactics that make it sound like Rep. Peter DeFazio has lost his liberal mind and intends to clear-cut every inch of Oregon, Oregon Wild should look at what it can do to improve the law it believes is inadequate — the Oregon Forest Practices Act — if that is truly its concern.
Sustainable timber harvests on public lands that are based on science and do not harm wildlife or affect our clean water need to be part of Oregon’s future. Otherwise, the most endangered places in the state will be the homes of rural Oregonians.