We went to the Gifford Pinchot this Sunday with the Gifford Pinchot Task Force, and visited the Alpha and Beta proposed timber sales. We skirted Beta and enjoyed waterfalls and rivers and flora throughout Alpha. The forest has never been commercially logged, and the forest service estimates that the last logging was done at least 120 years ago. Some snags have pilleated woodpecker nests in them, and we learned that the pileated serve as "cleaners" for the insects that forage in the forests. We were surrounded with dense multilayered canopy of Hemlock, Grand and Doug fir, and other huge and very old trees, estimated by one biologist present to be at least 200-300 years old. Some of the flora covering the forest floor included vine maple, many kinds of lichen, moss and other nitrogen fixing species, along with tons of bear grass, currant, vanilla leaf, huckleberry, princess pine, and varying sizes of oregon grape, rattlesnake plantain, wild ginger, and most interestingly, the pinesap which, lacking chlorophyll, lives on nutrients transmitted from the roots of coniferous trees via mycorrhyzal fungi..
We were told that there is some hope for Beta, that the sale has not been finalized, and the contract has not been signed, as of Friday. This contract can, however, be signed at any time, authorizing the logging to begin. It is expected that once this process takes place, it will take some time to ready the area. We did see an abnormal number of County Sheriff Vehicles out, just sitting by the sides of the roads, and facing traffic coming toward the forest, for reasons which have only been guessed at so far. The GP Taskforce is working toward convincing the District ranger, Cliff Ligons to drop the old growth from the sale, over 60 acres total. The GP Taskforce is encouraging people to write and call Cliff to reinforce their efforts. Cliff's number is (360) 247-3900. Cliff Ligons is the Mount St. Helens Monument Manager, and has the power to drop the old growth at least from this sale. He has in the past been convinced to drop one old growth sale completely, so there is hope that he can be convinced once again, if there is enough public pressure exerted.
For the Alpha sale units, around 30 or so total, it seems that there is even a little more hope, although over 300 acres of mature and old growth would be logged if this sale goes through. This Tier 1 Key Watershed is categorized as a Late Successional Reserve, and as such, is supposed to be managed with wildlife as the main priority. This sale, together with the Beta sale, will sever significant habitat connectivity corridors. The cumulative impacts of all these sales combined have never been considered, and there are so many close together, in this important connectivity corridor, that these impacts are vital to consider, and mitigation, based on the past record of the Gifford Pinchot forest management, is likely to be minimal. Also of special concern is the fact that certain units in this sale would sever the dispersal corridor for wildlife migration or flight among the Mt. Adams Wilderness, the Dark Divide Roadless Area, the Upper Lewis river drainage, and the Big Lava Beds.
Over 600 miles of road litter the Gifford Pinchot Forest. In some places road density approaches 8 miles per square mile. Underlying the stalling tactics of filing lawsuits against each and every sale individually, a tactic that has so far been successful most of the time, is the knowledge that there is a piece of legislation being pushed by various groups and representatives in the legislature which, if passed, would ensure that old growth forests on public lands be permanently protected from logging. Certainly, the writing is on the wall for many struggling logging communities who are experiencing economic troubles far worse than ever before. These communities also have a majority of residents who oppose old growth logging.
These people could be employed right now doing restoration work in their forests, if the money being wasted on logging and building roads were instead diverted into responsible road deconstruction, restoration of watersheds, erosion control, fish habitat recovery, and keeping grazing animals away from precious and dwindling water reserves (giving the lie to the idea, fortunately declining in popularity, that logging even comes close to the most sustainable local economic use of the forest); indeed, many could be self-employed in agroforestry-oriented activities such as the natural cultivation, or wildcrafting, of medicinal plants such as wild ginger. The Gifford Pinchot forest has experienced the effects of logging in very visible ways; blowdown, landslides, and roads that obviously wash out quite regularly are a common sight.
People are encouraged to take part in the GP Taskforce's Grove Guardian Program. A Grove Guardian is a person who commits to caring for a certain area that may be threatened within the forest. Being a grove guardian can involve everything from keeping in contact with the Forest Service on the status of the sale, to doing public outreach to educate and involve others in speaking to the forest service about preserving the integrity of the forest, to leading hikes into the sale regularly to inspire public opposition to further destruction of the remnant biological corridors these sales will cause. Right now the Alpha Sale is in need of Grove Guardians.
Canvassers are presently travelling to rural communities doing outreach and having public meetings and forums to talk about issues that threaten the integrity of the remnants of mature and old growth forests remaining in the Gifford Pinchot forest. It is hoped that this outreach will also help in gaining public support for future legislation designed to prohibit logging of Old Growth and mature forests on public lands.
A hike to Beta will be leaving from the Daily Grind at 9ish AM Saturday July 27th. Three public forums will be held this week allowing public comment on FS hearings where they will decide whether road-ripping and decommissioning of some unecessary roads in the Gifford Pinchot Forest is what the public wants. It is important that these hearings are well attended, because there are many ORV users who have attended these in the past and successfully convinced the FS to avoid deconstruction of roads in the Giff. The first hearing will be in Stevenson, and rides will leave Monday July 22, at 5:30 PM from the GP Taskforce office, located in Vancouver, WA, at 710 W. Evergreen St, Exit 1 B off I-5 N toward City Center, left past the first light onto Evergreen.
Wednesday's public hearing will be in Vancouver WA on Wednesday, July 24th. The meeting will take place at Forest Service headquarters at 10600 NE 51st Circle ? just off Highway 500 East in Vancouver.
Contact the GP Taskforce for details, firstname.lastname@example.org, (360) 992-8733, ext 2#
For more information on these, or the multitude of other sales proposed to be finalized by this fall, go to the Gifford Pinchot Taskforce website at http://www.gptaskforce.org