Have you been out to Columbia County? It's beautiful. Rolling meadows, forests, and wetlands stretch along the Columbia river, beavers, otters, elk and other wildlife share the riverbanks, and small towns at least a century old provide a habitat for the humans who live there. But, like the rest of Oregon's once-thriving rural ecosystems, it's on the verge of "progress." Forests are being carved off the face of the earth, trees are being hacked off hillsides, and mountains are being chewed down by mining corporations. All this activity is feeding the growth of the inevitable plastic boom-town that follows such "progress." Slowly but surely, billboards, fast food restaurants and RV parks are encroaching into the otherwise scenic vistas. Someone must stand up for this area before it's far too late, as it is in many empty wastelands left behind after the timber barons and the mining corporations have moved on to greener pastures.
The time to act to save the remaining greenspaces in Columbia County is now. Glacier NW just won tentative approval to begin turning a 52-acre site near St Helens into rubble for profit. Residents of the area will be left with contaiminated wells, piles of debris, and a 115-foot deep hole, while Glacier NW will reap financial profits from the deal. I guess they feel it's worth it. Apparently, Columbia County officials agree with them, since they have given Glacier NW an approving nod. According to officials, the deal is a "positive thing," because it means that a 432-acre parcel of land near Scappoose is now closer than ever to being developed into an industrial area.
Glacier NW owns that parcel, and officials and businessmen with some very dubious connections have been trying to swing a deal to have this land, dubbed the Meier site, offered up for development for some time. Glacier had expressed interest in selling on at least one other occasion, which started business interests salivating. Plans were in motion to begin development, but, in a move reminiscent of old fashioned extortion, Glacier pulled out of the deal at the last minute because officials would not grant approval for a mining deal. The maneuver seems to have worked, as the 52 acre Fort James site has now been granted to Glacier. In the negotiation process, Glacier cut a deal with the county to make it more likely that they will sell the land, thereby allowing "significant industrial development." Glacier is hedging its bets, though; the mining corporation will not sell unless it can get approval for a second mining site.
So, while the people and the Earth wait in the wings, corporate interests haggle over the details of just how they will divide the spoils. In spite of the fact that the Scappoose urban growth boundary would prevent industrial development on the Meier site, officials are confident that they can render the urban planning effort useless by simply extending the boundary. I'm sure they can, as money talks out in the hinterlands as surely as it does in downtown Portland.