fwd: massive landslide threatens Headwaters

Larry Caldwell larryc at teleport.com
Mon Feb 16 06:14:53 EST 1998

In article <19980215065101.BAA00224 at ladder02.news.aol.com>,
camillah at aol.com (CamillaH) wrote:

> Thanks, Mike, for your thoughtful reply.  I don't really understand what you
> mean by clearcutting not precipitating slides, but i do get your point about
> the roads.  We've had some good slides up my way as well, taking out the whole
> freeway, and the media and logging community blame it on the fires couple years
> back.  It would seem fire and clearcutting would be parallel-type events.  But
> i don't know.

It can be tricky to establish causality in natural events.  Landslides
are particularly tough, since there's no way to observe what is happening
under several feet of dirt and rock.  If you see a bare slope slide, did
the slide happen because the slope was bare?

There has been a lot of recent research on this, since with urban intrusion
into rural areas more people are at risk than they used to be.  Instead
of just flying over and taking pictures, they actually sent geological
engineers in on the ground to see what was happening.

Current results indicate that the slide did not happen because the slope
was bare.  Slides also happen just about as frequently on slopes covered
by trees.  They have been underreported from the air because the trees
move right along with the slide, and cover up the signs of damage from

However, the recent reports indicate that roads DO cause landslides.  It
may be that the landslide that covered up the freeway was caused by the
freeway at the base of the slope.  It may be that a fire road built during
the fire fighting effort caused the slide, or maybe a decades old logging
road finally cut loose.  Or maybe the slope was just ready to slide, and
went because it rained and made the dirt heavy.  

The fire may have caused some surface erosion, but it is unlikely that 
it caused the slide.  You have too many other culprits sitting around
looking guilty.
> Mind you, I'm not against logging.  Not even.  What I am against is logging old
> growth - leave the elders of all trees alone.  Is it really true that there
> isn't sufficient second growth, etc. to keep foresters and loggers working?
That's probably the wrong question.  The forestry industry has been losing
workers at a great rate for years.  Oregon lost 12,000 mill jobs at the 
height of the Reagan overcut.  In order to be competitive, mills had to
computerize and automate their operations, and the process that started
with the invention of the chainsaw continues.  Sites that are level enough
are harvested with wood processors that allow one person to do work that
took an entire crew 20 years ago.

The question should probably be, "Is there sufficient second growth for
our needs as a society?"  The answer to that one is "not yet."  While
large industrial forest owners have been reforesting diligently since
about 1920, the State of Oregon didn't start reforesting until 1961,
and the federal government didn't start requiring reforestation of
timber sales until the 1970's.  AFAIK, California got into the act
about the same time the fed did.  

There is some natural reprod on the areas that were harvested before
replanting, but the land is nowhere near as productive as it could have
been with good management.  Second growth on federal lands that is ready
for harvest is often sparse and limby, yielding inferior wood and not
much of it.  The well managed areas are only 20 to 30 years old at most,
and won't be mature for decades yet.  

People who advocate making up the shortfall off of private lands forget 
that the US Government owns 2/3 of all land west of the Rocky Mountains,
including  over half of all productive forest land.

Right now, we are making up the shortfall in supply by importing wood.
Most of it comes from Canada, so we're preserving some American forests
at the expense of a lot of Canadian old growth.  We've also shifted to
new engineered materials, like OSB (Oriented Strand Board) instead of
plywood, because there is no way the current supply of veneer grade logs
could meet the demand, even with imports.  There has also been a shift
to glue-lam beams instead of milled beams, and finger jointed finish
wood, printing press wood paneling, and many other changes to make
inferior materials stretch to do the job.

Headwaters is really being cut down by little old ladies in San Francisco
who want redwood planters for their posies, or suburbanites who want
redwood edging for their flower beds and redwood decks for a patio, or
redwood trim on their hot tub.  

-- Larry

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