WEATHER IN LINCOLN COUNTY

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Do plants and animals have natural rights like humans have?

September 8, 2017

From Debra Fant, Waldport, OR Lincoln Co. Community Rights

Lincoln County voters passed an ordinance to ban the aerial application (via helicopter or aircraft) of herbicides, pesticides, and other biocides in May of this year. It was the outcome of local communities standing up to practices the people see as putting at risk the health and well-being of balanced forest ecosystems, wildlife and aquatic species, and human beings who live down stream from Coast Range forest lands.

Within days of the election, a suit had been filed in circuit court to challenge the ordinance on grounds already decided by the court prior to its appearance on the May ballot. Lincoln Co. Community Rights, a non-profit who brought forward the ballot measure from the political action committee, Citizens for a Healthy County, petitioned the court to join Lincoln County as defendants in the case. Still pending is a motion to include the Siletz River Ecosystem as a co-defendant, with Carol Van Strum the voice for all the living beings – fish, birds, elk, deer, bear, coyotes, big cats and the many small mammals who depend on intact habitat for their lives. Cold clear water and air that is free of poison, habitat in mature stands of diverse tree cover, a variety of plants that provide shelter, forage and food, trees like alder that fix nitrogen in the soil increasing its rich fertility are all critical to a healthy balanced and resilient forest that is less likely to be infested or burn than plantation stands of mono-crop fir trees.

Why would people propose the Siletz Ecosystem as a co-defendant in this case? It is no more absurd for living beings of forests and streams to be represented in a court of law for protections for their survival and well-being than corporations which are non-human business entities filed with the state having been granted “personhood” rights under the constitution. It is noteworthy that the Siletz Watershed is responsible for providing clean drinking water for the communities of Siletz, Toledo, Seal Rock, and augments Newport’s water system in the dry season. How many people depend on its continued flow? A good share of the population of this county!

It is also instructive to note that the Siletz Watershed is #1 on the list of “deforested” watershed lands in western Oregon in a study published in 2014, meaning that the clear cutting of forests out-paced re-planting by over 10,000 acres. This leaves the river exposed to direct sun which warms the waters, increased silt and sediment from steep hillside run-off which team up to create aquatic conditions toxic to young salmonids. Top soil erosion carries biocidal chemicals with it into the water supply impacting all life downstream.

How is it that forest and water supply are tied together? Did you know that mature stands of forests are instrumental in capturing moisture from foggy marine air and contributing to the flow of streams from the high country? Have you stepped into a forest in this warm season and felt the temperature change under the canopy? Ground moisture evaporation is intense and complete on clear cut areas or in newly planted stands without any shade or protection from sun and wind. A recent study published by Perry and Jones documented that mono-crop fir in plantation stands accounted for a 50% loss of stream flow in watersheds that are expected to supply drinking water supplies to coastal communities.

On Monday, September 11 at 11am, Lincoln Co. Courthouse, Newport, the judge will hear arguments about inclusion of the Siletz River Ecosystem in this case. Lincoln Co. Community Rights members and people who stand up for the ordinance we voted into law will convene at the courthouse in support of all life within the ecosystem, giving voice to those ones who cannot speak for themselves in the decisions about how forests, water and air are impacted by human endeavors. One would hope that we humans have the wisdom to recognize that destroying nature’s balance has dire consequences to those of us who wish to continue to live on this land, and that we are only one part of the ecosystem, not the master or owner of it.

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NewsLincolnCounty.com invites those with concurring or differing opinions on the subject of natural rights to share them with our community. Email them to: News@NewsLincolnCounty.com

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