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Beyond Profits: The Effects of Clear-cutting and Pesticide Spraying on the Siletz Gorge
If you don’t look up, the Siletz Gorge is still a place of exceptional beauty. The river, shallow in some places, deep in others, winds its way towards the coast at the bottom of a narrow valley, between steep slopes, once totally covered with old growth forest. Today, no old growth remains there, except in 80 acres of the Valley of the Giants, many miles up the valley. Everything else has been clear-cut more than once, always prematurely, at the expense of the forest’s carbon-storing function.
The sight of those steep, bone-bare slopes, many of them grayed by aerial spraying, is terrifying. Gradients are such that most of us wouldn’t dare to climb them, and dangerous for anyone to work on. Buffers of trees line the bottom, along the river, as the law mandates. Seeing the giant walls that form the sides of the valley naked and knowing they have been aerially sprayed is to realize that, regardless of buffers, no helicopter can do its job without spraying over water flowing at the bottom.
Soil takes millions of years to form. Once bared of vegetation, it has little to hold on to. Poison-impregnated, it is carried by wind and rain to the bottom of the valley, where our drinking water flows, where salmon spawn, where baby fish hatch and grow before they swim ocean-ward, and also where our children go swimming. There are places where erosion exposes bright orange layers of sloping ground, and actual landslides where newly planted trees are unable to keep the soil in place. Small creeks, the non-fish bearing streams, have no buffer at all, as permitted by law. Their water, sprayed-on directly, flows into our fish-bearing streams, which flow into the Siletz River, the water we drink.
In some areas, clear-cuts extend farther than any amount of visible forest. A shrinking forest allows more water to evaporate. Our streams carry less water every year. All life depends on water. Where do animals go when their homes are annihilated? Where will our children go when our homeland is no longer livable?
Lincoln County Community Rights