On Monday, May 21, Friends of the Columbia Gorge sent a letter to timber company Weyerhaeuser asking it to withdraw plans for over 250-acres of clearcutting near Hood River.
Oregon Department of Forestry records show Weyerhaeuser's plans for clearcuts in seven different Gorge-area regions where it owns land. Cumulatively, the clearcuts would total more than 250 acres.
"Friends is very concerned by the proposed clearcuts and the significant adverse effects on the scenic, natural, cultural and recreation resources of the Columbia River Gorge that would result if this project moves forward as proposed." Michael Lang, the group's conservation director wrote in a letter to Andy Conklin, Weyerhaeuser's forest engineer for the company's Oregon operations, and Brian Reel, a stewardship forester with the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Lang says that because the land Weyerhaeuser is proposing harvesting falls within a General Management Area, and is not federally owned, it is exempt from regulation.
Lang writes that while the proposed clearcuts fit within a land management "loophole," they, "do not represent sound or reasonable forest management activities within a place revered for its natural scenic beauty and visited by millions of tourists every year."
Friends is asking that Weyerhaeuser withdraw its proposal, and for the Oregon Department of Forestry to work with the company to draft a forest management plan that adheres to National Scenic Area Special Management guidelines—which outlines selective tree harvesting, smaller clearcuts and phased implementation of projects to limit impacts on natural resources.
The prosed cuts, Lang says, lie east of Hood River along the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail and would be highly visible.
"The proposed project site is adjacent to a large existing clearcut on Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) trust land that was harvested in 2012," Lang writes. "The cumulative visual impact of 350 acres of clearcuts will be severe and would become the largest concentration of clearcuts in the National Scenic Area."
In an email to WW, Lang further criticized the company for not initiating community dialogue before planning the large-scale clearcutting.
"It's not like this is in a remote location in Southwest Washington where Weyerhaeuser owns thousands of acres of land far away from recreation sites and towns," Lang says. "It's a National Scenic Area where natural landscapes are valued and recreation is a major part of the quality of life for residents and also for the economy."
Greg Miller, a spokesperson for Weyerhaeuser, says the company met with Hood River County officials, the Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Columbia River Gorge Commission before drafting a harvest plan.
"We understand and respect the community support for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and we take seriously our obligation to responsibly manage our forests," Miller told WW in an email.
"Our approach is responsive to the requests made by the Columbia River Gorge Commission regarding scenic, cultural, recreational, and environmental considerations," Miller added. "For example, we conducted rare-plant, boundary and wildlife surveys; we will establish extra tree buffers along historic highways and around active and abandoned bald eagle nest sites; we will leave green-up buffers between harvest areas; and we will ensure harvest areas are fully replanted within two years, as we do on all our lands."