EDITORIAL: Granite makes for mighty tough chewing

By Observer editorial September 09, 2013 01:18 pm

You can’t eat the scenery. Any way you cut it, Eagle Cap granite is hard on the molars. And the Blue Mountains aren’t made of blue cheese.

Fourteen eastside county commissioners with enough meetings under their belts to win a Nobel Sitting Prize have looked at this issue from every angle. They’ve talked with the experts and the guy next door. 

Their conclusion? 

The bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, known as the Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection and Jobs Acts of 2013, doesn’t go far enough.

Their concern? 

The bill doesn’t ensure a reliable supply of timber to keep mills in business and to restore family wage jobs that would once again make the local economy hum.

Wyden’s plan, the commissioners agree, also doesn’t give enough power to local Forest Service specialists who know the unique concerns of the Wallowa-Whitman and Umatilla national forests. Congress has no business managing forests. With its track record of debt and contentiousness, Congress thinking it might successfully manage national forests is a stretch. What’s good for Ohio is not necessarily what’s good for Oregon.

Sure, we want to preserve the forests for future generations, not just from here but from across America. We want our children and grandchildren to have the same access and privileges we do to harvest wood, pick mushrooms, and hunt and fish in a forest not denuded for the profit of industry and bigwigs in distant cities. We don’t want our calendar shots turned into posters of pillage.

The question arises, what happened to multiple-use management? What happened to balancing the needs of people with the needs of fish, wildlife, owls and butterflies?  Each species is important in the overall scheme, even humans.

Wyden means well. He is a man of character and intelligence who works hard for Oregon and our values of self-reliance and a love for the land.

Still, the commissioners are right on this one. The recession has hit hard. People are hurting. Electricity and gas bills need to be paid. Children are leaving to find work in distant cities.

We welcome visitors from far and wide to enjoy our wide-open spaces and grand vistas. But we cannot live by tourism and service industry jobs alone.

The scenery in Northeast Oregon is dazzling. It is a privilege to live here in the shadow of the Blue and Wallowa mountains. Still, granite makes a pretty chunky stew.