Sandy Post: Mt. Hood Forest office site of protester's efforts

by Kylie Wray, Sandy Post
Photos: Kylie Wray
Published May 14, 2014

Bark Executive Director Alex Brown delivers a giant letter to Lisa Northrop through the locked doors of the Forest Service office.Nearly 85 people gathered outside the Mt. Hood National Forest Office Headquarters in Sandy on Wednesday, May 7, to protest the Jazz forest thinning project near the Collawash River, a tributary of the Clackamas River.

Bark, a Portland-based forest watchdog group, organized the demonstration.

Three weeks ago, Bark lost a lawsuit it filed against the U.S. Forest Service, an unsuccessful effort to block the project.

Undeterred by the court ruling, Bark organized Wednesday's protest in Sandy to call further attention to its opposition to the thinning project, which it says will cause significant damage to water quality in the sensitive Collawash River, about 30 miles southeast of Estacada.

During the rally, Bark Executive Director Alex Brown and Brenna Bell, staff attorney, predicted the project would directly lead to soil erosion and landslides, which will cause the death of protected salmon and steelhead.

During their speeches, a water-filled child's pool was used to represent the Collawash River. Demonstrators dumped dirt into the pool to create a muddy mess as a way to help onlookers visualize the effects of landslides on the river that they say could occur as a result of the Jazz project.

“The timber sale program in our national forest is broken,” said Brown. “We’re here to change what’s happening in our own backyard.”

Protesters could be heard chanting “Salmon populations are under attack. What do we do? Stand up. Fight back,” and “We will, we will stop you.”

Mt. Hood National Forest Public Affairs Officer Laura Pramuk said the office doesn’t see many protests like this in Sandy.

“It’s pretty far off the beaten path,” she said, adding that Bark has mostly been focusing its efforts at the U.S. Forest Service District Office in Portland.

“It’s their right as citizens of the U.S. to express their opinion,” Pramuk said.

Pramuk said the Jazz project, which is already under way, had been thoroughly reviewed to assure it won't have any negative effects on wildlife.

The nearly 15,000 trees that will be removed from the area are part of what Pramuk called a plantation, an area previously logged where saplings had been replanted. The trees range from 30 to 60 years of age and are mostly Douglas fir.

The plan is to open up the forest canopy to expose the understory of young trees and native plants to more oxygen and sunlight, providing them with a fighting chance at survival, Pramuk said.

She said the Forest Service has taken care to protect and enhance the wildlife of the Mt. Hood Forest.

“Our people are very committed to it,” Pramuk said.

As for Bark, it's far from finished with its challenge of the Jazz thinning project.

At the rally, Bell announced the organization had sent a notice of appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court that morning. Bark Program Director Russ Plaeger said the organization is hopeful that new efforts will bring a different outcome.

“If you’re working for important things, you stay optimistic,” he said.