Search articles

Monday, September 14, 2020

Fire- both the beginning and the end

The tragedy which beset our county during the past month has caused irreparable harm to many of our citizens. Our hearts go out to them. Many of us have spent time during the past weeks fighting fires and feeding helpers both in our communities and across the county.

We are not out of the woods as of this post.  Another wind storm and we will be back to where we were.

Yet, the blame game has already begun. Greens are blaming timber companies. Timber companies and rural residents are blaming urban based “green” policies.

Both environmentalists and timber corporations are wrong.

Hot weather doesn’t prove that climate change is real any more than cold weather proves that it is not.

The proof of the reality of climate change is extreme weather events and long term temperature increases in all aspects of the environment.

For-profit timber corporations are creating costs for our communities, our state, and the world that are significantly greater than the profits they shift from Oregon to Wall St.

Environmentalists who have a romanticized notion of the wild natural unmanaged forests are likewise creating costs for our communities, our state, and world when the costs of unmanaged forests creates vulnerability to extreme weather events. Smoke from Oregon Fires has been tracked across the Atlantic.

Half of Clackamas County is or was on fire. The risk for massive forest fires grows every year.

There are extremely emotion laden changes and decisions to discuss starting yesterday. We are already seeing signs of stress on our forests. Not only has the wildfire season expanded, but some  native species are struggling to adapt to the climate change rate of extreme weather events. We need leaders who have the will and ability to unite us, not divide us like our current President.

It is possible that we may need to plant “exotic” trees to save our forests. It is clear already that we need to intensify our management of our forests. We must manage water tables, forest density, fuel loads, and re-evaluate what we think about thinning. We may need to be more informed about prescribed burns and how they might impact both our communities and our carbon emissions. We might need to include fire management in our planning for wilderness areas in a way that enables fire suppression to occur without threatening the idea of “wilderness”.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, portions of the Willamette Valley and major portions of Clackamas County were oak savannas. Oak grows slower then Douglas fir under the climatic conditions that existed 45 years ago when the firs were planted. That may or not be true going forward.

What sustainable forestry will look like tomorrow is just now coming into view. We can be proactive and lead this biological, social, and economic transition. Or we can be reactive and wait while another town burns, more smoke endangers lives in our urban area, and the social and cultural fabric between urban and rural is ripped asunder.

It is incumbent upon our County and State elected leaders to redouble their efforts to create a future where all in Clackamas County thrive.  This starts by giving voice to all.

Our County has been moving in the correct direction. Taking bold steps to unite us and preparing for the future. The election of Tootie Smith back to the County Commission last spring is a step in the wrong direction. If Commissioner Humberston is defeated and Tootie gets a majority on the Board we will go from being proactive to reactive, from governance by consensus to divide and conquer.

Commissioner Ken Humberston is a leader in connecting local resources with job creation. It is largely to his credit that the laminated beam production business to be built in Estacada is closer to completion. That's 100 new jobs in a portion of the county where they are needed most.

Commissioner Humberston has also been on the cutting edge of many new county projects. He has supported the County expansion of fiber optics into rural schools to help them with distance learning. He has worked diligently to end veteran homelessness, and he understands that the rent and housing crisis is the foundation of homelessness for many. He also knows that solving rural problems early frequently prevents them from being more costly urban problems later.

If our newly elected Freshman Democratic Representatives are not re-elected we will move from being proactive to reactive.

Please vote your entire ballot. Our future depends upon it.