by Courtney Rae, Bark Community Organizer
Oregon’s forests foster an enormous sense of pride for our communities, but what goes on behind the “beauty strips” surrounding popular recreation sites and roads is purposefully misrepresented by the Forest Service and the timber industry. This keeps the public largely misinformed about the destructive impact of commercial logging on sensitive ecosystems, and the natural areas we value so much.
Since 1999, Bark has organized public hikes, campouts, classes, and opportunities to engage with the Forest Service about its management practices giving people on-the-ground experience and tools to counter the false, industry-led narrative – which states that forests are made healthier through large-scale logging – and practices such as commercial “thinning.” While the timber industry has branded thinning as something that improves forest rehabilitation, the road building and heavy machinery on which it relies result in long-lasting degradation of soils, watersheds, and wildlife habitats. Practices such as “thinning”, “regeneration harvests”, and “salvage logging” have destructive outcomes and do not improve the ecological health of forests.
We now know that immediate action is needed to avert the worst climate scenarios, but the Management Plan for Mt. Hood National Forest has not been updated in nearly 30 years. In response, Bark began in 2016 to envision the Free Mt. Hood campaign, which focuses on shifting the management priorities in Mt. Hood National Forest towards those that prioritize sustainability.
The campaign has so far achieved protections for National Forests in the Renewable Energy Resolutions passed by the City of Portland and Multnomah County; convened the first ever People’s Forest Forum to cultivate the community vision for stewardship of the forest in a changing climate; and added forest defense as a priority for regional climate action organizations.
Next April, we hope to see you at the People’s Forest Forum to learn about the opportunities available for local governments and community organizations to shape the future of Mt. Hood. We will also need your help to leverage community resistance to a climate-denying administration and empowered extractive industry to move Oregon’s highest decision-makers to push for stronger protections for all public lands.
In the coming year, Bark is calling on all Portlanders to take responsibility for the forest we rely on and urge the Forest Service to free Mt. Hood from commercial logging, and allow the forest a fighting chance in a changing climate. Visit us at www.bark-out.org or on social media to give, learn more, volunteer, and see our calendar of events.