Clean Water or Clearcuts for Oregon?

This story originally ran on National Geographic’s WaterCurrents blog.

North Umpqua River, OR | © Paul Colangelo/ILCP

North Umpqua River, OR | © Paul Colangelo/ILCP

Big decisions are looming for management of 2.8 million acres of Oregon’s public forestlands – an area covering the size of more than eight Crater Lake National Parks. Because legislation concerning management of the so-called O&C lands could end up undermining some of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, Oregonians aren’t the only ones with a stake in the issue.

Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) is proposing legislation that would increase clearcut logging closer to streams, on steep slopes and unstable soils, and would allow the use of toxic herbicides, which would compromise clean drinking water for 1.8 million Oregonians.

The proposal also threatens several thousand miles of habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead in iconic river systems like the North Umpqua, Illinois, Rogue, McKenzie, and Nestucca.

Conservation groups including American Rivers, Pacific Rivers Council, and the Wild Salmon Center are urging Oregon Senator Ron Wyden to craft an O&C lands bill with stronger protections for clean water and salmon.

This short video, Forests to Faucets: Clean Water or Clearcuts? provides a great overview of what’s at stake for Oregon’s clean water. I was happy to participate in the creation of the video (I’m the mom at the end) because clean drinking water is so fundamental to our well-being, and I want my kids to be able to swim, float, catch fish, and experience the wild beauty of places like the North Umpqua and the Rogue.

Watch the video and learn more about the need to protect clean drinking water on Oregon’s O&C forest lands.

16 Responses to “Clean Water or Clearcuts for Oregon?”


    I live here in Oregon. The Prettiest place around.
    Came from CA.
    It you want to destroy a state go to Southern CA., but LEAVE THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST ALONE.

    Hey here Is a thought go dig up your own back yard and LEAVE OURS ALONE.
    We need it and so does all the WILDLIFE

Jodi Messenich

When will logical solutions prevail and special interest shrink away? The forrest cleans our air and prevent soil erosion. Do we need another stick of lumber? NO, do we need clean air and clean water, YES. Simple as that if big industry were not driving decisions based on profits.
Time to take better care f the things we NEED not the things we WANT.

Charles Hammerstad

Don’t increase clearcutting!! I bad for streams and wildlife.


I’m so sad to read this. I visited Oregon at least 20 yrs ago. It was lush and green and butchered, then. I kept thinking as I drove through seeing enormous swathes cut out of the landscape, what are we doing? Worse, was the supposed signs declaring that it was also being replanted. Pitiful little seedlings that wouldn’t be like their grandfather trees for a century, stood as tiny sentries as testimony to a horrible mistake. And, the junk mail I consistently throw out keeps coming daily. I read that the Japanese (15 yrs ago) who have no forests, take our junk mail, and turn it into that thin onion skin paper that serves as writing paper or? I pray that our nation awakens to its richness and incorporates it into a NEW business ethic. What if we made it a priority? What if the bottom line included that as well as profit. I’m not dreaming. This is vital that we rethink our gross national profit. On NPR yesterday I heard that space industry is excited about putting a man on the asteroids. We have enough money to do so much good, but first we must write a USA mission statement for this century.


I cannot believe that this so called public servant living in one of the most beautiful states can even think of letting that happen, when will politicians realize this planet is not made of money.


    good luck. in the sierra calaveras and tuolumne counties clear cutting has ruled for years. the usfs closes the forest to motorized travel half the year to preserve logging roads and if spi the logging company isnt logging an area they lock a gate and prevent access to huge tracts of public forest land. monopolizing public land is illegal but the logging companies without a doubt get away with. its time we stop protecting the logging corps. feel pretty helpless

Mary Shappell

Keep our natural resources of water, soil, & forests safe as well as protecting the salmon & other animals that would be effected. Do not allow this kind of clearcutting.

Mark Holoubek

I just came back from Oregon. I came from a logging family in Wisconsin and while we do clear cut area there. They are not mountains!! The top soil erosion factor of a clear cut mountain is over 1,000’s of times more damaging than what we have on level ground. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out somebody is getting paid off again. I despise the corruption in this country.

LeeAnn Bennett

Clean water resources are essential to survival, for humans as well as wildlife. It seems obvious to me, that the needs of the many out way the needs of the few, and what the many need is CLEAN WATER! If it’s a choice between profit or survival, then we need to speak up for our right to clean, toxin-free water. Oregon has had landslides before that were caused by heavy rains. If clear-cutting is allowed closer to streams, on steep slopes, in locations where the soil is unstable, and more herbicides are used, just guess where all that loose soil and those toxic chemicals are going to end up. That’s right, in the stream and in the drinking water supply. Sewage treatment may do a lot to purify our drinking water, but it may not remove the herbicides and the system could be thrown out of whack as a result of the influx of all the loose soil. Don’t let them fool you, the timber industry doesn’t care about your water resources; they only care about their bottom line, regardless of what their Public Relations people say. You want clean water? Don’t let Oregon Congressman DeFazio get away with this proposal. He doesn’t care about your or my right to clean water, he just wants financial backing from the timber industry for his next election run. Write, call, email, tweet, etc. all your members of state and federal governments. Tell them you want clean water and keep telling them until you get it!


A democrat is suggesting more logging and pesticide use? He needs to become a republican…….can ’em! Vote for someone who appreciates clean air and water and the value it has. Who wants to travel to Oregon to see clearcut forests, polluted waterways and no wildlife! If I wanted that I would go to see the valleys of West Virginia where they blow off mountaintops for dirty coal. When will the true value of clean, outdoor env hit home to our people who are supposed to represent us?

Suzanne Kruger


Carol Grieshaber

Clear cutting near streams is unacceptable. The ecologic and real price is too high. Sustainable pure water is increasingly too valuable for such short term profits.

Forest harvests can be done right in a sustainable manner. Don’t let greed and quick profits guide management decisions.

Carol Grieshaber

Richard Pasichnyk

If it is really “necessary” (I use that word loosely) to harvest lumber than there are ways to do so without clear cutting. There is a company in Canada, for example, where selected trees are cut and then transported by helicopter — no roads are needed. They only harvest trees where there are too many for the surrounding trees to grow healthy. This maintains the forest without disruption. Then there is also silviculture, where the trees are left to grow and instead of cutting them down they have something that has economic benefit. Such as pines trees being harvested of pine nuts, which can then be sold. Clean air, clean water, wildlife and combating climate change are all more important than the economic benefit of wood.

Linda Blakely

I grew up in Oregon and remember the horror I felt as a teenager in the 1950’s driving between Corvallis and Newport seeing the bare mountains where clear cutting had been done. There are ways to log without totally destroying an entire forest area. If we do not find a solution to this practice we will destroy what little of the environment that is left. Profits for corporations are not worth destroying the most beautiful state in the country as well as the fish in Oregon rivers. I have seen the Salmon and Steelhead runs almost disappear since I was a child, please do not destroy what is left of this state.