Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When Clearcuts Kill

By Jeffrey St Clair and Alexander Cockburn
Counterpunch Magazine


Snohomish County Landslide Photo by Marcus Yam, Seattle Times
Note: 03/26/14 In the wake of the killer landslides, on steep, heavily logged over terrain, along the Stillaguamish River in western Washington, we are reprinting a story on logging and landslides that Alex and I reported in the print edition of CounterPunch in 1996.  I vividly remember writing it on the phone with him as the waters of the Mattole crested over Conklin Creek Road, approaching Alex’s porch and he was desperately trying get all of the animals to high ground and move all of his books, including the Brittanica (1911 ed.) and OED from the bottom two shelves, before the floodwaters breached the house…..It was grim and a little scary, but also very funny. I think Alex was also trying to juggle three different deadlines that day. Just another thrilling day in a remarkable life…–JSC

When the first big winter rains hit Humboldt County in 1996, the Mattole River, which runs past Cockburn’s door, rose like a rocket. Within a couple of days, his house was cut off. To the West, the river was two feet over the road; 200 yards to the East, a landslide poured 30-feet of dirt over the road.

It’s the landslide that concerns us here. The steep slope above the road was logged in 1993. Many of us had protested that taking the trees would cause slides.

The California Department of Forestry said there was nothing it could do because the owner, a man from Oregon, had invoked emergency salvage regulations after the 1992 Petrolia earthquake. The only recourse would be to sue the owner after he had logged. The logging went ahead. The owner picked up his money, sold the property and returned to Oregon. The hillside has been sliding ever since. Last week, most of the hill-face came down. The bill for the county will probably add up to several hundred thousand dollars.  READ MORE

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