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Timber Companies "Sole Beneficiary" of Salvage Logging in Gorge Fire Wake

The Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge has burned more than 48,000 acres. (James C. Kling/Flickr)
The Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge has burned more than 48,000 acres. (James C. Kling/Flickr)
September 22, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. - A fire in the Columbia River Gorge is slowing down, but debate over what to do next is just heating up.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., has introduced a bill to allow a practice known as salvage logging in the area of the Eagle Creek Fire, which burned more than 48,000 acres in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area between Portland and Hood River.

However, that bill has drawn the ire of conservation groups that say fast-tracking logging in the area actually could be detrimental to the region. Michael Lang, conservation director for the group Friends of the Columbia Gorge, said only the logging industry gets a boost from this bill.

"The really sole beneficiary would be timber companies that got the contracts to go in and conduct the timber sales," he said, "and it would be to the detriment of Gorge residents, to residents of the Northwest that cherish the Gorge, and also to our public lands."

The area has been protected from logging and road-building for more than a century.

Walden said the bill, which currently is in the House subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry, prioritizes restoration and cleanup in the Gorge.

But according to Lang, scientific evidence hasn't found that salvage logging helps after fires. He said it actually could have the opposite effect because the heavy machinery required for logging can damage soil and bring in non-native plants. Natural regeneration after fires actually makes forests more resilient, Lang said, adding that logging isn't what the affected residents of the Gorge need right now.

"What Gorge communities need right now is economic assistance," he said. "There are a lot of small, family-owned businesses that are really hurting from this fire. With the interstate closed down, being under evacuation, businesses plummeted."

As of Thursday, about 46 percent of the Eagle Creek Fire had been contained.

Details of Walden's bill, HR 3715, are online at

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR