Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Fields Fir sale should be protected as Legacy Forest

I thank the editors of the Chinook Observer and the Wahkiakum County Eagle for their extensive reporting on the future of the Fields Fir proposed timber sale on Naselle’s watershed land. Riley Yusan did a fine job of soliciting and including views from many of the people involved both within and without the logging community. While the respected voices quoted in the piece covered much of the fact, opinion, and guesswork about this proposed project, there is one important aspect of this story that was not fully represented.

That is the question of Legacy Forests: that is, forestlands that were once cut, but were not sprayed, cleared, and replanted as single-species stands. These lands are commonly known as “natural reprod,” ”late-stage successional”, or more recently, Legacy Forests. They are very much in contention these days on DNR trustlands, as many of them are involved in recent timber sales.

When I came to Willapa forty-five years ago and in succeeding years wrote Wintergreen, there was a great deal of standing, unplanted, old second-growth in Wahkiakum and Pacific counties. After the timberland turnovers in the eighties and nineties, these woods were almost all liquidated in about fifteen years by the new (mostly absentee) investment landowners. Now, in addition to very little actual old-growth (mostly protected), there are very few remaining Legacy Forests in Willapa. DNR’s proposed logging of the last of them on the upper Elochoman has been hotly contested in recent months. Why is this important? Because it is the Legacy Forests that still hold many of the species of plants and animals now lost from industrial, short-rotation timberlands that occupy most of the Willapa Hills today. It is these last bits of Legacy Forests that hold the key to future forests of consequence—they are the reservoirs of recolonization, held back for a time when we might once more see real, complex forests in these hills—forests that may be sustainably managed for water, wildlife, recreation, fiber, and jobs in the long run.

It is clear to me, and I hope to others, that the Lane and O’Connor Creek watersheds should be protected in their entirety as a Legacy Forest, AND as insurance for the health of Naselle’s drinking water. This can be done under the bipartisan and very successful Trust-Land Transfer program, with which I worked for eight years as an governor-appointed councilor. Under TLT, the University Trust would be compensated for the value of the timber and its trustland replaced with legislatively mandated funds, while the watershed land is protected in DNR’s Natural Areas Program. Messrs. Bighill and Maxwell’s idea for the Naselle Water Department to buy and manage the land is brilliant, but obviously this would not be affordable with the timber still standing. I strongly recommend all parties involved to seek protection of this essential watershed land and Legacy Forest under the Trust Land Transfer program, with possible future management cooperation between DNR’s Natural Areas program and the Naselle Water Department. It takes a while to get in line for the funds, so this approach should start now.

Robert Michael Pyle

former member, Natural Heritage Advisory


Gray’s River


Reader Comments(0)

Rendered 07/22/2024 10:33