"Oregon’s Drinking Water Is at Risk From Clearcutting"

"NASA report confirms concerns about logging in watersheds and spurs community efforts to buy them".

"The Oregon Coast Range is a 200-mile-long sliver of low-elevation mountains that runs along nearly two-thirds of the state’s latitude. It is one of the wettest regions in the state, receiving 80 or more inches of precipitation a year. This heavy rainfall, coupled with the region’s mild oceanic climate, makes its forests highly productive and extremely profitable. Yet regardless of how much water the area receives, this pursuit of profit has degraded the quality of drinking water, according to local residents and environmentalists.

The forests that blanket the foothills of the Coast Range are crucial to holding onto freshwater and keeping it drinkable. But for years, local residents have suspected that clearcutting by private logging companies in the area has endangered their precious freshwater resource. Now, a new joint report from NASA and Oregon-based nonprofit Oregon Wild confirms coastal residents’ observations and echoes their concerns.

The report found “widespread” logging throughout the Oregon Coast Range, concluding that “conventional logging practices pose a risk of contamination to surface water quality.”

The report’s authors arrived at this conclusion by analyzing over two decades of satellite imagery of forested land in 80 Oregon Coast watersheds connected to municipal drinking water sources. The analysis determined that from 2000 to 2022, a total of 31 percent of the land area in the study’s 80 “drinking watersheds” had been impacted by logging. The vast majority of this logging involved clearcutting on private lands. In total, 26 percent of the report’s watersheds had been clearcut. This adds up to about 585 square miles of leveled forests in Oregon’s Coast Range.

“I think people sometimes forget how much clearcut logging we actually do in Oregon,” said Erik Fernandez, wilderness program manager for Oregon Wild."

Nathan Gilles reports for Sierra magazine November 30, 2023.

Source: Sierra, 12/01/2023