While the Forest Service has been vacationing, two applications have been submitted that would have a devastating impact on the White Salmon National Wild and Scenic River.

SDS Lumber Company has already been allowed clear-cut most of their property within the management corridor, and now they want to cut the Spring Creek area again. The last time SDS tried cutting there, neighbors blockaded, resulting in news coverage that forced the only Forest Service “cease and desist” order along the river. The question must be asked, why is protest and civil disobedience necessary to achieve responsible management? After 30 years of cutting, it should be obvious to any reasonable person that clear cuts in a Wild and Scenic River corridor equals misguided management.

The Stevenson family owners of SDS have a role to play here, too. They are known for their generous contributions to the White Salmon Library and to Maryhill Museum; now they need to consider how beneficial a truly wild and Scenic White Salmon River corridor could be for Klickitat County, and take a serious look at their logging practices along that river.

Both the Forest Service and SDS hope their silence will quash this embarassing and tragic story. What could SDS say, except, “We clear cut out forest, Wild and Scenic River or not!” The Forest Service has said they only manage the river itelf. For 30 years they have ignored the river corridor lands, which were intended to buffer and protect the river. Of course they are silent.

Under Canvas, a corportation that caters to elite “camping” has not applied to establish the largest development adjacent to the boundaries of the White Salmon Wild and Scenic River. The Forest Service had a chance to nip this problem in the bud by purchasing the land, but as I explained, they are on vacation. If allowed, the impact from this development would be devastating, and would set a prededent for more to come.

Why did Under Canvas choose to locate in Klickitat County? It has spectacular beauty, lax county land use laws, multiple tax evasion opportunities that would subsidize Under Canvas at public expense, a county commission that caters to corporations instead of citizens, and the Forest Service is on vacation.

Under Canvas — a corporation that is financed by Wall Street private equity money — has used every trick to entrench themsevles in Klickitat County: They sent their agent to woo county government, the road department, the fire department, and key locals who might benefit from a permitted Under Canvas. Last and least, they approached the neighbors through a community council meeting. Jake Anderson, who conveniently is running a county commission seat — chaired that meeting and appeared to do everything he could to facilitate Under Canvas success. 

Do we need to say that virtually the entire rural neighborhood that Under Canvas wants to move into opposes this proposal?

Finally, I appeal to Portland environmental groups concerning this attempt to further trash our National Wild and Scenic River. If even one of them would raise concern in the Oregonian about what is happening here, Region Six of the Forest Service might scratch their heads and ask the question, what the hell is going on with the White Salmon?”

David Thies is a member of Columbia Gorge Audubon Society.

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