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Last Chance Adventure: Oregon’s Umpqua National Forest

Can you see the forest through the trees? Join a bittersweet trek through an old-growth wilderness in its final days.

©Raymond Meeks

The BLM plans to liquidate the forests around the Rogue, but will leave a “beauty strip” of trees along the river.

Logging anywhere within the Rogue watershed will certainly affect its fisheries, but because the Rogue was designated a Wild and Scenic River, the BLM must leave an unlogged “beauty strip” along the main stem of the river, even if it liquidates the surrounding forests.

“It’s a grand public deception,” said Adams. “And it will probably work. Even now, whenever I tell rafters about the logging project, the first question they ask is, ‘Will I be able to see it from the river?’”

Rafting and kayaking have become so popular on the Lower Rogue that the BLM had to institute a lottery to issue permits from among some 6,000 applications per year. Sure enough, we saw our first raft before we saw our first jumping fish. The group of six pulled over to scout the falls and, in a pattern that would repeat itself several times, I asked one of the rafters if he had heard about the proposed logging project, just over the ridgeline.

“You’re kidding me,” he said. “I didn’t think they could still cut old-growth.” He squinted at the mountains, in the direction of the impending cut. “You won’t be able to see it from the river, will you?”

There is, of course, another side to all of this, which any logger is glad to share. Timber, they say, is a renewable resource that brings jobs to the area and wood to the nation.

Chris West of the American Forest Resource Council, a timber-industry advocacy group, denies that old-growth harvesting is on the rise, except in the service of fire salvage and fire suppression. (Under the recent federal changes, logging in forests of just about any age or composition could fall into these categories.)

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