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October 2005

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.

On my way up to the Jigsaw campsite, I stopped at the Lemolo Lake Resort, which Scott Lamb purchased 3 years ago. A storm had just swept through, and as Lamb and I watched a double rainbow arc over the lake, he told me that the Forest Service had recently sent him notice that it is planning to log a section of forest on Bunker Hill, just across the lake. Lamb said he supports the project.

“It might affect the view, but it would look far worse if it burned,” he said. “I just can’t see how any kind of logging around here causes any problems. But I can see how all the uproar about logging is causing all kinds of problems. For one thing, I’ve got to pay $14 for a sheet of plywood, because of all the money they have to spend on lawsuits.” (Industry analysts say lawsuits raise the cost of wood to some degree, but that prices are largely driven by supply and demand.) “The environmentalists,” said Lamb, “will tell you that the old growth is almost all gone. But there’s still plenty of forest out there.”

It sure seemed that way when British explorer David Douglas landed in Oregon in the 1820s, and walked through what he described as “the greatest forests on Earth.” For 8,000 years before his arrival, a vast cloak of virgin woodland had blanketed the Pacific Northwest. It took less than two centuries for 80 percent of those forests to be cleared or paved over. And now, nearly all that is left is concentrated on federal lands, a reserve of ancient heirlooms that will either be passed down to the next generation, or sold into oblivion by ours.

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