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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.

A case in point is the Northwest Old-Growth Campaign’s Web site, where an “action alert” urges citizens to contact U.S. environmental-policy advisor James Connaughton to demand that the administration halt old-growth cutting. Connaughton, you may recall, is the former oil and coal lobbyist who helped delete references to global warming in Environmental Protection Agency reports. He’s also the guy who directed the EPA to rewrite press releases about Ground Zero air quality to “add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones.”

The campaign’s Web site contends that “Your action makes a BIG difference!” Sure. When 221 scientists wrote the administration calling for a halt to commercial logging in national forests, they were ignored. When nearly 4 million citizens wrote in support of the Roadless Rule (the most public comments ever received on any issue in U.S. history), the rule was deleted anyway. But if I write to Jim and tell him how pissed off I am about this mountain, he’ll surely get right on it.

“One of the penalties of an ecological education,” Aldo Leopold noted, “is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.” On the other hand, Henry David Thoreau maintained that “he who hears the rippling of rivers in these degenerate days will not utterly despair.”

Two days before I made my camp in the Umpqua National Forest, I found myself 60 miles to the southwest, slip-sliding down a hillside toward the east fork of Kelsey Creek, with Adams and her coworker, Joseph Vaile. Part of the Rogue River watershed, Kelsey Creek is located in the Zane Grey Roadless Area, a 46,000-acre forest that is one of the most biologically diverse intact forest ecosystems in America.

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