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In the Northwest, timber and salmon and more than 2 million acres of proposed wilderness. But how much is enough?

Trees are the source of the most heated wilderness battles in Oregon and Washington, the country's number one and two timber producers.

Specifically, it's the primeval forests, with stately 200- to 800-year-old Douglas firs and cedars, prized in the marketplace, that are at issue. "Their end is in sight," says a 1981 Forest Service study. Down to 5 percent of their original area, old growth forests now total only 5 million acres in both states. Meanwhile, because of current forestry economics, an estimated 2.1 million acres of private timber lands in the two states have been cut but have not been replanted.

Ironically, scientists are just beginning to grasp the complexity and importance of these old-growth forests to wildlife, to fisheries, and for their own diversity. "Only a decade ago, we regarded these forests as biological deserts," says Forest Service researcher Jerry F. Franklin. "Now we realize that even if we study them for a hundred years, we still won't understand just how they work."

A 1.05-million-acre Washington wilderness bill introduced in March--the first bill since the Carter administration with the unanimous support of one state's Congressional delegation--would protect important anadromous fishing streams (see below) and wildlife hatibats, and would include some tree-clad valleys. Washington's existing wilderness system, some critics say, encompasses mainly icy, rocky mountaintops.

Oregon Rep. Jim Weaver's 1.2-million-acre wilderness bill also would preserve some fishing streams and wildlife habitat. An Oregon bill was expected in the Senate at our press time.


In the Cascades east of Bellingham, Mount Baker rises 10,778 feet into the clouds. It is totally within a national forest, but that doesn't protect its slopes from road building, mining, logging. Three local groups--Mt. Baker Hiking Club, Mt. Baker Wilderness Association, and Skagit Alpine Club--are working to get most of the mountain and adjacent slopes classified as wilderness. The U.S. Forest Service proposed much less. The present bill protects about 142,000 acres. Two of several show-me trips into this area:

Sunday, May 20. EAsy day-hike by Mount Baker Wilderness Association along Baker River in proposed wilderness. "We'll see huge cedars, many beaver ponds, have fine views of Mount Shuksan."

No fee, no limit. Sue Reisenbichler, 1503 Barrel Springs Lane, Bellingham 98226; (206) 724-6371.

August 11-12. Overnight backpack (theme: photographing nature) by Skagit Alpine Club to Hart Lake and southeast slopes of Twin Sisters Range in proposed wilderness. Mountains, alpine meadows, lakes. Area has minable depostis of olivine, is also sought for logging.

Fee: voluntary. Limit: 8. Robert Ruth, 1514 S. 12th St., Mount Vernon 98273; (206) 336-3809.

Just east of Mount Rainier, straddling State Highway 410, the Cougar Lakes wilderness is included in the Washington bill. To learn more about it:

Saturday, June 2. Easy day-hike to Meek's Table adjacent to proposed wilderness. Conifers, meadows, wildflowers.

No fee, no limit. Washington Native Plant Society. Lynn Hendrix, 1304 brick rd., Ellensburg 98926; (509) 925-3517.

Off to the northeast, up near the B.C. border, the proposed Kettle Range wilderness was dropped from Washington's bill, but conservationists are trying to get it reinstated. For a look at one part of it:

Saturday, June 30. Easy day-hike by Kettle Range Conservation Group from 5,575-foot Sherman Creek Pass, 15 miles east of Republic, to the summit of 6,998-foot Columbia Mountain. "Family-oriented mountains, gentle slopes, rocky outcrops."

No fee. All welcome. Bob Zipperer, Box 150, Republic 999166; (509) 779-4605.

On the heavily forested coast, a prime concern is how much logging to allow, how soon. A sample show-me outing into an area included in the Washington bill:

Saturday, May 19. Strenuous (3,500-ft. gain) day-hike by Grays Harbor Olympians into old-growth forest in steep, rugged, virtually unloggable canyons 45 miles north of Hoquiam in the proposed Col. Bob wilderness.

No fee, no limit. Dave Butterfield, 1908 W. First, Aberdeen 98520; (206) 533-0212.


Oregon is truly exceptional in its range of effective, well-organized conservation groups. Our show-me list reveals more than 80 scheduled trips into proposed wilderness areas here, now through fall. This sampling suggests the geographical diversity:

May 4-6. Car-camp with day-hikes into Leslie Gulch, east shore of Owyhee Reservoir, adjacent to Honeycombs WSA. "Rugged canyon country; numerous draws, ridges, spectacular cliffs."

Fee: $21. Limit: 6. Sierra Club, Oregon Chapter. Roger Samelson, College of Oceanography, OSU, Corvallis 97331; (503) 754-2136 or 754-6523.

May 13-17. Five day "row-it-yourself" trip in Owyhee River Canyon of southeastern Oregon and southwestern Idaho. "Superb whitewater ... a bird-watcher's paradise ... deep, dark canyons, most of them included in several BLM WSA's."

Fee: $385. Limit: 25. Outing #63, Sierra Club, 530 Bush St., San Francisco 94108; (415) 981-8634.

May 25-28. Memorial Day weekend backpack/car-cramp outing by Sage Association, Inc., into Abert Rim WSA, hiking a spectacular fault block 30 miles north of Lakeview. "We'll climb the steep face rising 2,000 feet above Abert Lake, discuss problems unique to this WSA, bird-watch, enjoy breathtaking views."

Fee: $10. Limit: 10. Dieter Mahlein, 559 Water St., Springfield 97477; (503) 726-0365.

June 1-4, also June 12-15. Hike with pack llamas into proposed addition to Kalmiopsis Wilderness, 40 miles southwest of Grants Pass. See largest unprotected wilderness in Coast Range.

Fee: $280. Siskiyou Llama Expeditions, Box 1330, Jacksonville 97530; (503) 899-1696.

Saturday, June 2. Fairly rigorous day-hike by Native Plant Society of Oregon into cathedral forests of Middle Santiam. "The largest stand of old-growth rain forest in Oregon is now being harvested. We will experience the beauty of this area, examine the economic issues. Dense undergrowth, big logs to negotiate."

No fee, no limit. Brian Heath, 325 N.W. 21st St., Corvallis 97330; (503) 752-6127.

June 2-3. Car-cramp, day-hike, bird-watch, photograph, explore boundaries of Gerry Mountain WSA, 60 miles east of Bend. High desert grasses, sage, western juniper.

Fee: $5. Central Oregon Conservationists. Don Tryon, 377 W. Fifth St., Prineville 97754; (503) 447-3508.

Saturday, June 9. Moderate 7-mile plant-exploring day-hike by Portland Chapter of Native Plant Society into Badger Creek roadless area, east edge of Mount Hood National Forest. "Wide range of forest types, open slopes, rock outcrops, views. Area could be included in timber sales."

No fee. Limit: 30. Rick Brown, 3425 S.W. 12th, Portland 97201; (503) 222-1146.
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Title Annotation:Washington and Oregon
Date:May 1, 1984
Previous Article:Wilderness in the West.
Next Article:Where three states meet, an abundance of wildlife and decision-makers.

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