A range of pressures - political scientific, and legal - shifted inland, over the crest of the Cascade Mountains, during the past year and a half, bringing leviathan ecosystem management with them.
The two regions on opposite
sides of the crest have also been on opposite ends of a
As the timber harvest on the Westside was
severely lightened by court injunctions that protected the spotted
owl and old-growth forest, there was pressure from the timber
industry and the Forest Service to cut Eastside forests more
heavily, says Tonia Wolf, a forest activist in Prineville,
The Clinton administration and Congress have
been active on both sides of the seesaw, even as scientists have
begun to weigh in with evidence that the Eastside forests are in as
much ecological trouble as the Westside's.
administration always seems a step behind. The Clinton team staged
its Forest Conference in Portland in April 1993 with great fanfare,
announcing the formation of a scientific team to plan the coastal
ecosystem in Washington, Oregon and northern
But on the eve of the conference -
the debut of large-scale ecosystem planning - conservation groups
spoiled the party by calling attention to the Eastside, which they
said was being neglected.
aired studies by the Forest Service's own biologists, which showed
that current forest plans on the Eastside had set aside far too
little habitat for a variety of species, from goshawks to pileated
woodpeckers to pine martens.
threatened to file a lawsuit challenging overall management of
Eastside forests. (A similar lawsuit on the Westside had helped
bring about the coastal planning effort).
three months later the administration unveiled its first draft of
the coastal ecosystem plan, titled Option 9 for its order in a
series of alternatives, President Bill Clinton gave a nod to the
forests to the east, directing the Forest Service to develop "a
scientifically sound and ecosystem-based strategy for management of
Pressure increased last
September as seven independent scientists - empaneled by Congress
to study spruce budworm problems - found that a century of logging
had reduced old-growth forests east of the Cascades to fragile
islands too small in some cases to support native
The independent scientists, selected by
a bipartisan coalition in the House of Representatives, found that
three national forests, the Colville, Wallowa-Whitman and Winema,
had no old-growth patches larger than 5,000 acres
The independent scientists called for a
halt: to all Eastside logging and road-building within broad
riparian areas and entire watersheds that contained spawning
habitat for salmon and resident fish; to livestock grazing near
streams; and to roadbuilding within remaining roadless areas
greater than 10,000 acres in size.
November the Forest Service was looking harder at the east side of
the seesaw. Jack Ward Thomas, the agency's new chief, acknowledged
to the Washington Post, "If we weren't blathering about old growth
and owls, (forest conditions in the inland West) would be the
hottest story in forestry."
December, a report from scientists at the University of Idaho
concluded, "Idaho forests are in decline, and will continue to
decline unless management action is taken . . . The health and
sustainability of rural communities in the vicinity of Idaho's
national forests are at stake."
even budged House Speaker Tom Foley, whose territory is the
Eastside. Conservationists say he's responsible for heavy cutting
on the Colville National Forest. But when the Inland Empire Public
Lands Council plastered Spokane with photos of an ugly Colville
clearcut, Foley had to respond.
The photos, which
appeared on yard signs and billboards, buses and doorknob hangers,
reached 70 percent of Spokane County's residents with the message,
"It's a clearcut shame."
Prompted by the shame
campaign, Foley viewed the Colville clearcuts firsthand on a
flyover; afterword he called for a study of forest health and old
The Eastside Ecosystem Management
Project, empowered by the administration, began long-term solutions
in January. Meanwhile, the administration has staved off an
Eastside lawsuit by temporarily adopting "screens' and "Pacfish"
standards, which combine to sharply restrict logging of old-growth
stands, protect sensitive species, and require wider buffers along
Until the administration comes up with a
regionwide forest plan that can hold up in court, logging of old
growth in inland Washington and Oregon will remain at a near
standstill - except for salvage logging in the wake of summer
Jeff Blackwood, who leads the Eastside
Project, says the Westside effort was a beginning, and, "We're
taking it to the next step of evolution."