Slip-slidin' away

 

Thank you for the excellent story "The great runoff runaround" in the July 23, 2012, edition. The article focuses on logging roads, but landslides are another important source of sediment pollution.

Landslides are natural in the young, steep, unstable mountains of the American West, but clear-cutting and logging roads increase their rates by one or two orders of magnitude. Yet neither the Environmental Protection Agency nor any Western state has prohibited logging roads on steep, unstable terrain. As a result, when big storms hit every 10 years or so, thousands of Western logging roads fail catastrophically. In 1997, during one big storm, 300 roads failed on Northern California's Klamath National Forest alone.

Fisheries are not the only resource to suffer; local governments spend millions after the big storms fixing county and state roads and bridges taken out by landslides. In this way, the timber industry and U.S. Forest Service externalize the true cost of logging -- imposing those costs on taxpayers.

Felice Pace
Klamath, California