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Know the West

Coalition says: Stop logging watersheds

  In 1996, floods and landslides exacerbated by decades of logging forced over 200,000 Oregon residents to boil their drinking water. Now, the Oregon Natural Resources Council and 20 other conservation organizations want the Forest Service to stop all logging of municipal watersheds in the Northwest.

Streams draining Forest Service lands provide drinking water to two-thirds of Oregonians and 70 communities in Washington.

When heavy rains caused flooding in the Pacific Northwest last year, water flowing from logged areas picked up large amounts of mud and sand, which made the water costly to purify. Water treatment systems in Salem, Ore., were so overwhelmed that residents were asked to cut their water use by 50 percent for six weeks.

"The logging industry has been funded with cheap trees at the public expense for decades," says Ken Rait, ONRC conservation director, "and now they are being funded at the expense of public health." A petition filed by the coalition of environmental groups seeks an end to all logging and logging-related road building in municipal watersheds, unless there is a sound environmental reason to cut. The Forest Service and timber industry have not yet responded to the June 4 petition.

* Alan Schussman