Buffers do not mean protection from harm

By Douglas County Community Rights member and sitting Board member for the ORCRN: John Hunter

Printed in The News-Review

In a Nov. 26, 2021 News Review article concerning the Feb. 2020 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), is  now the negotiated Private Forest Accord between 13 conservation groups and 13 logging timber industry group; Lone Rock President Toby Luther called it” a new vision for forestry in Oregon.”

     In reality, it’s still business as usual with a few new logging reforms. Oregon logging practices  remain the weakest on the West coast.

     In their haste to compromise with the all too powerful logging industry these 13 environmental groups  have still allowed harm to continue on industrial forest land. This will result in continued loss of water quality, wildlife habitat, increased erosion as well as insidious forest poisoning.

      Oddly, in this compromise, they created a wider buffer for aerial spraying. I say oddly because a buffer does not eliminate harm. It is a word that merely placates the incognizant citizen. The injurious accord continues the use of aerial spraying, buffer or not, on Industrial lands thus permitting continued poison to runoff, leech and seep into our watersheds, the public’s health and the natural world with regularity. Enlarging buffers does nothing but assuage the mind of  the unobservant  and puts at ease anyone who feigns critical thinking. 

     It didn’t have to be this way. In May 2017 residents of conservative Lincoln County passed an initiative banning aerial spraying in their county. For two years while this ban was in effect logging continued in Lincoln county and the timber companies continued to enjoy profits. All the while, residents and nature were free of the threat of aerial poisoning.

     A similar spray ban initiative in Lane county was signed by 15,000 voters. And while the discussion for this “compromise” was starting, two spray ban initiatives for the entire state were collecting signatures. Polling results indicated broad support for their passage.

     No one associated with these initiatives, along with other environmental groups, was consulted or considered by the 13 conservation groups before they agreed to this “compromise.”

     By marginalizing these anti spray groups, as well as the other groups, these 13 groups carved out a niche of power at the expense of other conservationists. 

     As well intended as this accord may be, it does little to shift the power away from the corporate/government partnership. The timber industry has only thrown out crumbs to comfortable beggars who should be demanding the entire loaf! By accepting  these crumbs  the strongest groups have been complicit in allowing the timber industry to divide the environmental groups and force adversarial behavior among people who should be working together to save both the environment and community. 

     Simply put, because of the Contract Clause in the federal Constitution, corporations stand on equal footing with the state government. Local municipalities, residents and ecosystems must defer to corporations: corporate contracts have priority over what communities and even states deem beneficial.   Furthermore, the Doctrine of Preemption allows the state/federal government to deny local governing authority say in the health and welfare of their communities, like in a parent/child relationship. Since all this power already exists in the U.S. Constitution, this compromise is nothing more than overkill for the logging industry and a slap in the face to the environmentalists .

     The Lincoln county aerial band was rejected by two state courts and the State Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal. Their decisions were  based upon the Doctrine of Preemption. The vote of the people met nothing to the judges.

    Lane county’s spray ban initiative was denied a place on the ballot because of an obscure decision by the county clerk. An appeal is in the works.

     These decisions serve as voter suppression, denial of free speech and invalidates our initiative process. By denying the voters of Oregon the opportunity to vote on a spray ban the Private Forest Accord does the same thing. Furthermore, it tightens restrictions on protesting aerial spraying making it a crime to protest at an aerial spraying site. 

       In his 1961 inauguration speech,  President John F. Kennedy said: ” Let us never negotiate out of fear. But never let us fear to negotiate.” Knowing where the real power lies makes us recognize  the fact that we need a real “new vision” of this statement.  We All must not fear to come together to finally make the long overdue changes  to our constitution that will secure local self government and self governing rights in order to protect our quality of life, our natural environment as well as public health and safety. Unfortunately, we have little time to do so.

     Without these reforms, negotiations will only continue to result in harm.