Lots of hikers select the Lostine River Canyon, because the 19-mile paved, then dusty gravel road leads up into the wilderness as far as you can drive. This is a cherry stem road, surrounded by designated wilderness on all sides except the way you came in. - Terry Richard, The Oregonian - Best Backpacks of 2015
Last summer, I shouldered my backpack at Two Pan Trailhead in Oregon's Wallowa Mountains to head to Mirror Lake for two nights, with a planned day hike to the summit of Eagle Cap— the namesake of Oregon's largest wilderness. Already, my partner and I felt inspired by the wild country surrounding us. On our drive in to this farthest portal, we had savored every mile of beauty past other tantalizing trailheads and seven campgrounds along the sparkling, evergreen-lined Lostine River.
That wild experience could soon change drastically. Last week, the U.S. Forest Service released its decision to aggressively log along the Lostine River corridor. The proposal includes clear cuts in mature forests – the only ones to have survived the “Big Burns” in 1910. In fact, if it goes forward, the timber sales would fill over 800 logging trucks. Lined end-to-end, those trucks would take up over 8 miles of the 19-mile corridor!
The rushed decision abuses a logging loophole from a recent Farm Bill passed by Congress that skirts basic environmental review and slates a start date of this spring. I know I won't be the only hiker shocked and saddened if that happens. I'm also joined by landowners who live in the lower Lostine, and feel left out of the process.
For wildlife, it would be devastating. Here, salmon race the currents of the Wild and Scenic Lostine River, where in March of this year the Nez Perce tribe celebrated the release of 500,000 baby Coho salmon. Here, in the Nez Perce homeland, pine martens race over mossy downed trees where orchids bloom in the delicate understory. The list of wildness goes on from wolves to wolverines, and from bears to bighorn sheep. Some hikers recently reported the tracks of Oregon’s few dozen elusive moose! The Lostine River corridor is fragile, delicate, and home to many proposed endangered, threatened, and sensitive plants, including 11 species of moonwarts and Northern twayblades.
While the magnificent forests still stand, we always have a chance to fight for the places we love. So, we will. If you've ever been to the stunning Eagle Cap Wilderness of Northeast Oregon, or you want to go there, or you simply care about its wild integrity, please lend your voice today. This land is your land!
Let the Senators and the Regional Forester know you are opposed to logging the Lostine River. Demand the Forest Service reverse its decision. Remind them that these are your public lands and a national treasure. We all have a stake in their future. Here are three specific points to highlight:
If you really want to be a champion for this special place, please write a brief letter to the editor for the paper wherever you live. Stress that the future of the Lostine River and the Eagle Cap Wilderness is a national issue. If the Forest Service goes forward with this timber sale, our public lands suffer, and a dangerous precedent has been set that impacts all of us – even if we’re not lucky enough to live near Oregon’s big wild places.
Marina Richie is a contributor to Outdoor Project. For more on the Lostine, read her blog post: Not Lost Yet: Saving the Lostine River Corridor.
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