Perhaps many Eugene residents noticed on April 7-9 how quickly our blue skies became a hazy smoggy brown and asked themselves why, especially after the air seemed cleaner than we’ve experienced in decades. Portland residents are asking themselves the same, as their Air Quality Index rose to more than 150 the last few days.
In short it is because the state of Oregon, specifically Gov. Kate Brown and Oregon Department of Forestry, has declared the timber industry an “essential business” under the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration. Under this loophole industrial timber land owners are allowed to burn thousands of tons of logging slash across western Oregon regardless of how it affects Oregonians’ health.
At the same time Oregonians are being urged not to burn slash to help with the coronavirus crisis because toxic particulates can exacerbate pulmonary health problems and cause symptoms.
That’s right, thousands of pounds of particulates will be spewed into the Willamette Valley’s airshed because burning logging slash is deemed “essential” by Oregon. In addition, under the “essential business” loophole, Oregon is allowing timber land owners to aerial spray poisonous herbicides onto rural residences and their water supplies. On April 14, a community outside Roseburg documented a helicopter spraying herbicide drift onto their lands and into a small watershed from which they derive their water supplies. They had repeatedly requested that Seneca Lumber notify them before the spraying so they could shelter their animals and take other precautions. Seneca ignored their request.