Disaster Capitalism

I’ve been putting off traveling up the McKenzie River corridor for about 10 months since the fires in September 2020 because I knew it would be a traumatizing experience. However, the trauma was multiplied because the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Oregon Department of Transportation decided to take unfair and corrupt actions to remove as many ancient trees along any road, hazard or not.

The amount of logging occurring along the McKenzie was something I had not witnessed since I moved to Eugene in 1991. The highway was almost choked with log trucks. The millions of dollars of new logging equipment along the highway was also mind boggling. It was the clearest sign of disaster capitalism I had ever witnessed.

These large and ancient trees, even if killed by the fire, could provide habitat to hundreds of species as well as store huge amounts of carbon for centuries into the future. While standing as snags they provide shade for new saplings and habitat for many dozens of species like woodpeckers, bats, insects and other cavity dwellers. When an ancient tree falls to the ground it attains even more ecological value by providing refuge and homes for hundreds of species of insects, mushrooms, as well as slugs, snails, frogs, salamanders, snakes, lizards and small rodents. In addition the ancient logs store water into the dry hot summers and because of this they often become nurse logs for hemlock and huckleberries while simultaneously providing natural fire breaks slowing future fires.

It is most traumatizing to know the Forest Service, BLM and state agencies like Oregon Department of Forestry and ODOT have changed little over the last 40 years, and in some cases have become more destructive.

Shannon Wilson