Taking steps to protect public safety and natural resources from steep slope logging
The December 2007 flooding that inundated Southwest Washington left many people homeless, closed a 20-mile stretch of I-5 near Chehalis for three days, and will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up.
While there are many potential reasons for the flooding, it is likely that clearcutting by the Weyerhaeuser Company on steep slopes in the Stillman Creek drainage west of Chehalis played a role. The heavily-logged hillside experienced numerous slides during the storm, sending mud and debris into a tributary of the Chehalis River, contributing to the massive flooding downstream.
On January 10, 2008, the Washington State Senate Natural Resources, Ocean and Recreation Committee held a special hearing to inquire into the flooding and why the Department of Natural Resources and the forest practices rules permitted Weyerhaeuser to clearcut the 55 degree mountainside above Stillman Creek.
Photo by David Perry
The highly-esteemed David R. Montgomery, professor of Earth and Space Science at the University of Washington, testified at the hearing. Professor Montgomery explained the relationship between upstream clearcutting on steep unstable slopes, landslides triggered by the clearcutting that dump debris into rivers, and downstream flooding.
Karl Forsgaard, one of WFLC’s staff attorneys, testified on behalf of a coalition of conservation organizations, urging the Committee to develop legislation that would require the Forest Practices Board to improve the rules governing logging on steep and unstable slopes. Read Mr. Forsgaard's testimony here.
Read the media coverage:
- Logging and Landslides: What went wrong?, Seattle Times, July 13 and 14, 2008
- Debate Continues Over Steep Slope Logging, Northwest Public Radio, June 10, 2008
- Weyco's Clear-Cut Mudslide Could Prompt New Rules, Centralia Chronicle, June 11, 2008
- Officials debate logging's effect on Lewis Co. flooding, KING 5 News, February 13, 2008
- Weyerhaeuser, environmentalists argue logging's effect on floods, The Seattle Times, January 11, 2008
- Mudslide photo spurs look at logging practices, The Seattle Times, December 16, 2007