The Daily Astorian Editorial: "What's become of Weyerhaeuser? Why did the multinational scalp a steep hillside?"
Old images die hard. For decades Weyerhaeuser advertised itself as the tree-growing company. That ad campaign nurtured an image of an industrial forestry corporation that was a cut or two above the companies that treated their forests only as a cash box.
The recently published photo of a Weyerhaeser clear-cut on a steep mountain slope in Lewis County, Wash., has called into question whether the forestry giant is as environmentally conscious as it has proclaimed. There is some evidence that slides from this clear-cut contributed to flooding and damage downstream.
Similarly, Oregon State University's School of Forestry is addressing questions raised by its logging above the area that was covered by landslides near Woodson and Westport.
While forestry is called a science, and while states promulgate rules about clear-cuts and cutting on slopes, judgment also comes into play. So does public opinion. That's why Weyerhaeuser and the OSU School of Forestry find themselves in the hot seat. And that's why Oregon and Washington must revisit their decisions that allowed these questionable harvests.
The Seattle Times photo of the steep slope in Lewis County that was clear-cut is startling. To the non-forester, it's hard to believe that the state of Washington approved this harvest. It's also hard to believe that Weyerhaeuser thought it was a good idea.
Moreover, it causes us to wonder whether Weyerhaeuser was so desperate for cash that it would clear-cut a precipitous slope. Perhaps Weyerhaeuser views its forests more as a cash box and less as environmental stewardship than it did three decades ago.
Steve Rogel, who is retiring as Weyerhaeuser's CEO, executed a hostile 2002 takeover of Willamette Industries, his employer for 25 years. In that transaction, Weyerhaeuser gained some one-third of Clatsop County's land. Willamette Industries would have taken better care of our county's forests.
The forest practices of this multi-national corporation, known for years as the Jolly Green Giant, merits a dose of healthy skepticism from the rest of us.