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KING 5 News: "Logging, landslides debated at forestry meeting"

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June 10, 2008 -- State forestry officials took a field trip Tuesday to examine the relationship between clear-cut logging and last year's Lewis County floods. Their trip took them to a Weyerhaeuser tree farm above the flood lands, where Weyerhaeuser and State Natural Resources officials explained to the State Forest Practices Board the way they assess areas to be logged.

By Gary Chittim, KING 5 News

LEWIS COUNTY, Wash. - State forestry officials took a field trip Tuesday to examine the relationship between clear-cut logging and last year's Lewis County floods.

Their trip took them to a Weyerhaeuser tree farm above the flood lands, where Weyerhaeuser and State Natural Resources officials explained to the State Forest Practices Board the way they assess areas to be logged.

In December, Centralia, Chehalis and surrounding towns and farmlands were covered with floodwaters. Millions of dollars worth of property and livestock were lost. Some felt landslides in the tree farm aggravated the problem.

On Tuesday, workers defended their decision to log part of the tree farm where landslides occurred.

"It was fairly unremarkable, no real signs of past instability but this area got intense rainfall," said Jim Ward, Weyerhaeuser geologist.

The storm that struck these mountains is described in epic terms - up to 20 inches of rain over four days and 20 hours of near or above hurricane force winds.

It was by most accounts a storm that nobody could see coming but some experts say the potential for massive slides was plain as day.

"Potentially unstable ground is being misidentified and subject to harvest as evidenced by the failure of slopes like those behind us," said Dr. David Montgomery, University of Washington geologist. "The slides speak for themselves."

They argue over whether logging caused it but all agree, the Lewis County Highlands are landslide country.

Weyerhaeuser says now after this storm, they'll be able to better predict the next spots of trouble.

The Forestry Board is made up of private land owners, loggers, members of forest protection groups and the public.

They will use what they saw Tuesday when considering future logging plans.