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Readers' Letters: Strengthen, don't relax, timber laws

Barry Bushue’s guest column supporting the so-called Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act (Time for Wyden to help forests, rural areas, Nov. 14) seems reasonable if you’re unfamiliar with the history of forest mismanagement on public lands of the Northwest. Of course what he’s really asking is to have the fox in charge of the hen house.

The reason Oregon’s forests are in such poor condition is because the timber industry, with support from public agencies, for decades overharvested healthy stands and long ignored reasonable appeals for sustainable practices that took more than just timber growth and yield into consideration.

The industry encouraged monocultures dominated by profitable tree species and thinned sparingly when industry/agency-funded planters overstocked stands that had been clear-cut. Pre-commercial and commercial thinning don’t generate much (if any) revenue and are easy to ignore.

The industry also encouraged aggressive fire suppression, which compounded the effects of overstocking and fueled the catastrophic fires we’re now experiencing. They pressured the agencies to build and maintain far too many roads and harvested sensitive areas such as riparian zones where trees grow big and tall.

When environmentalists finally got a foothold (with the spotted owl) to combat these abuses, they gained the industry’s and agencies’ attention. Some operators simply packed up and moved on, leaving their former employees in the Northwest to fend for themselves. Others hired foreign workers when stimulus money was garnered to help them out. A few claim they suddenly got religion.

I live in small-town Central Oregon and spend a lot of time recreating on public lands. While I agree there are opportunities to harvest a bit more timber on public forests, we can do so under the current laws governing such activities. We don’t have to relax major environmental laws. With the added pressure of an ever-growing human population, we actually need to strengthen them.

Bill Rhoades

Madras

Kids need healthy, fresh food programs

Childhood obesity now is described as an epidemic, currently affecting 12.5 million children between the ages of 2 and 19 (New group wants to build small farms on school grounds, web story, Nov. 4).

Although lifestyle behaviors play an obvious role in the development of obesity, there are a number of environmental factors that may take precedence. According to the Journal of Preventative Medicine, poor eating habits and obesity are more prevalent in areas with limited access to healthy foods. It is, therefore, necessary to find solutions that will create healthy environments for our children and allow for equitable access to healthy foods.

One such strategy is to expand Farm to School programs that bring local produce and foods to schools. This will not only make a positive influence on children’s food behaviors, it also will provide access to fresh foods for the children who need them most.

Programs such as Schoolyard Farms should be fully supported and allowed to expand. These programs will benefit our children for generations to come.

Kristi Lemos

Milwaukie

Schoolyard Farms’ impact is immediate

As a student in Portland State University’s master of public health program, I wish to urge fellow residents to support programs like Schoolyard Farms (New group wants to build small farms on school grounds, web story, Nov. 4). Schoolyard Farms is an example of an effort to connect youth in schools with fresh, nutritious foods.

Like other farm-to-school efforts, Schoolyard Farms aims to address the alarming number of hungry Oregonian children while simultaneously tackling the prevalent concern of childhood obesity by providing schools with ready access to produce grown on school grounds.

Consider the immediate, tangible rewards of such a program. Schoolyard Farms will work directly with students by hosting classes, camps and workshops to teach life sciences and plant biology, giving them a more holistic understanding of what goes into growing the food they consume.

By including the local community and giving children a sense of ownership and accomplishment in such a worthwhile activity, this organization can help develop a community’s sense of solidarity. This type of social cohesion, studies suggest, is associated with safer communities and healthier people.

Knowing the potential of Schoolyard Farms’ impact on your local community, please support them by visiting indiegogo.com/projects/grow-schoolyard-farms.

Jack Phillips

Southeast Portland