Wilderness proposal: Is this the best use of funds, is it legal?

By Lee Riddle and Joan Cortell, Brookings February 26, 2011 04:00 am

Re: Copper Salmon Wilderness Legacy Roads (closure).

I recently received a notice from the Powers District Forest Service that they are accepting public comment on their proposal for road closure/obliteration in the newly created Copper Salmon Wilderness.

The wilderness is located east of Port Orford. The proposal is to use “extensive excavation work” with “motorized machinery” to “clear dense growth” to “obliterate and make undrivable 23 miles of road inside the wilderness area.”

In addition, they plan to relocate 5,000 cubic yards of crushed rock, from inside the wilderness, using trucks on existing roads. I guess I had been led to believe that “wilderness” status could only be granted to untouched  land. I know it’s true that mechanized equipment cannot be used in wilderness areas. Remember the Biscuit fire where mechanized equipment could not be used in the wilderness so it had to burn up.

I think to myself, is this the same forest service that did not have the money to keep the campgrounds open a few years ago? The same forest service that could not afford to replant trees after the Biscuit fire? The same forest service that has been so hard pressed to maintain the Agness road? The same forest service that hasn’t been able to put NW Forest Plan mandated timber sales together? The same forest service that is closing roads because they don’t have enough money to maintain them? Is this really the best use of the forest services’ limited funds? Is this even legal?

If you’ve witnessed the road decommissioning that the forest service did in 2008 and 2009 in the Rowdy Creek area east of Smith River, Calif., then you’ve seen the absolute devastation those road decommission projects caused. Both of the projects were started just as the winter rains began. The first good rain blew out the Copper creek project’s “erosion control” structures. In the name of improved fish habitat, old stabilized and revegetated mine tailings were re- mined and removed, resulting in the orange siltation of the creek. Obliterating roads is neither cheap nor clean.

The first mistake was putting a wilderness where it didn’t belong; the second is trying to make a wilderness out of something that isn’t; and the third is using banned mechanized equipment to do it.

If you want to comment on this you can send a word document via e-mail to: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , or by mail to District Ranger, Powers District, 42861 Highway 242, Powers OR 97466.


Lee Riddle is the research manager at the Easter Lily Research Foundation in Harbor. He is also a member of the national organization Blue Ribbon Coalition, and a member of the Fort Dick Grange.

Joan Cortell is a research assistant at the Easter Lilly Research Foundation, has owned a nursery and has participated in local 4-H groups for many years.