common ground

As president of Curry County’s Kalmiopsis Audubon chapter, representing hundreds of local citizens who cherish our special corner of Oregon and who have worked to conserve its extraordinary rivers, forests, and wildlife for nearly four decades, I share Court Boice’s concern for the future of our forests and communities, but I respectfully disagree with his unfair allegations in the Jan. 23 Pilot, now blaming environmentalists for wildfires.

Let’s be clear: there are many reasons we now face higher fire risks, from drought to the history of past fires, fire suppression, past clearcutting that led to over-thick plantations, and more. Just one of these reasons is that some parts of our National Forests have needed more management to reduce fire risks through appropriate thinning.

The limitation has not been environmentalists’ lawsuits as Boice accuses without evidence, but lack of funds for project planning because the Forest Service has had to spend so much money to fight fires — an insidious situation called “fire borrowing” that has robbed the agency of adequate staffing to manage all National Forest values, including timber, recreation, fisheries, and wildlife.

Also, regarding one environmental law that Boice decries, the National Environmental Policy Act, it’s important to note that this is the very law that gives local citizens and governments the opportunity to provide critical input on federal decisions in our backyard of public land. As we know, local people can often offer important local knowledge.

While I agree with some of Boice’s ideas for protecting our county from wildfire and disagree with others, there are enough strategic and agreeable approaches to keep everyone busy with constructive efforts for the foreseeable future. I encourage him to focus on common-ground solutions to actually get something positive done.

Ann Vileisis

Port Orford

Amazing

Great photo by Grant Fraley on front page of Saturday’s Pilot.The irony is at first glance, I thought it was one of Spencer Reynolds amazing paintings.

Donald Huggins

Brookings

Squeezed enough

Curry County must pay it’s bills. Predictably, the committee to find new sources of sustainable revenue came up with more ways to squeeze money out of the taxpayers. The time will come when the county will squeeze and there will be nothing to come out.

There was a time — when Oregon utilized it’s vast natural resources — that the timber counties were quite prosperous. Then someone decided that the loggers were cutting too deeply into the forests, so restrictions were enacted. The result was that the timber counties lost their main source of income and the forests became an unmanaged mass of overgrowth as well as a fire hazard.

Each year millions of dollars worth of timber go up in smoke. And by the time timber salvage operations are permitted, the wood has begun to rot and the worthless dead trees are left standing which impedes the growth of new trees. In a properly managed forest new growth will occur quickly and within a few decades that renewed forest will be ready for harvest

Timber harvesting in Canada is proceeding unimpeded and their lumber mills are operating at full capacity, milling lumber for export to the U.S. at Canada’s market price, which raises the cost of all wood products here at home. Our career politicians should never have allowed this condition to exist. Unless they can rectify this situation, and soon, it is time to elect those who will.

Alan Jensen

Brookings

Good job

I applaud our school district for finding ways to graduate more students within four years of entering high school, increasing each year for the last three years from 62.2 percent to 77 percent. I’m concerned, however, by the fact that those same students during those same years, experienced a decline in their proficiency in math from 20.0 percent to just 14.4 percent.

What do our neighbors to the north know that we don’t? Gold Beach was at 53.6 percent and Port Orford at 50 percent.

The response would probably be “Every school district is different.” I grant you that. However, the facts show the average Oregon high school had a math proficiency of 34.4 percent. An even better indicator is that of the 20 Comparison Schools, BHHS ranked 19th and over 50 percent of those schools had a proficiency over 100 percent above ours.

We’ve had five years of excuses why many of our 497 students aren’t proficient in math. Now, they’re told the district needs a long-term plan to improve the situation. Yet, during the last five years, the high school has gone from an Average Standard Score of 61.30 and 3 of 5 stars in 2014 to the lowest score in 15 years of 24.60 and 1 star in 2017 and maintained that one-star rating in 2018.

In a math-based future, many of those planning to go to college are still going to have to take remedial math to become proficient enough to succeed in college and for those who don’t plan additional education, they’re left with a skill set that will make it difficult to thrive in an ever more technical world. They suffer. If they are going to have a family, their children will suffer. And, in the end, our community suffers.

Learn more at https://bit.ly/2Sg8s1u.

Gordon Clay

Brookings

Screen all vets

The Roseburg VA recently informed that a low dose CT lung cancer screening program is now ‘in the works.” Roseburg Radiologist Dr. Wang is working with the VA in Portland to help establish the program for Roseburg Healthcare System Veterans.

The Portland VA has had a lung cancer screening program since 2015.

Although the screening will be available for smokers or former smokers that meet certain criteria, it is anticipated that Roseburg’s program, like Portland’s or the Bay Pines VA in Florida, will not include screening for Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, which is recognized by the VA to cause lung cancer.

Besides Agent Orange and other herbicides, there are other known carcinogens that veterans were exposed to during their service such as asbestos, radiation or burn pits.

Approximately 25 percent of lung cancers occur in people who have never smoked.

Lung cancer, if diagnosed early is treatable. The problem is that the diagnosis usually comes too late. A lot of diagnoses aren’t made until cancer, which started in the lungs, spreads to other parts of the body.

I have been given permission to share the story of Vietnam U.S Army veteran Steve Hodge.

Steve passed away on Oct. 5, 2018, spending his final days at the River House on the Roseburg VA Campus.

It wasn’t until after being diagnosed with renal cancer that Steve was diagnosed with lung cancer, which would be listed as the cause of his death. Steve had quit smoking for 40 years prior to being diagnosed with lung cancer.

The fact that the VA has not offered lung cancer screening to veterans exposed to Agent Orange is unconscionable.

Mike Berns

Brookings

Don’t blame

Commissioner (Court) Boice’s long piece in the Jan. 22. Pilot accuses others of obstructing public safety through their positions on forest conservation. For his personal vision on how our national forest lands should be managed, he leans on his family heritage for credibility. So let me say, I was walking these woods with my dad before the commissioner was born.

No one disagrees with the need to address the threat of wildfires to public safety in this changing climate but it’s best accomplished through thinning close to communities and in the environment directly around homes.

Even then there’s disagreement about the value of thinning to change fire behavior if not followed by prescribed fire. And in extreme weather like that which caused the flare-up of the Chetco Bar Fire, science tells us thinning and prescribed fire are unlikely to affect fire behavior to any great extent.

Here’s what’s important: commercial logging, which the commissioner is promoting, has nothing to do with fire safety. At least nothing good. Science tells us that commercial logging has led us to the tinderbox of overcrowded young trees that are now so flammable.

What’s dumbfounding about the commissioner’s piece is not only that he scapegoats environmental groups but that he also uses the tragic fires in Northern California as a call for more logging, without disclosing that these were suburban and urban fires.

The citizens of Butte County, California, where the deadly Camp Fire burned, are blaming PG&E in their class action lawsuit not forest management.

We need to have a serious discussion about community safety and fire but it must be based on fact and the best available science — not blame.

Barbara Ullian

Grants Pass

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