The Myth of Multiple Use

WC’s first riot involved the myth of multiple use.

The U.S. Forest Service, since 1960, has been required to administer the national forests, including Willamette National Forest, for multiple use. When The Forest Service proposed to clear cut the French Pete Creek – the last original growth stretch of forest on the western slopes of the Cascades – some University of Oregon students were upset enough to hold a demonstration outside the non-descript headquarters on 13th Street. The Eugene City Police thought the students were blocking traffic, and the peaceful demonstration devolved into a full scale police riot. WC will have to do a post about that event some day.

But the students had a point: after you have clear cut a mature forest, the land isn’t good for much the next 50-75 years. Well, it is good for erosion, and destroying good salmon spawning streams, and looking like mange, but that may not be what Congress had in mind when it defined “multiple use.”

WC was reminded of the Save French Pete Riot the other night when he was out at Tanana Lakes, nee’ South Cushman Ponds, trying to photograph birds. He was competing with mud boggers, folks firing big weapons at the Borough target range, folks firing even bigger weapons out on the Tanana dike and four wheelers and dirt bikes racing around everywhere. It’s pretty hard for drunken mud boggers, in gigantic pickups with screaming revved up engines to co-exist with a nature preserve. The birds have a hard time getting comfortable with the semi-automatic weapons fire, too. It’s the myth of multiple use.

At the extreme end of the foolishness you have nuclear test sites. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports, “Amchitka Island has been closed to all public access since 2008 due to ongoing contaminants work related to the underground nuclear testing that occurred on the island in the 1960’s and 1970’s.” The Aleutian Island is officially part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. But since Longshot, Milrow and Cannikin, the three underground nuclear tests there, it’s off limits to anything except specially permitted researchers. It might be fun to bird there, but nuclear radiation is forever.

There are uses that exclude all other uses. More than 40 years later, those naive college students, hippies and tree-huggers are still right. Multiple use is mostly a myth.

Oh, and French Pete Creek? It was made a part of Three Sisters Wilderness in 1978. Sometimes a street riot can serve a useful purpose. If you are ever up the McKenzie River Valley, in the Oregon Cascades, take the South Fork Road to the trailhead. It’s an amazing and, sadly, a unique place to hike.