Skip to comments.Mudslide photo spurs look at logging practices
Posted on 12/16/2007 12:37:03 AM PST by BurbankKarl
Nearly 3 ½ years ago, Weyerhaeuser asked state officials for approval to clear-cut 106 acres on a steep mountain slope fronting on Stillman Creek in Lewis County.
This was a slide-prone drainage. But a Weyerhaeuser geologist found "no potentially unstable areas" in the area to be harvested and the state approved the logging.
Earlier this month, the huge storm that enveloped Southwest Washington triggered numerous slides on this slope. Slides crashed into Stillman Creek, a major tributary of the South Fork of Chehalis River, adding to the destructive mix of mud, wood debris and floodwaters that inundated homes and farms in the Boistfort Valley west of Chehalis.
This slope captured the eye of Seattle Times photojournalist Steve Ringman as he made a helicopter flight over dozens of slides in the Stillman Creek drainage. His photograph, first published last Sunday, offered a stark view of the storm's effects on a tract of heavily logged lands.
The photo raised concerns at Weyerhaeuser, the timber giant that has sought to cultivate an image of solid environmental stewardship. In recent days, corporate officials did their own flyover, scouting landslides there and elsewhere in the Northwest, where Weyerhaeuser owns more than 2 million acres.
"This storm was a catastrophic event, a natural disaster," said Frank Mendizabal, a Weyerhaeuser spokesman, noting that a Stillman Creek gauge recorded nearly 20 inches of rainfall in a 24-hour period. "That said, what I can tell you is that we are going to look at this particular unit and others, and see what effects the storm had, and see if we need to make any changes in our practices."
(Excerpt) Read more at seattletimes.nwsource.com ...
Caption This is another clear-cut slope that sustained extensive slides during the storm. Studies indicate that landslides frequently occur in unlogged forests but happen with greater frequency in logged-off lands. Major storms, such as the one that hit earlier this month, often are the triggers for slides and debris flows that as they travel downhill and gather momentum rip out rocks, root wads and other material. --seattle times
Don’t see the problem. No houses or roads were flattened. I mean to say, “serious” problem. If this is a relatively unique event, it is even less so.
OK, I may be dense here, but why is this a bad thing? Especially when one takes into account that a relatively rare storm was a major contributing factor.
Well, apparently it caused some problems downstream
The mud caused that? Or was it just the flood itself?
Looks like part of that washed out area in post 2 had been logged and replanted several years ago. Looks like the replanted area washed out as bad as the bare areas.
It wasn’t so much the slides but the slides went into Stillman Creek which went into the Chehalis River. The town of Chehalis was flooded and the slides are getting the blame. Deserved? I don’t know, but I do know that they may have had an effect on the Chehalis River flooding. The rainfall itself was the biggest problem.
Twenty inches of rain in 24 hours is extraordinary, even in Washington state. I lived there through some major storms in the past, and the flooding isn’t caused by logging. TWith enough rain, the landslides happen anyway, but are more visible in clearcut areas. The rugged terrain testifies to frequent gullywashers and creations, and trees just grow back over it.
You must also consider that unharvested forests will burn in the hot summers and the land will be vulnerable to visible mudslides the next winter.
It is always changing — erosion is natural.
I wonder how far this is from Mt. St Helens?
Replace the words "unlogged" and "logged-off" with unburned and burned down.
Chehalis has always flooded. It is built on a floodplain, and the bottomland has become prime retail real estate for some bizarre reason. There are more buildings and businesses to be flooded than ever, hence the devastation is worse than ever.
Chehalis was covered in ash a few times from Mt St Helens’ outbursts, but it lies a safe distance away from any potential mud and lava flows in the event of another catastrophic eruption.
I was lied to?
Actually fire hardens the soil, increasing the speed of runoff downstream. The flooding downstream is worse after a fire, but there's less soil in the mix of floodwaters than when clearcut.
More from Colorado's experience with fire: http://csfs.colostate.edu/post_fire.htm
That car is clearly exceeding its cargo carrying capacity.
The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again. I'm with the enviroweenies on this one. Patterned cutting leaving sections untouched would (probably- I'm no geological expert) have lessened the slides and prevented damage.
It is tough to balance between the "never cut anything" wackos and the "clear cut everything 'cause I don't live there anyway" corporate interests, but it is in our own best interest to do so.
This was obviously not the right terrain and the wrong soil conditions.
There's a thousand acre clear cut in Whitefield New Hampshire on gently sloping land that has seen no erosion and has created an "animal and bird cafeteria" with all the new growth.
It's just plain common sense.
The logging company should have selectively cut on the steep mountainsides out west or done a checkerboard pattern of smaller clear cuts.
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