When we ask about the massive clearcuts surrounding our coastal communities, we are told these are “working forests.”

But of course they are neither working nor forests.

The scraped, denuded soil, laced with plant and animal poisons is not “working” as wildlife habitat, as an actual forest does. Tributaries laid bare and sprayed over multiple times with chemicals to kill the woody and herbaceous communities that are part of any real forest are not ‘working’ to filter our water, as an actual forest would. So they are not actually working at all (at least for us).

And because only an ecological desert of crop trees are allowed to grow there, they are not actually forests either. They are simply mile upon mile of industrial tree farms.

Another name for one of these industrial tree farms is the Jetty Creek watershed, and at the foot of this vast bowl, the town of Rockaway draws its water.

Jetty Creek has been so massively clearcut that the silt washing off the hills and into the water treatment plant has caused real problems with drinking water safety.

My understanding is that the community of Oceanside is next.

In fact, forty percent of drinking water on the coast flows through land owned by private companies that log extensively, and sixty-four percent of coastal communities have been warned of problems in safely disinfecting their drinking water.

Unlike all the other Western states, Oregon has NO specified buffer when spraying pesticides near a seasonal stream, even if it runs through your community watershed.

Also unlike other western states, these streams are allowed to be clear-cut right over— In Jetty Creek’s case, that’s all of the streams colored orange above, and all of those streams feed right into Rockaway’s drinking water.

When the water treatment plant is forced to add additional chlorine to combat the turbid water, we get trihalomethanes in our drinking water.

Trihalomethanes pose a serious health risk. They are so dangerous they were the very first target for action after the clean water act was passed in 1974. These compounds damage our livers, our kidneys, and increase our risk of cancer.

So let’s remember what an actual working forest is…and what it fundamentally isn’t, no matter what you call it.

North Coast Communities for Watershed Protection thanks everyone who helps draw attention to our collective need for forests that actually work, and water we can actually drink.

Our coastal communities are desperate for a sane solution to the health and environmental risks we face.

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