In return for responsible stewardship of the vast acreage they hold, Washington’s corporate logging combines successfully lobbied the passage of 1930’s legislation which relieved them of 90% of the real estate tax burden for the immensely profitable forests they owned, often almost given to them by a government desperate to create jobs for its residents during the Great Depression. Much of what Simpson owns in Mason County was acquired in this fashion under the unfulfilled promise/theory of a ‘sustained yield’ (or what some now call the ‘sustained steal’) based on the notion the trees would supply an unending harvest of lumber and jobs for the local economy. Little thought was given to the greed of the timber barons and how that would affect the willingness of their companies to hold up their end of the ‘bargain’.
Today, the transition upon leaving the Olympic National Forest into Simpson land is dramatic as the canopy of Evergreens, ferns, and pristine old growth immediately gives way to a moonscape of stump farms. This assault on the senses, this insult to a healthy ecosystem which cleans our air, buffers flood events, and protects our water supplies (residents in the John’s Creek watershed are learning this uncomfortable truth the hard way) is attenuated by 2nd/3rd growth which the company allows to reach the size of 4×4’s before cutting the spindly firs which once took the combined efforts of many men to fill the capacity of a logging truck with a single tree section. Those same trucks are now typically burdened with what appear to be loads of fence posts or hog fuel. The backbone of local employment in the pseudo-guise of of corporate servitude has long since been replaced with jobs at the Squaxin’s gambling resort.
Simpson has been provided astonishing opportunities to dump dioxin (a product of its bio-incinerators on our waterfront) on its uncertified private land fills (after having flushed them down Shelton City sewer lines for decades into our bay and estuaries), denude the surrounding mountainsides to the point of changing local weather patterns, obliterate stream beds with sediments/gravel from its logging operations, and punch logging roads through mountainside forests with slopes exceeding 60 degrees.
Perhaps 15 or 20 years ago, locals protested mightily to the State’s DNR, their Governor (Lowery), and other government officials (to no avail) as the resulting flooding destroyed their homes. Government apologists for the industry responded with erroneous sops such as claiming the existing non-conforming logging roads were ‘grandfathered’ and beyond their legal authority (false!) to remedy. This was not an academic exercise in citizen hand wringing as it became abundantly clear these arteries constructed for raping and pillaging the landscape directly contributed to the destruction of stream beds along with the resulting flooding which obliterated farms/homesteads. DNR stepped into the breach in response to citizen complaint to require mitigation and remedial efforts designed to stop the progress of what had begun to resemble open hydraulic mining of the surrounding hill and mountain sides.
Simpson was required to redesign its road culverts which had previously extended into the air overhanging drops of 10/20/30 feet or more, producing powerful blasts of water which literally eroded canyons into the steep slopes which all ended up in our streams/creeks. But, as usual, once the heat of community opprobrium died down, the fox returned to its old tricks and what it knew best: How to evade complying with State regulations drafted to protect the public. The photos embedded in this article are examples of the perfidy, the greed, the irresponsibility, and the laziness of a private closely held corporation intent on maximizing its profits over any sense of commitment to the community which has so richly rewarded it.
The ‘800-line’ is a private road currently closed, as of the date of this posting, to motor vehicle traffic, but used by hikers and mountain bikers. So it was that the washout on the road through the steep difficult terrain of this mountain pass was discovered. The 800-line is often opened to the public during winter months by Simpson precisely/ironically because the consequential flooding from their operations leaves residents with no ingress/egress along public roads to the Skokomish Valley or their homes.
The visible existing destruction of portions of said pass suggests far greater damage with the coming wet season and a pattern of contempt for regulations prohibiting the non-conforming culvert which produced it. Simpson’s motives for not complying with those regulations are simple. In such steep difficult terrain, it is not trivial or inexpensive to comply. There is no purchase on the almost vertical slopes where a man can stand and securing a conforming culvert is difficult. All of this serves as an argument why logging roads or logging itself should not be permitted on such steep terrain in the 1st place. But Simpson correctly reasons: out of sight, out of mind! Well, that may have been true in the past, but is no longer with the advent of a camera within the possession of almost every member of the public. Today, WE are the media! And we need not rely on privately voicing our concerns to our public officials by phone. We can post our findings where all can see and hold those responsible accountable.
To our appointed/elected officials: Get w/it, do your job competently, honor your oath of office, or GET OUT before we vote you out. If you cannot or will not manage these logging interests that threaten our homes, there are others who will.
Bruce McDonald, head of DNR enforcement for the Mason County region (ph. 360-825-1631, 206-920-5908(c), firstname.lastname@example.org) states he and some department geologists investigated the problem culvert last April, but because the landslide hadn’t yet reached the actual edge of a stream and was on private property, they were without legal authority to compel Simpson to resolve the developing landslide. McDonald admitted they didn’t like what they saw, but were toothless until the damage reached public resources. He also observed Simpson has expanded its ‘options’ by entering into wildlife conservancy agreements with the feds which supplant State regulations.
Peter Goldmark, elected head of DNR can be reached by e-mail: email@example.com