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Believe it or not, Mt. Hood National Forest Service’s Management Plan, adopted in 1990, emphasizes converting mature natural forest into managed plantations over much of its one million-plus acres. Massive logging proposals like the Crystal Clear Timber Sale pose an immense threat to the forest's ability to adapt to the changing climate while at the same time demonstrating the true priorities of the managment plan as currently written.

Can you imagine what Mt. Hood will be like if the Forest Service continues on this course?

Since 1999, Bark has pushed back on proposals to clearcut native forest, build roads through sensitive watersheds and over hiking trails, and sell off the exceptional wildlife habitat of burned forest to private logging companies. While we have been successful in saving thousands of acres, the Plan that directs the Forest Service’s actions remains focused on commercial timber extraction and each new project seems more destructive than the last.

The 27 year-old Mt Hood Land & Resource Management Plan was never intended to have such staying power.The National Forest Management Act requires that forest plans be revised “from time to time when the Secretary finds conditions in a unit have significantly changed, but at least every fifteen years.” An important aspect of keeping the Forest Plan an up-to-date, living document is the preparation of amendments.Based on analysis of objectives, standards, monitoring, and changing conditions, the Forest Plan needs to be amended from time to time.

Now is such a time.

The region has changed much in the past 27 years: population is growing, climate is unstable, more people are using the forest, iconic species are threatened with extinction, and federal agency budgets have been slashed. Most importantly, Mt. Hood National Forest’s Management Plan does not adequately protect water rich forest ecosystems facing climate change. With a changing climate, Mt. Hood’s forests, waters and wildlife will need to withstand dryer, longer summers, extreme winter rain and snow events, more frequent landslides, higher temperatures and turbidity in streams, and unpredictable water availability. Communities surrounding the forest need to act now to ensure protections for the incredible forest ecosystem on which we all rely.

When the Forest Plan was written in 1990, it did not address forest management in the context of an increasingly warmer and unstable climate.  27 years later, climate change has become an urgent factor that the Plan must be updated to reflect.  While we do not know exactly what the future brings, the science of understanding and predicting climate change has improved rapidly over the past decade, and there is sufficient information upon which to amend the Plan to make the forest more resilient to the upcoming changes.

Mt. Hood National Forest is one of the top ten best National Forests for carbon storage in the country. While the state of Oregon emits about 60 million tons of carbon a year, new data show our forests store about 3 billion tons. Public, federally managed forests which are meant to be managed “for the greatest good” have the greatest potential to capture additional carbon, and more quickly. Since the effects of climate change will and already are impacting the entire U.S., this issue should take precedent over corporate extractive interests which benefit relatively few. With less than 2% of Oregon’s economy based in logging and wood products industries, it is time to reframe this debate to reflect the changing economic and natural environments in Mt. Hood National Forest.

With nearly two decades of experience bringing people to the forest, Bark is in a unique and compelling position to catalyze our active community and bring the management of these public lands into the movement toward greater resiliency for communities around the region. We all love Mt. Hood and it is not only in our best interest, but is our responsibility to take action to protect this special place and the natural systems which sustain our communities.

The Free Mt. Hood Campaign

Bark aims to cultivate a sense of place and responsibility in our communities and to educate the public and local officials on the effects and implications of climate change right here in our backyard. Some impacts are more apparent (shrinking glaciers, shifting habitats), some are not. 98% of the Forest provides drinking water to local communities and a third of all Oregonians’ water comes from Mt. Hood. This campaign recognizes that outcomes will be shared by many different communities and endeavors to educate and organize for cultural awareness and acknowledge the strength of diversity in our growing region.

Bark is exciting communities around Mt. Hood to come together to envision a better future for the forest. Beginning with the People’s Forest Forum for the Future of Mt. Hood in April 2017, we will share, learn, and build the necessary resources to update the Mt. Hood National Forest Plan. With support and input from communities all around the forest, we will draft recommendations for Plan amendments that focus on managing the forest with climate change, clean water, and the values of local communities taking priority over commercial extraction projects.