Stories like the one I found this morning on the front page of my local newspaper, The Spokesman-Review, give me hope that even in these days of bulletins breaking online and Cable TV's 24-hour news cycle there is still a place for the newspaper.
Becky Kramer has written a story about the concerns of people living near areas of defoliation and clear-cutting here in Eastern Washington. A company called Forest Capital has recently bought a lot of forested land from Boise Cascade and they are using the new and purportedly better-for-the-forest logging technique of clear cutting, defoliating, and replanting that has worked well in Western Washington.
The idea is to decrease competition for new cedar and Douglas fir by killing off the "trash." This works in the wet forests west of the Cascades but there are questions about whether it's feasible in this semi-arid area. In any case, the immediate results are not pretty. The photoabove by Jesse Tinsley of the Spokesman that illustrates the story gives you an idea what happens when a mountainside is not just denuded of trees but denuded of grass and brush as well. It's a case study from Erosion 101.
I can't remember when I've read such a thorough and well balanced newspaper article anywhere. The reporter has interviewed neighbors, people from Forest Capital, someone from the state's Department of Natural Resources, a nearby bee-keeper, and a wildlife biologist from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. None of these people is anti-logging. Out here in the northwest few of us are more than a degree or two from somebody who makes his living from logging - or used to before the industry collapsed.
Neighbors emphasize this isn't a matter of aesthetics, though if you ever saw a clear cut mountainside it would make you weep. The woman in the photo is upset about this technique because she rides in these mountains and knows the wealth of wildlife it formerly supported. The beekeeper is worried that his bees will no longer have the brush and "weeds" they need to gather pollen for their honey. A rancher has had severe problems with erosion and flooding in the past from this kind of logging. The biologist is concerned with habitat for creatures ranging from bluebirds to cougar and moose. The Department of Natural Resources administers laws to protect creeks and lakes. Forest Capital needs to make money to stay in business and provide jobs for the people who work for them.
Ms Kramer has presented all of these points of view clearly and fairly. The paper gave her the time and space to do it in. Her editor featured the story on the front page. The photographer got just the right photo to illustrate it. The reader is informed about all sides of an important local issue. (Al Gore would call it a planetary issue.)
Neither the web nor TV news can even begin to provide this kind of reporting. The newspaper is here to stay.