'Progress' in county should make room for wildlife to thrive
I left my native Oregon in the summer of 1988 right after graduating from college and moved to Boston, Mass. The big city was exciting for me and I thrived there. I lived in Massachusetts and Maine for a total of 29 years and have just returned to my homeland, western Oregon, in the spring of 2017.
While in living in Wells, Maine, for five years I became intensely interested in tracking and reading animal tracks. I published articles about this in the Journal Tribune newspaper and they were read by many local people. I intend to continue tracking and publishing conservation-related articles in the Hillsboro/North Plains area.
When I arrived in Oregon I noticed that everything is the same yet everything is different. It's the same Mount Hood in the Cascade Range. The same fields and forests. The same farm house and the same friends and family. In short, it is the same Oregon that I have always loved yet it was different and I had changed a great deal, too.
Over 29 years the landscape of Washington County has changed radically. I see housing development after housing development filling up what was once farm fields. Those fields once yielded Hay and Clover and sustained the local economy. Many high-tech corporations have sprouted here including Intel in Hillsboro. Intel is like a small city working twenty-four hours a day, churning out electronic components for sale all over the world.
As Oregonians we must come together to protect our natural resources in the face of the rapid "progress" that is going on in western Oregon.
Historically speaking, the three main dangers to our western Oregon fisheries are insecticide, fertilizer and silt. These are the spill over from logging, construction, road work and agriculture. Another more formidable danger to our waterways is chemical waste from the manufacturing process. A big question is, are the factories being responsible in discarding the chemical waste that they generate? Are the laws concerning the disposal of chemical waste stringent enough to keep our tributaries safe and healthy?
In western Oregon we have a healthy mix of both mature forest and open space for our wildlife to live in. Forestland serves as cover and a place of rest and retreat for our wildlife. Open space is where the herbivores (plant eating animals) graze and browse for food. This means every herbivore species from elk to deer to rabbits and field mice need this open spaces for their food supply. For this reason logging is not all bad because it creates this needed open space.
Where there is open space herbivores will diffuse into it. Once the herbivore population is established predators like coyote, fox and birds of prey will move in and reside there also. When these open space eco systems become disrupted the wildlife will move further into rural areas and reside there.
If the people of North Plains wish to have wildlife as part of their community they should advocate for saving the forest and open space that is left. If the open space becomes too constricted or too small the deer and all of the other animals there will retreat into the more rural areas outside of North Plains. Thus the North Plains area will be become devoid of much of the wildlife that it presently has.
In the rural areas closer to the coast range and in the coast range we have a different ecosystem that supports a different mix of animals. Certainly open space is found there. These open spaces are not just farm land but also areas that have been logged, burned or are naturally open space. A great deal of mature forest is also found there. This is the home of the cougar, bear and elk. They are the grandfathers of the local wildlife community.
It all comes down to habitat and conserving habitat for our fisheries and wildlife. A good example of this is what has been done in Wells, Maine. There, wildlife and fisheries live in harmony with people in the same space. This can be done by containing "progress" in its own area with habitat kept separate. The many parcels of public land in Wells creates a robust array of all species of animal native to southern Maine.
Western Oregon has a great deal of prime habitat for our native wildlife to live on. We have forest land, open space, rivers, streams lakes and ponds. While most of the activities of our wildlife go unseen, they are out there in our fields and forests leaving tracks in soft earth as clues to where they go, what they eat and where they sleep. We must set aside areas for "progress" to take place and set aside areas for habitat. Only then will our native wildlife be assured their survival.
Bill Stride lives in the Dixie Mountain area near North Plains in Washington County. He is a writer, outdoorsman and mental health counselor.