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Now, About Elk River



Thanks again to Heidi Walters for her fine environmental reporting. "Un-entered Forest," (Aug. 7) reveals some promising and long overdue developments in local forest management. Humboldt Redwood Co. deserves recognition for its willingness to adapt to changing definitions of watershed health. And for responding to Mattole residents'concerns.

But it makes a sad contrast for my neighbors in Elk River, where instead of blockading they've worked for two decades with state regulators and agencies, yet the river's in worse shape than when Hurwitz left town. At their last regular meeting an EPA official accused the Regional Water Quality Board of "analysis paralysis" after nine years of studies and no action. Residents faced with continuing mud and floods — I know, it's hard to believe it could ever rain here — are promised a pilot restoration project by 2018.

Meanwhile, HRC timber harvests continue in Elk River on far more acreage than is discussed in your Mattole story. Unlike in the Mattole, HRC has not changed its plans in response to residents' petitions and letters and public forums. For example, residents have asked for reduction of a 600-acre harvest near Headwaters Reserve, on unstable soils with slopes up to 70 percent, saying it will further degrade water quality. HRC swears it'll be fine and the agencies are poised to sign off on it.

Here is the sad fact: Elk River is only 10 percent of HRC's holdings, but 40 percent of their harvestable timber, and that carries more weight than the people and fish who depend on the health of the river. Or the evidence presented to the Water Board by residents and their own staff.

Here's the lesson my neighbors will take away from the Mattole experience. If you want environmental justice, forget the public agencies — put your bodies on the line.  

Jerry Martien, Elk River

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