MAY 1996

MAY 1996 FULL ISSUE

A WALK THROUGH OPAL CREEK

By TRYGVE STEEN

Opal Creek is but a mall, vulnerable remnant of the extensive forests that once blanketed the Pacific Northwest. There we still find multiple stands of magnificent trees towering over a natural landscape threaded by crystal clear streams that cascade over countless waterfalls and pause in emerald green pools. Its natural features inspire a sense of wonder, provide access to experiences that refresh and revitalize, as well as provide an educational setting in which science can come alive.

If it weren't for the work of George Atiyeh and other local activists, we would have lost the Opal Creek forest long ago to logging companies which were eager to cut it down. But this year, Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-OR, who has blocked Opal Creek protection in the past, finally developed a bill to preserve the area - something he committed to a year ago. As it happened, Opal Creek became a metaphor in the national media for the ancient forest protection effort, immortalized in the TV documentary "Rage Over Trees" and David Seidernan’s book Showdown at Opal Creek.

If a place as special as Opal Creek couldn't be protected, what could? As forest scientist Jerrv Franklin once pointed out, there are bigger trees and older trees elsewhere in the Northwest, but nowhere has he seen so many big and old trees in the same place.

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Paul Koberstein