Overview - Rivers and Watersheds
Most of us live on or near a watershed. It may be a valley drained by a small creek or a major river, or perhaps a lake which feeds one. Water is therefore large part of our story, and in more ways that most of us realize. They are home to complex ecosystems that provide many services, not the least of which are flood control, pure drinking water, erosion control, bountiful fish and game, and the many spiritual blessings and life lessons provided simply by spending time in their wilder regions—a blessing too easily neglected by those of us who were raised in with the traditional Western emphasis on material prosperity and the Protestant work ethic.
Lack of concern for our watersheds breeds a lack of understanding that allows us to abuse them in service to the immediate. But nature cannot be fooled and consequences are inevitable. Much severe flooding is the direct result of unrestrained logging of forested hillsides which removes the stabilizing effect these forests have on erosion rates, runoff, and even local weather. River channelization and the filling in of wetlands remove even more flood control. Fish and game that are precious to many of us suffer enormously, often beyond recovery.
Ironically, sooner or later this even strikes at the heart of the values we used to justify our actions. Unsustainable logging, to preserve jobs and profits, eventually leads to collapse of the resource, and the loss of the jobs we originally set out to protect. Destruction of salmon and steelhead spawning habitat has led to the collapse of many commercial fisheries, and the jobs they supported. These things and more come back to haunt us when we do not pause to think before embracing glibly seeking immediate gratification without long-term responsibility.
This doesn’t have to be. Forestry and fisheries management can be done in a sustainable manner, particularly where science is allowed to dictate policy. The end result is not likely to generate the same level of immediate profit. But it will insure long-term profitability for all—not just the entrepreneurs and managers that oversee corporate harvests. It will also guarantee something far more valuable. The preservation for our children’s children of fish and game, wild and beautiful places, and all the ways they enrich our understanding and our lives.