While out walking with my dogs on Greasy Spoon Road in my community in Birkenfeld Oregon,I got to thinking about a story I heard on Public Radio International yesterday morning on The Takeaway, a discussion about
Here is a statistic: Every 2.5 minutes, the American West loses a football field of natural area to human development.
John Hockenberry interviewed University of Colorado Professor of History, Patty Limerick who specializes in the West and she didn't seem overly worried. She mentioned how this ebbs and flows in history as she put it, "I am very aware of the last two centuries in the West" and she found the word, "disappearing" as "an interesting term in and of itself....we're still HERE...quite a lot of it", she said, as she described where she was sitting in Boulder, CO looking around her while being interviewed. She went on to say what I totally agree with; replacing the word disappearing with the word "changing". She mentioned the fur trade, the Gold Rush, how people would swoop in and then when they exploited the resources which, in turn vanished, so did the people. As Patty put it, "...episodes over the last two centuries of people thinking, 'well, now it's gone'".
There are certainly tensions between development and the preservation of land and wilderness. There is an article that prompted this conversation titled The Disappearing West and one of the first things mentioned was this comment:
The Oregon woods we explored as kids are now stumps without songbirds.
And yet, I can walk for miles and miles and MILES of old logging roads, deep in the Oregon woods (that eventually take you to the Pacific coastline, an hour's drive away), that is for me alone it seems, not encountering another human, and so quiet I only hear birdcalls, the wind and my own footfalls. Flourishing trees, ferns, deep woods, creeks and streams flowing quietly from thousands of feet above me.
The dogs can run for hours upon hours without a leash or a care!
This is Clatsop County State Forestland and it's lush, filled with 2nd and 3rd generation hemlock, red cedar and douglas fir. I've been living here full time for 11 years and haven't seen it change in its ability to house wildlife, invite the solitary walk or grab friends and go for a 13 mile hike, seeing bear, elk, deer and coyote scat. There is even a plethora of chantrelle mushrooms to be picked in the fall in the woods that surround Fishhawk Lake, where I work and live.
Much of it is still untamed. I don't feel the world crowding in here. No hi-tech companies are coming in and building swathes of parking lots adjacent to humongous buildings, housing the cars of their hundreds of employees like those flocking to Portland, Hillsboro and other urban areas for new jobs.
Nope, no West disappearing here. Why, in Portland alone, there are over 10,000 acres of parks and other natural areas. And that's looking at a city that is the #1 city people are moving to!
Here's a fact from Oregon.gov:
Oregon is home to some of the world's most productive forests. From the dense Douglas-fir forests of the Willamette Valley and Coast Range to the high desert Ponderosa Pine stands in the Cascades and Blue Mountains, Oregon offers a wealth of forest resources. In fact, forests cover over 30.5 million acres of Oregon, almost half of the state.
ODF [Oregon Department of Forestry] manages approximately 823,500 acres, about three percent of Oregon's forestland. Much of this acreage is in Northwest Oregon in the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests
Located just a mile past Greasy Spoon Road is Fishhawk Lake, small private lake community that I serve in my real estate endeavors. Fishhawk Lake's community is remotely located in the coastal range partially surrounded by Clatsop County State Forestland.
Fishhawk Lake was first developed in 1967 and I had lived in Portland since 1979 and had never heard of it until 2002. I have people contacting me all of the time saying the same thing! My point is that Fishhawk Lake's community will never be a mecca.
Another thing: some people just can't LIVE comfortably in or even near the woods! It simply doesn't suit them. And that suits ME just fine. I don't have the feeling that our part of the Pacific Northwest is shrinking, OR disappearing. What I DO believe is that ebb and flow happens in nature, in societies and there are those who gravitate towards the outer fringes, who don't want the hi-tech industry job, who want the solitude that the woods and nature surrounds you with and I will never talk someone into living like this if they don't "get it". We Thoreau-types aren't that common!
A few months ago, I sold a small home to a couple who feel like this is one of the last places on earth that will be infiltrated with the world's noise of war, unrest, crowding, city-and-traffic-activated stress. They moved here to live full time from the state's capital. And they are quite content with their decision and our little slice of paradise.
My West isn't disappearing, and I hope that others will question that who have lived here for generations. It IS changing, with global warming, but it's not disappearing and IF it does, I can only hope that it isn't in my lifetime.