URGENT: Stop ODOT’s “hazard” tree removal!

In Forests by OLCVstaff

As I am writing you, ODOT is allowing clearcuts of healthy trees, including old growth, along Oregon’s roads as part of the emergency response to the Labor Day fires last year. ODOT hired out of state contractors, some of whom have no experience working with Northwest Forests, to mark hazard trees for removal. We know from whistleblower testimony before the Oregon State Legislature, and from reports from OPB and the Oregonian, that they are cutting down far more trees than those that truly present a hazard to public safety.

Will you tell Governor Kate Brown to suspend ODOT’s roadside hazard tree removal program and urge her to start an independent investigation into the program?

Private property owners, arborists, and workers on the project have testified and were quoted in the media stating that many healthy, living trees, including old-growth trees, along beloved recreation areas and along Wild & Scenic Rivers have been and are being clearcut. These rivers are the lifeblood of local communities and support tourism, fisheries, water quality, and more.

The situation is so bad that during an April 28 hearing in the Senate Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery Committee, Ron Carmickle, Mayor of Gates, told lawmakers, “We have a major problem going on here in Oregon. I believe our beautiful state is being rampaged. I believe money that should be used to rebuild our state is being pilfered by contractors and corporations set to profit from our devastation.”

Not only are healthy trees being cut––the need for a pause is magnified by the potential risk the state faces in missing out on reimbursement from FEMA if these contracted activities were carried out fraudulently. The state has committed to over $600 million in contracts for debris cleanup and hazard tree removal. If this work continues to be carried out improperly, the state would likely miss out on hundreds of millions of dollars in reimbursement from FEMA. The financial strain from missing out on reimbursement would almost certainly put future recovery actions for affected communities at risk given the state’s potential lack of resources to pay for it.

Every day that Governor Kate Brown fails to act, ODOT and its contractors, including CDR Maguire (the company that has no experience working in NW forests), are responsible for cutting healthy and nonhazardous trees. Please ask her to pause ODOT’s hazard tree removal today!