Eagle Creek Fire Verdict Opinion

Metlako Falls Eagle Creek Columbia River Gorge

Eagle Creek Fire Verdict - Here's my statement concerning today's court hearing concerning the teen who started the Eagle Creek Fire.

I feel that this is fair and I'll tell you why.

I have been as angry as anyone about this. I think that you all know that. I have family and friends in Cascade Locks and the Stevenson area who were affected directly by this fire. The fire will ultimately cost me money as my guide business in the gorge is, essentially, shut down. I have a lot to be angry about.

With that being said, I must remove the vitriol, vindictiveness and emotion from my thinking to see this logically. This, I feel, is what the law is required to do in these emotional cases. The job of that judge was to put all emotional arguments aside while all of the facts are considered.

Prior to this day we've had some lively discussions about this on my Facebook page. Some have called for extremely severe punishment while others want to pass it off as just a bad decision by a child who didn't know any better.

The consensus seemed to be to have this teen serve a ton of community service working to correct what he spoiled and to have him serve some sort of probation. That's just what he received. It was also the maximum that the judge could rule in a juvenile court.

The hearing scheduled in May to determine restitution will be nothing more than a formality and nothing less than a lesson in futility if collection from the family is expected. The cost of fighting the fire is close to $20,000,000 and each person who was affected by the fire has a right to sue the family for up to $7500 each in damages. This will all go unpaid and the cost of fighting the fire will be paid for by the taxpayer.

This teen will receive almost 2000 hours in community service working directly with the US Forest Service. It is my hope that during this 2000 hours he will find a mentor who will direct his attention to the importance of conservation as well as community. If we can trust the system these things will be addressed during his time serving the community.

Although the letter of apology was finely crafted, or at least refined by his lawyers, I believe him. I believe that he understands now the enormity of his actions. I feel that he truly realizes that his actions can affect so many more than just himself.

It is my reasoning that if the system would have sent this teen to a jail situation he would come out bitter. I'm hoping that his sentence of community service and monitoring through the probation system that he will come out of this a better human than he would have otherwise.

It's now time to heal. It's time to heal our anger. It's time to heal the losses that those who have been affected have felt. It's time now to heal the Columbia River Gorge and go forward in the future with an increased level of awareness of how fragile this land is and how easily we all affect the land when we recreate there.

#eaglecreekfire #columbiarivergorge

Wildflower Season and Leave No Trace

Balsamroot Sunflowers at Rowena Heights in the Columbia River Gorge

Wildflower Season and Leave No Trace

Well, it's February and, so far, a mild Winter. If this trend continues we will have an excellent wildflower season. An early Spring has two consequences for photographers. I beautiful wildflower season and a lot of mosquitoes and ticks.

The Columbia River Gorge has many beautiful fields of flowers. One of the most popular locations by far is Rowena Crest. Rowena is known for its fields of lupine and balsamroot flowers. The location is usually over run by photographers and hikers who love these fields. Because of this the wear and tear on the terrain, as well as newly developed trails made by off trail walkers, it's becoming pretty severe, especially in certain viewing areas. Beautiful foreground areas have been denuded and worn down to bare dirt.

Rowena is only one of the areas that are being affected by the increased use due to the popularity of photography today. Because of this I would like to remind everyone to do their best to Leave No Trace at these sensitive high use areas.

Walk on established trails. It's difficult sometimes to stay on the trail when you see a nice clump but there's a great chance that the trail is there due to its view and there will be many other flowers along the way. Once you mash the grasses down to resemble a trail, others will naturally follow.

Don't pick the flowers. It may be tempting to pick a few flowers to create an arrangement, to turn their faces toward the camera or to simply bring home a bouquet. Please reconsider. Once they're gone they're gone for others and their ability to go to seed to supply fresh flowers next Spring is gone.

If you go with friends please limit the size of the group. The larger the group size the more apt for the group to leave the trail. A group of photographers in one place can cause a lot of damage. I've seen a group come in to photograph a place and completely stomp the area down.

Although controversial, consider the practice of not sharing the location to a pristine area that has yet to be affected by this high volume traffic damage. Some call this elitist, but in my mind it's certainly not. If I'm able to explore to find my own little discoveries, others can make that same effort too. If I could trust my fellow photographers to actually be conscientious enough to not tear these areas apart, I'd be happy to tell the world. In the last 15 years of doing landscape photography I have seen so many of my favorite areas become overrun with non caring humans who have crowded these beautiful areas, tearing up the foregrounds that were once used in photos.

My message is simple and is not meant to be elitist. My message is simply to respect these places that we love to photograph. Preserve them for future photographers. Volunteer with local groups who are restoring or maintaining these areas. Keep these places from being closed down permanently. If you see another photographer off trail, consider mentioning in a nice way that they might consider staying on a trail. If you see others causing malicious damage, especially vandalism, consider reporting the action.

We all need to consider ourselves stewards of these lands. Most are public lands shared by all. Consider them something that you need to value and take care of.

s2Member®