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Landslide Tragedy Prompts Board To 'Take Stock' Of Logging Rules Around Unstable Slopes

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network

Washington state Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark repeated Monday that "It's still too early to tell" if there is a connection between logging and this spring's deadly landslide near Oso, Washington.

Even so, a state panel that sets timber harvest rules decided it was worthwhile to take an all-day look at landslide hazards.

Fifty-year-old Deborah Durnell, the widow of a slide victim, delivered a call to action during testimony. She was at work when the huge landslide crashed down on the rural enclave where she lived with her husband. He was at home and died.

Durnell said she hopes the tragedy motivates the state to better protect people.

"Nothing can prepare you for a loss like this," said Durnell. "We owe every person who died to do all in our power to make sure logging regulations are adequate and they are enforced."

Prior to Durnell's testimony, the state panel heard from foresters and geologists about the scarcity of good mapping of thousands of similar landslide-prone slopes in Washington. There was wide agreement to ask the next legislature for money to work on that, as well as support for a Friday announcement from the state Department of Natural Resources to require more scrutiny of logging near unstable slopes.

But a call from several conservation groups for a moratorium on logging around landslide areas does not seem to be getting much traction.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.