Today President Trump signed the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and
Recreation Act, which, among many other things, designates the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness. At over 30,000 acres, Devil’s Staircase now becomes the largest wilderness in Oregon’s Coast Range.
In the heart of timber country on the southern end of the Siuslaw national forest, the Smith and Umpqua Rivers define its boundaries. In the 1960s, the Forest Service imposed a moratorium on logging between these rivers pending completion of a soil erosion study. Although the study was inconclusive, the logging moratorium was lifted in 1980.
In 1984, when the Forest Service’s tried to resume logging, a federal district judge ruled the agency had violated the National Environmental Policy Act. The so-called “Mapleton” (named after the affected ranger district) injunction, stopping 700 million board feet of logging, was then the largest in U.S. history, surpassed only by the spotted owl lawsuit.
Speaking of spotted owls, Devil’s Staircase is home to the Coast Range’s highest numbers of these rare birds and the site of one of the decades-long spotted owl demographic studies. These studies provided much of the scientific foundation for the Northwest Forest Plan.