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Oso Slide Prompts Board To 'Take Stock' Of Logging Rules Around Unstable Slopes

The Seattle Times, Ellen M. Banner, Pool
A destroyed vehicle and a flag, at half staff, are seen from a one-lane road around the Highway 530 slide area Tuesday, April 29, 2014, near Oso, Wash.

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.

Deborah Durnell, 50, 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. She hopes the tragedy motivates the state to better protect people.

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

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 project.

There was also 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. 

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.