Friends of Elk River home page
Friends of Elk River home page


Port-Orford-cedar stand
Port-Orford-cedar stand
ęSteve Miller

Elk River has one of the last large stands of old-growth Port-Orford-cedar. This unique keystone riparian species is found growing wild only in a limited geographic area of southwest Oregon and northwest California. Prized for its strength, straight grain and decay-resistant wood which doesn’t splinter, it is a favorite wood for arrow shafts and florist boughs.

Sacred tree. Port-Orford-cedar is precious to both Native Americans and the Japanese. Asians will pay dearly to have a little piece for their home altar, because Port-Orford-cedar is similar to their native hinoki cedar. Native Americans consider this magnificent tree a healer:

A Healer: Port-Orford-Cedar: its sacred stature among Tribes and American Indian spiritual practitioners

Port-Orford-cedar plays a significant role in the cultural, medicinal, and religious life of the many Tribes who inhabit its limited range. Historically, the Tribes lived within the deep canyons of fir and cedar canopy forests that influenced their daily lives. The Port-Orford-cedar tree held the same significance in the ceremonial life of all the Tribes it touched. Seen as a healer, every part of tree was utilized.

Today only a few Tribes are managing Port-Orford-cedar, the Hoopa Valley Tribe of Northern California being one. Their Forest Management Plan reflects and emphasizes the cultural and religious values of Port-Orford-cedar, as well as their concern for the Phytophthora lateralis fungus that is devastating this species.

There is a challenge before our communities to provide for the continued existence of The Healer as an active participant in its traditional ceremonial ways and in its sacred stature in the landscape.

Excerpted from a presentation by Nolan Colegrove,
Hoopa Tribe, and Kathy Heffner McClellan,
Six Rivers National Forest, July 1999.

port-orford-cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana)
Port-Orford-cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana)
ęSharyn Becker
Ecoforestry Management Associates

Port-Orford-cedars need special protection. The Elk River’s increasingly-rare Port-Orford-cedar is at risk from two threats: a fungus which can be spread through roaded areas, and from federally-permitted logging.

Killer fungus. The Port-Orford-cedar is vulnerable to the deadly Phytophthora lateralis root disease, a fungus which spreads its spores both in water and soil. When infected soil is transported on vehicle tires, boots, mountain bikes, and logging trucks to uninfected areas, the disease can then colonize other Port-Orford-cedar roots. If the infected tree is near a waterway, the disease spreads rapidly downstream.

"Salvage" logging. The federal Northwest Forest Plan permits "salvage" logging. This loophole will likely lead to preemptive "salvage" logging of Port-Orford-cedar. Why? Because this special species, unlike other federal timber, can be exported. It commands a price five times higher than Douglas-fir — a single tree can bring up to $50,000 on the open market.

Worst of both. "Salvage" logging combines both threats. The USFS will be strongly motivated to "salvage" log Port-Orford-cedar to offset timber sales which lose money. Further, they claim that logging will "treat" the fungal disease: removing the diseased trees and their healthy neighbors will eliminate spread of the disease. FOER believes that salvage activities will increase spread of the disease, in a vicious cycle of destruction.

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