Torrents of Change tells the story of a major storm that hit the central Oregon coast in 1996, causing a series of devastating landslides in the Siuslaw National Forest, where Jim Furnish had been the supervisor since 1991. When the Northwest Forest Plan was implemented in 1994, the Siuslaw was the only forest that remained off limits to timber harvest, due to its high density of salmon-bearing streams.
Furnish used these circumstances as an opportunity to transform the mission of the Siuslaw, from resource extraction to ecosystem restoration. Torrents of Change tells the beginning of that story, and the spectacular success of that new mission is recounted in the documentary Seeing the Forest.
After the film’s release, it sparked a controversy within the Forest Service between those who advocated continued aggressive timber harvest, and a newer generation who wanted to manage public lands sustainably, based on science. Furnish was appointed Deputy Chief of the Forest Service in 1999, and went on to spearhead the initiative to preserve remaining roadless areas, which eventually protected 55 million acres of public land.