Is this the future of America’s national forests, or will Congress wake up before it is too late?
by Jim Petersen, Founder & Executive Director, the non-profit Evergreen Foundation
Counting only my Evergreen years, this is my twenty-eighth year at war. If I count my family's heritage in sawmilling, it can then be said that I was born into this war more than 69 years ago.
All wars are hell, but this one has been god-awful. And still there is no end in sight.
We face superior armies with far more firepower than we've ever had. They are well trained, well organized and exceptionally well equipped. Our rag-tag band fights bravely, but we inevitably take heavy casualties, then retreat into the darkness where we bury our dead and contemplate our next counter attack.
We are fighting for the future of a simple but very powerful idea - that this nation's publicly owned forests ought to be managed by trained professionals for the economic and environmental benefits they are very capable of yielding. Although I find great appeal in this idea, many oppose it in the belief that only nature can correctly manage forests. I disagree. More on this later.
Figuratively speaking, I have occupied the same front line foxhole since the fall of 1985. Most I knew then are dead now. Some died of old age. Others perished along with entire companies. All of our command centers - brigade-sized forest industry associations that practically invented forestry in America - have been obliterated. There are no survivors.
Last December, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute and the Nature Conservancy, among others, jointly published a report titled, "Help Rural Communities," concerning the still unfolding tragedy in eastern Oregon's once vibrant timber economy.
We were unaware of the report, which summarizes a larger study conducted by Mason, Bruce and Girard, one of the West's oldest forestry consulting firms, Forest Econ, Inc., the Institute for Natural Resources at Oregon State University and the Northwest Research Economics Center at Portland State University. Remarkably, the study reminded us of "Ring of Fire," an Evergreen report we published in the spring of 2006.
These reports underscore the senseless loss of forests and timber communities across the western United States - losses purposefully orchestrated by litigious, radical environmental groups for the sole purpose of crushing what little remains of the west's federal timber sale program.
To learn more, click here to read "Help Rural Communities," and click here to read "Ring of Fire." While reading these reports, bear in mind that we who live in the western United States are facing yet another billion dollar wildfire season. We have the science and the technology needed to fix this problem - with all of its terrible economic and environmental consequences - but Congress refuses to act. Why?
Andy Kerr is an unending source of amazement for me.
We've never been formally introduced, but I have long admired his mastery of six-second sound bites - pithy little phrases that you can never forget, no matter how hard you try.
The smoke had not yet cleared from the month-long 1987 Silver Fire when Andy announced from on high that "Not one black stick" of timber would be harvested because salvaging fire killed timber was "like mugging a burn victim."
Actually, it's more like denying a skin graft to a burn victim. But never mind.
My recollection is that about half the volume of timber lost in the 200,000 acre conflagration was eventually salvaged, but not without a political deal struck by the late Mark Hatfield, Oregon's senior U.S. Senator at the time.
What I've always found so interesting about Andy's often outrageous one-liners is that they rarely contain a shred of truth. But the press has always loved quoting him. I have no idea if they take him seriously, but I can tell you that the bigger the tale he tells, the more widely he is quoted. I think he knows this because he's always trying to outdo himself. He obviously loves the sound of his own voice.
But now and then, Andy says things that are so morally and ethically repugnant that someone needs to take him to the woodshed. That someone would be me.
Our Daily Wood
Every day, each of Earth's 5.4 billion inhabitants, on the average, use the equivalent of a 4-pound slab of wood. But the average American uses 3.5 times this much wood. Should American's be using less wood? No Way!