Felt Necessities: Engines of Forest Policy, Part 8

Felt Necessities: Engines of Forest Policy, Part 8

This is the eighth part of "Felt Necessities: Engines of Forest Policy," a series of essays tracing the history of the conservation movement in the United States, and its influence on the nation’s ever-shifting forest policy.

The series expands significantly on a half-day lecture Evergreen founder, Jim Petersen, delivered to a graduate-level forestry class at the University of Idaho in February 2017.

The term “felt necessities” is taken from The Common Law, a book of essays assembled in 1881 by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in which he explains the historic underpinnings of the nation’s legal system. President Theodore Roosevelt thought so much of Holmes’ essays that nominated him to the Supreme Court in 1902.

We hope you enjoy this series and find it informative. Your comments are most welcome. "Felt Necessities" will subsequently be available in book form. Click on the number to be directed to Parts 1-7 of the series. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7


Leif Erickson’s seamless and unscripted 45-minute smack-down at the Mohawk hearings in Eugene, Oregon came easily, not just because he was a skilled orator, but also because he had been embroiled in a similar controversy in northwest Montana since the fall of 1945.

Rumor had it that the U.S. Forest Service was on the verge of approving a 60-year cooperative sustained yield agreement that would grant the Libby-based J. Neils Lumber Company – the second largest lumber manufacturer in the state - exclusive cutting rights on 91 percent of the 2.2-million-acre Kootenai National Forest.

Businessmen in rival Troy, 18 miles west of Libby, had nearly come unhinged when news of the proposed agreement reached them. They had been trying unsuccessfully for two years to woe the Forest Service into selling modest amounts of Kootenai timber standing within blocks of a small sawmill and a pole manufacturing plant, both located within Troy’s city limits.

E.E. Drury and Sons, Troy’s pole manufacturer, hired Erickson after Kootenai National Forest officials advised him that they were unable to commit any timber to the small sawmill he planned to build next to his pole peeling operation.

Soon enough, Erickson would ask the Forest Service why it was unable to pledge such a modest amount of timber to a small sawmill at Troy when it was clearly eager to commit 91 percent of the entire Kootenai National Forest timber supply in a 60-year deal with a lumber company that, by 1940, was the Great Northern Railway’s largest customer?

The Forest Service had no ready answer because it was wedded to David Mason’s ideas about sustained yield and cooperation between the federal government and the West’s largest vertically integrated lumber companies – integrated in the sense that they owned large sawmills and vast amounts of timberland. But none had mastered the art of balancing growth in their forests with the voracious appetites for logs at their sawmills. Hence, their interest in gaining exclusive access to federal timber reserves that could keep their mills supplied with logs until their own forests were again ready for harvest. David Mason had spent years earning their trust. If any justification for their monopolistic tendencies was needed they surely found it in his disdain for the “the swarm” of little mills like the Drury mill at Troy.

E.E. Drury did not own timberland so, like other “have not” mills of his era, he was constantly looking for logs from any and all sources – and the source closest to his Troy mill was the Kootenai National Forest. And now it appeared that the Forest Service was aiming to cut him out of their log supply. Facing financial ruin, he quickly organized the Troy Development Association, a diverse citizen group that included a housewife, the town’s water commissioner, a U.S. mail carrier, a farmer, grocer, mechanic, electrician, store clerk, barber, gyppo logger, school teacher, state senator and Drury’s office manager, Ford Cripe. It was Cripe who convinced Erickson that their group could use the services of a good country lawyer with populist leanings.

With the quiet backing of his friend, James E. Murray, a Democrat and Montana’s senior U.S. Senator, Erickson laid out his case against the proposed agreement with J. Neils in a June 1947 letter to Agriculture Secretary Charles Brannon. He explained that his clients - E.E. Drury and the Troy Development Association – were convinced that “the plan under consideration will not result in the building of a stable community of Troy but in the destruction of that community.”

Erickson also told Bannon that J. Neils officials had agreed to build a mill at Troy, but when he [Erickson] confronted company officials at a public meeting in Libby, they “refused to give any assurances that the Troy operation would be permanent. We are convinced that once the 60-year agreement is completed, the Troy mill will never be built.”

Perhaps because he was uncertain that Bannon understood the Forest Service’s storied mission, Erickson went to some length to explain its historic underpinnings – felt necessities deeply imbedded in the country at the time the Forest Service was founded in 1905.

“The expressed purpose of the Forest Service is to build stable communities within the public domain,” he wrote. “The continuation of the successful pole operation at Troy and of the small independent mill operators will assure a stable community there. It is ideally situated with relation to the timber and to the market to assure a stable, prosperous timber economy. The approval of the plan now under consideration, we are convinced, would destroy that stability and relegate Troy to the position of a dying community.”

Our society’s felt necessities have always been represented by unlikely standard bearers who seem to zoom in out of nowhere at the most opportune moments. One such cast took its place on the Montana stage in the spring of 1945: Harold and Lois Kaufman, youngish PhD sociologists from the University of Missoula; Ernest Melby, Chancellor of Education for Montana’s six colleges; Baker Brownell, a philosophy professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois; and David Stevens, Director of the Humanities Division of the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City. As the Troy Development Corporation’s chief legal counsel and boat rocker, Leif Erickson would borrow heavily from their collaboratively-developed Montana Study, a remarkable 1946 exercise In participatory democracy that has never been replicated in the West.

Melby, Brownell and the Kaufman shared a belief that – as Brownell wrote in Philosopher in Chaos - “traditional American democracy finds it richest environment in small communities and rural areas where people meet each other as neighbors, where they have a sense of belonging and a feeling of personal responsibility towards each other.” Not surprisingly, Brownell was a strong proponent of New England town hall-style diplomacy. “Culture,” he wrote, “could be found in the potbellied-stove bull session of a country store just as easily as in the intellectual atmosphere of a college classroom.”

Brownell and Melby met with Stevens at the Drake Hotel in Chicago in April of 1944 to lay out plans for deploying the Rockefeller Foundation’s $51,000 three-year commitment to the Montana Study. Fourteen rural Montana towns were selected, and the Kaufman’s were dispatched to Libby in July of 1945.

Libby might not have made the list had it not been for the political influence of Guy Brandborg, Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor, a member of the study’s board of directors and the state’s Board of Education. In hopes of calming the waters in Libby and Troy, the Forest Service lent its full support to the study, a strategic move they came to regret after reading the Kaufman’s March 1946 report from Libby.

Although the Kaufman’s brought not a single forestry credential to the table, they easily dismantled the Forest Service’s case for cooperative sustained yield and, by extension, the case David Mason spent 25 years building before Leif Erickson unceremoniously took his work apart at the Mohawk hearings in Eugene.

“If community stability in its fullest sense is to be realized along with the other phases of the forest program, then the purely forest management aspect must be given much greater consideration," the Kaufman’s wrote in Toward the Stabilization and Enrichment of a Forest Community. This was their blunt assessment of the proposed agreement between the Forest Service and the J. Neils Lumber Company.

“Therefore, it is recommended that no attempt be made to put the proposed cooperative agreement between the Libby Mill and the Forest Service into effect until the ‘industrial’ and ‘social’ aspects of the total forest program are worked out much more in detail.”

Harold and Lois Kaufman spent 14 weeks plumbing the depths of northwest Montana’s storied lumber manufacturing industry. The conducted several town hall meetings in Libby and Troy, completed 97 in-depth interviews with leaders in both communities, and surveyed 444 Lincoln County households by mail. The results were astonishing. Only 18 percent of those interviewed favored the proposed sustained yield unit, and 86 percent of mail respondents thought the Libby-Troy area ought to have “at least” two sawmills.

It was a stunning defeat for both the Forest Service and the Neils family. Although their company had been a benevolent overseer, its ownership of Libby’s hospital, its power plant and a local bank made many citizens nervous. Wasn’t the company already getting 70 percent of its annual log volume from the Kootenai National Forest? It was.

“The basic issue with respect to forest policy is not so much one of technical forestry as one of social control and economic reward,” the Kaufman’s wrote. “The central question is not rapid liquidation of the forest resource versus sustained production, but rather concerns the problem of protecting the public interest and distributing equitably the rewards from the forest.”

Although the Kaufman’s thought the proposal ought to be tabled pending more detailed analysis, they were quick to praise J. Neils generous wage sale, low employee turnover, investments in wood processing technology and stabilizing influence in the Libby area. But they added that the social piece was still missing from the cooperative sustained yield framework.

“Good forestry and efficient industrial practice are defined by experts in their respective fields, but not so with social goals in a democracy,” the Kaufman’s explained. “These are determined by articulate groups in the community as a whole. It is the mass of people who must have the final say as to whether their best interests are served, or economic rewards are equitably distributed.”

In other words, before the Forest Service handed 91 percent of its timber to the J. Neils Lumber Company, it needed to cast a much wider net. Troy’s needs had not been considered, despite the fact that its citizens could rightly claim an equal undivided interest in the Kootenai National Forest. The Forest Service was vesting “inordinate privilege” in the J. Neils Company in direct violation of plainly-stated principles laid down by Congress in the 1944 Sustained Yield Act – a necessity deeply felt from coast to coast.

In hindsight, it seems unlikely that the Forest Service was purposefully defying congressional will. Quite the contrary, it was doing exactly what it thought the country wanted by taking its best shot at meeting goals and objectives at the heart of David Mason’s widely supported argument for balancing forest harvest against forest growth.

But neither Mason nor the Forest Service had accounted for a necessity felt even more deeply by most Americans: a fear of the reoccurring monopolistic tendencies of both big business and its friends in Congress. Even uneducated common laborers in Troy, Montana understood that limiting access to publicly-owned timber would do nothing to spur the country’s post-war entrepreneurial urgings. Indeed, it would kill them. Public timber ought to be leveraged to encourage investments in more efficient job-creating wood processing technologies, not stifle them.

The Forest Service’s proposed agreement with the J. Neils Lumber Company was tabled by the Truman Administration for the same reason the Bureau of Land Management’s Fischer Lumber agreement was tabled. They were de facto monopolies reminiscent of the backroom dealings that characterized the era of robber barons that formed the steel and oil industries, built Wall Street and financed the westward expansion of the railroads.

Visionaries, like Dan Goldy and C. Girard Davidson, and hell-raisers like Leif Erickson, were leading the Truman Administration in the opposite direction. They understood that the West’s publicly-owned forests were perhaps the only economic engines the nation owned that were capable of powering the country’s precarious transition from wartime to peacetime footing.

And make no mistake, it was an acerbic New Jersey Jew named Daniel Louis Goldy who was the first to recognize the entrepreneurial genius and the appetite for risk-taking that resided in post-war lumbermen, many of them veterans of some of the bloodiest battles the world had ever seen. No wonder they were tough.

As we shall soon see, these men, who called themselves “the Independents” when speaking of their loose-knit brotherhood, would, in the years to come, transform the stodgy and antiquated lumber industry into a global manufacturing powerhouse.

I’ve done enough digging into the history of the old J. Neils Lumber Company to conclude that J. Neils and his sons - Walter, Paul and George – were honorable men who could not be jammed into the mold cast by Leif Erickson and the Western Association of Lumbermen and Loggers at the Mohawk Sustained Yield Unit in Eugene, Oregon in February of 1948.

Julius Neils had emigrated from Germany in 1872, earned a teaching degree and taught school in two small towns in Wisconsin before he and his brother bought a nearby hardware store that frequently traded merchandise for logs. It was his introduction sawmilling and it galvanized his entrepreneurial spirit.

Neils would eventually sell his interest in the hardware business to his brother, then build two sawmills in Minnesota, the first at Sauk Rapids and the second at Cass Lake. At Cass Lake, he partnered with Tom Shevlin, an already successful Minneapolis lumberman. The J. Neils Lumber Company would soon develop a reputation for being much more than a lumber manufacturer. By choice, the entire Neils family immersed itself in Cass Lake, donating time and money to various community causes, including churches, schools, utilities and parks. Mindful of the fact that timber was a finite resource, Julius Neils also selectively logged his Minnesota lands years before David Mason began beating his sustained yield drums.

Neils’ western expansion began in 1911. He and Shevlin bought the Dawson Lumber Company at Libby. The deal included 70,000 acres of timberland. In 1919, Neils bought out Shevlin’s interest and sent his oldest son west to manage the operation. Walter Neils would replicate follow the community sawmill model his father had built at Cass Lake. The family would replicate the model again in 1922 with the purchase of the Western Pine Lumber Company at Klickitat, Washington. They paid $740,000 for the sawmill, its logging railroad and equipment, log inventory and 1,599 timbered acres.

Now the Neils family sawmilling and timberland businesses were spread over three states: Minnesota, run by son, Paul; Libby, run by son, Walter; and Klickitat, run by Neils son-in-law, Hugo Schmidt.

Sustained yield was the watchword in Montana and Washington, just as it had been in Cass Lake. The blueprint would be developed by Walter Meyer under the watchful eyes of Julius Neils’ youngest son, George. Meyer, a brilliant PhD mathematician, did all of the growth and yield calculations for the Libby and Klickitat lands on a slide rule and a ten key adding machine – a mind boggling feat considering the time required to input data from thousands of growth plots.

If Meyer made it look easy it was probably due to the fact that, by 1930, he well known in sustained yield circles in Portland and Seattle. He had co-authored the U.S. Forest Service’s legendary Technical Bulletin 201, a report that forest historians would later call the single most influential research publication ever produced in the Pacific Northwest. And it may well have been, if for no other reason than the fact that it provided the quantitative basis for development of forest growth simulation computer models that are still in use today.

Although Meyer did most of the calculations himself  he was assisted in his work by Richard McCardle, a PhD forestry graduate from the University of Michigan, whose name appears first on the report, probably because he arrived at the Forest Service’s Portland research station a year ahead of Meyers’ 1925 arrival. McCardle would go on to become chief of the Forest Service in 1952, Truman’s last year in the White House. Their amazing feat included a vast amount of information that had never before been displayed in report form: site index curves that related soil productivity to tree height and age; volume tables that told landowners when to cut, what species to cut and how much to cut; board foot and cubic foot volume yields by site class and utilization standard; and tree diameter distributions by site class.

The Meyer-McCardle collaboration made big news when it was published in October of 1930 because it proved beyond all doubt that it was possible to grow timber profitably if the west’s persistent wildfire problem could be controlled. That the study was based on data gathered from 2,052 sample plots in 216 tracts scattered across western Oregon and Washington gave it a kind of credibility with skeptical lumbermen that no other report had ever established. That the plots had been established in 1909 and thus provided 21 years of data sealed the deal in the minds of several timberland owners, including Julius Neils and his sons.

History doesn’t shed light on what the Neils family may have known about the Forest Service’s abiding interest in David Mason’s sustained yield ideas. But we do know that Mason’s friend and colleague, Bill Greeley, the third Chief of the Forest Service, started preaching the Gospel of Sustained Yield in 1917, three years before he was named Chief. We also know he continued to preach it after he took command of the old West Coast Lumbermen’s Association in 1928. So Mason’s ideas and their grounding in Meyer’s Technical Bulletin 201 could not have come as much of a surprise to the Neils family.

Given the Neils family paternalistic persona I suspect they were totally unprepared for – and possibly even embarrassed – by the public uproar that followed the Forest Service’s release of a 1942 Lincoln County report in which the agency announced that as soon as Congress passed the necessary enabling legislation it would ink an exclusive, non-competitive 60-year timber sale agreement with the J. Neils Montana operation. Congress obliged on March 29, 1944, ratifying the Sustained Yield Forest Management Act. Libby residents rejoiced at their good fortune while neighboring Troy residents prepared for war.

Harold and Lois Kaufman’s report concerning the proposed timber supply agreement between the Kootenai National Forest and the J. Neils Lumber Company – was released in March of 1946, a month after the raucous Mohawk hearings in Eugene, Oregon. Report. Toward the Stabilization and Enrichment of a Forest Community chided the Forest Service for its daring assumption that earmarking the cutting rights on 91 percent of the entire 2.2 million-acre Kootenai National Forest to a single entity. The industrial and social aspects of the decision were out of whack and needed to be revisited. Under pressure from elected officials who had previously been on the Mason bandwagon, the Forest Service quietly withdrew the proposal, thus relieving the Neils family of the embarrassment caused by their political miscalculations. Had they been willing to build a small mill in Troy, the Kaufman’s might well have endorsed their cooperative agreement with the Forest Service.

In the end, it probably did not matter that much to the Neils family. Walter Meyer had completed their 100-year timber management plan for their northwest Montana lands and they were clearly in a position to buy a timber sale offered on the Kootenai National Forest.

Paul Neils shut down the family’s Cass Lake, Minnesota sawmill in 1923. Business was booming in Libby and the new Klickitat mill needed more attention than expected. With Walter and George in Libby, he chose to open an office in downtown Portland, which was fast becoming the financial center for the west’s lumber companies. He would assume leadership of the company after J. Neils died in 1933. He must have been a very astute businessman because the company continued to operate during the Great Depression. The family lost about $300.000 between 1931  and 1933, but not a single Neils employee lost his job.

The company did well during World War II and the post-war building boom that followed but by the early 1950s it became apparent to Neils that the family would soon need to enter the pulp and paper business or get out entirely. Although the third Neils generation was anxious for its turn at bat, Paul Neils wanted none of it. Always a secretive man, he quietly negotiated a merger with the giant St. Regis Paper Company. Walter and George went along. The deal – which included 200,000 acres of timberland in northwest Montana and 100,000 in southwest Washington - closed on January 1, 1957.

The Neils family had sewn such strong community ties in northwest Montana that New York City-based St. Regis feared that even the appearance of disruption in Libby operations would invite unwanted public relations problems. It wisely kept several members of the Neils family on its payroll for several years and it kept the J. Neils name on the door for even longer.

St. Regis also elected to embrace Walter Meyer’s 100-year forest plan for company timberlands in northwest Montana. Two holdover J, Neils foresters – Russ Hudson and Gene Yavah – saw to it that logging was limited to old trees that were no longer growing and diseased trees that might otherwise infect healthy trees.

Logging debris was burned during the wet spring season and harvested sites were replanted with genetically superior seedlings that displayed the best growth characteristics for northwest Montana’s climate and soil. At about age 20 these stands were thinned to promote faster growth in residual trees.

This three-count rhythm – logging, post-logging site preparation and thinning – are the very essence of sustained yield forest management. Because the meaning of the world “sustainable” has been so corrupted in recent years, I’ll have much more to say about it in a few minutes.

For now, know that good fortune did not continue to shine on Libby, Montana. St. Regis was essentially a paper manufacturer. It’s culture was very different from that of companies that manufactured lumber. Two ominous events unfolded in the 1970 that would bring ruin to all of Libby’s high hopes: acid rain problems at paper mills in the U.S. Northeast and 17.45 percent mortgage interest rates in October of 1971. The lumber market collapsed and did not fully recover for a decade. To shore up its dikes, St. Regis merged with Champion International in the summer of 1984.

Having merged with U.S. Plywood in 1967, Champion had some familiarity with the plywood portion of the Libby operation, but the company had many of the same air and water environmental problems at its paper mills that St. Regis was experiencing.

To raise much needed cash, Champion tossed Walter Meyer’s 100-year forest plan in the trash, significantly increasing the harvest of timber on western Montana lands, including the old J. Neils lands and lands it had purchased from the Anaconda Copper Company in 1972. The liquidation, which raised many eyebrows in western Montana, ended with Champion International’s July 1993 announcement that it was selling its Montana operations - 867,000 acres and its big paper mill near Missoula, to Plum Creek Timber Company for $260 million.

Plum Creek put down its first roots in Montana in 1946. D.C. Dunham had started out making wooden boxes in a plant near Bemidji, Minnesota years earlier and thought he saw a big opportunity in western Montana. He was certainly correct but he could have foreseen the fact that the Northern Pacific Railway would buy out his widow in 1968 for $5.9 million, nor could he have imagined that his company, which was named after a small creek about 70 miles northeast of Bemidji, would someday be Montana’s largest timberland owner.

The side story here is that a Montana friend named Holly Larson also tried to buy Plum Creek. Holly’s father, Hans, a logger who had emigrated from Norway in the early 1900s, partnered with D.C. in the original Columbia Falls operation. Holly worked for his father for a few years, then formed Royal Logging Company in 1948 to clear land behind Hungry Horse Dam on the South Fork of the Flathead River, only a few miles from Dunham’s Columbia Falls mill.

Through an odd set up circumstances, Dunham became Holly’s 50-50 partner in Royal. Things got really interesting in 1968 – the year the Northern Pacific bought Plum Creek. Dunham had died the year earlier and now his widow and Holly Larson were 50-50 partners in Royal Logging. When NP bought Plum Creek it only got her 50 percent of Royal Logging, which meant that Holly’s new partner in Royal was NP.

Holly tried to buy Mrs. Dunham’s half of her late husband’s Montana operation for $5 million but NP beat his bid by a mere $500 in what he later told me had been a “crooked damned deal” from the beginning. NP then created Northern Pacific Natural Resources as its land-owning entity. Holly stuck around in hopes of recovering at least a portion of what he thought he’d been cheated out of in 1968.

His patience paid off when the Burlington Northern Railroad was created in 1970. The four-railroad merger brought together the NP, the Great Northern Railway, the Spokane, Portland and Seattle and the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. It also made Holly a multi-millionaire. Now it all belongs to Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. In November of 2009, Berkshire paid $26 billion for the 77 percent of BN that it did not already own.

When the 1970 railroad merger was completed, BN transferred its timberlands to Plum Creek Timber Company, an entity D.C. Dunham would not have recognized. By then, its propensity for clear-cutting had  raised the hackles of nearly every newspaper reporter in western Montana. Likewise, western Washington where it was dubbed “the Darth Vader of the timber industry” after it stupidly chose to clear-cut timber it owned that bordered Interstate 90 near Snoqualmie Pass.

When Plum Creek bought Champion International’s Montana lands and mills in 1993, it chose not to buy the Libby mill. Portland-based Stimson Lumber Company bought it. As part of the deal, Stimson negotiated a 10-year log supply agreement with Plum Creek. When the agreement expired, Stimson determined that it could continue to operate the mill if the Forest Service could provide about 14 million board feet of timber annually from the Kootenai National Forest. Although the forest grows about 200 million board feet annually, the agency declined to help Stimson close its log supply gap, so the company closed the mill.

Three years ago – February 19, 2016 to be exact - Weyerhaeuser, the nation’s largest timber landowning company, bought Plum Creek in an $8.4 billion dollar deal that Plum Creek described as “a merger” of equals. It wasn’t. There was never anything “equal” about the two companies. The name on the door in Libby now reads Weyerhaeuser and Plum Creek is long gone.

Weyerhaeuser’s decision to buy Plum Creek surprised many, me included. Although its public reputation is infinitely more positive than Plum Creek’s, its expansion from its western Washington roots has had a decidedly southern focus for a long time. Virtually all timberland in the Southeast is privately owned. Trees grow more quickly there than they do anywhere else in the United States, so it isn’t surprising that the region is now known as the timber basket of the world.

Trees don’t grow nearly as quickly in western Montana, which adds to the mystery surrounding Weyerhaeuser’s decision to pay more than $8 billion for what it bought from Plum Creek. It is still operating a medium density fiberboard plant that sits on some of the same ground occupied by Dunham’s original Columbia Falls mill but its nearby plywood and lumber manufacturing plants have been shut down for good.

There is no way of knowing what Weyerhaeuser’s presence in western Montana means to Libby’s future – if anything. At least one third of Libby’s once bustling downtown area is boarded up. The streets are dead still and no one knows what comes next. The great hope is that the Forest Service’s renewed interest in more actively managing the Kootenai National Forest will create some new jobs – perhaps even bring a new mill to town. It isn’t hard to imagine Julius Neils and  his sons rolling over in their graves.

The only reason I’ve told you my Libby story in so much detail is to show you how our society’s ever shifting felt necessities often collide with unforeseen economic necessities - dealing very painful one-two punches to small timber towns all over the western United States that were once seen as economic, social and cultural necessities but now aren’t - even by other forest products manufacturers that might invest in places like Libby - were it not for the fact that private capital follows opportunity and the big opportunities are all in privately owned forests the Southeast, not in national forests in the West that present social, economic and environmental challenges that seem insurmountable.

The Libby mill had operated continuously for more than 100 years. Does 100 years of continuous operation connote sustainability? People living in Libby and nearby Troy thought so, but in the wider world, the definition of what constituted sustainability in David Mason’s era has changed dramatically. Sustainability has become more of a social construct than a forestry definition.

America’s felt necessities have changed in ways that don’t harmonize with forest management as it was practiced during the J. Neils-St. Regis-Champion International era. However, I see some evidence that our current wildfire pandemic may be moving society’s felt necessities back in the direction of more active forest management. That said, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. We need to first explore what happened in the western United States after the Truman Administration wisely scuttled David Mason’s cooperative sustained yield plans, the Mohawk and Kootenai sustained yield proposals went down the tubes and the federal government started selling timber at public auction to anyone who could afford to buy it.

As we shall soon see, no other period in U.S. history can match the entrepreneurial and technological explosions that would soon unfold in western national forests and their timber communities.

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