I agree that there are many myths circulating today about the U.S. timber system.
Here in Douglas County, in western Oregon, the top saw log producing area in the nation, our county budget is broken and things are tough for rural residents. Some people still blame the owls.
The spotted owl did not bring about Douglas County’s current financial difficulties — over-harvesting public timber did.
As hundreds of log trucks a day rolled to the mills, national environmental groups lodged a NEPA suit over the Spotted Owl. A Federal judge took one look and shut down the harvest levels because laws were being broken. The BLM and Forest Service sold too much timber in order to appease the big mills and county commissioners. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) signed into law by President Nixon was well known and clearly violated. Breaking the law caused these problems, not the spotted owl.
Today what we have is not mismanagement of O & C lands but over-harvesting on industrial timber lands. Do not take my word for this, drive out into the Oregon coast range and look for yourself.
Now these industrial clearcutters want public forests to bail them out. If mills want more public timber, what does the public get in exchange? It seems reasonable that if mill owners want public timber, they should agree to not export logs off their land. If the private land was managed to enhance salmon runs as much as quick cash, then there might be even more public timber. These forests need to be thinned, not clearcut, which is the real issue.
The timber industry has the money to stack the political deck, and has avoided an honest discussion for decades, but it can’t last forever.
If our political leaders truly want solutions, we need an honest and inclusive dialogue. If not, the mills will log out what they can get and leave Douglas county behind. Timber workers and communities who depend on this employment will be abandoned, just like they have everywhere else where mill owners have called the shots.
Log exports at North Bend, Oregon, at the International Port of Coos Bay. Richard Chasm reports that, "These ships line up and as soon as one is filled, another moves up." Photo: Richard ChasmExtra Large Image
Log exports at North Bend, Coos County, Oregon. Photo: Richard ChasmExtra Large Image