The Timber Industry: Still Going Strong in Oregon

By December 26, 2007General

Catching up with one’s hometown newspaper — RIP, Oregon Journal — we’re reminded how dull The Oregonian’s editorials are. Conventional wisdom battles it out with tired, anti-business talking points, and the winner is dullness.

Still, the editors make an effort to add some contrary points of view on the op-ed page, or at least allow an occasional response from those who it has criticized. Fitting that category today is a punchy column by Blake Rowe, senior vice president at Longview Fibre and chairman of the board of the Oregon Forest Industries Council. In “Seeing More Closely into Oregon’s Forests,” Rowe rebuts the newspaper’s dismissal of the industry as in danger of fading away, noting that Oregon remains the No. 1 timber producer in the country.

Rowe also refutes The Oregonian’s factual misrepresentations, things we’d again categorize as tired, anti-business talking points:

Two allegations are simply false. The editorial claims that “too many watersheds continue to be degraded” and “tree owners who long regarded the resource as a sustainable asset are being spurred to capitalize it as a one-time crop.” Oregon’s landmark Forest Protection Act, passed in 1971 with industry leadership, provides strong watershed protections and requires rapid replanting of trees after harvests to guarantee they aren’t one-time crops.

It’s true that catastrophic fires threaten Oregon forests. And a number of Oregon’s rural communities are haunted by unemployment. Unfortunately, these problems are caused by failed federal forest policies. Shrinking federal harvests have shuttered dozens of Oregon mills, threatening the basic infrastructure Oregon needs to sustain a healthy forest products industry. But these are issues beyond the control of the Oregon Board of Forestry.

Like all of Oregon’s boards and commissions, the Board of Forestry is a volunteer group of Oregon citizens. Twenty years ago state policymakers changed the board from a committee of competing interests to a balanced, public interest board. It insults the citizens who have invested thousands of hours of volunteer time to improve Oregon’s forests to declare that the industry has treated the board “as their private club.” Four successive Democratic governors have appointed the board’s citizen members, including the current members and retiring chair, to serve in the best interest of all Oregonians.

But that’s always been the criticism! How can we think differently?

In any case, an effective response and an unfortunately necessary defense of an industry that too many critics dismiss too reflexively. Thanks, Mr. Rowe.

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