Our Public Land/ Private Forest Resources: How Not to Be a Colony

Large loaders negotiate waves of logs as they load visiting log ship Global Wisdom at the Port of Olympia in late September

It’s interesting, but not surprising, how our current serious economic situation has changed some of the tenor of discussions of resource use in the U.S. When I was a young sprout, forest policy was clearly in the hands of economists. Then, perhaps in the owl battles of the Pacific Northwest, wildlife biologists and others seemed to be in the lead (remember the Gang of Four?). As our last couple of posts show, knowing something of economics is, perhaps, undergoing a resurgence of importance as we discuss resources and jobs. There seem to be four different conceptual possibilities. First, exporting our resources without manufacturing here (the “colony” idea as stated by Governor Kitzhaber below); second, making sure we get as many jobs as possible from our resources before we export; third, using our resources for our own energy (see Denver Post story below); and fourth not using them at all but leaving them alone (can we afford this?).

In the last couple of days I have seen two pieces from different perspectives. First,
this piece, ostensibly about the FS using a a PR affiliated with Rosemont to work on scheduling public meetings to discuss the proposed Rosemont Mine. The comments are very interesting and go into topics like the copper going to Korea as a raw material, the fact that the mine would be owned by Canadians, and impacts on the trade deficit.

Check out the comments from this..here’s one from CK H.

Without geology and mining you have nothing. Nothing. Not your home, computer, car, electricity of ANY kind (solar, coal, hydro, nuclear, petroleum, gas), clothes you are wearing, the food you are eating (has to be grown with fertilizers, pumped water, transported etc.), bicycles, medical equipment, tile flooring, cosmetics, firearms, backpacks, Kindle/Nook, iPod/Ipad, camera, smartphone, and every other thing you ever possessed or ever will possess.

The ore deposits of various sorts are sitting in host-rock geology in every geologic terrane imaginable. The contained metals or industrial materials are only liberated for your use owing to the dedicated efforts of geologists, mining engineers, metallurgists, technicians galore, haul truck drivers, shovel and LHD operators, surveyors, vendor service supporters, financial whizzes, reclamation and environmental specialists, general managers/foreman…right down to the guys at the end of the chute. Your comfortable life style is thanks to the labor of hundreds of thousands of individuals in small village to large cities around the world.

It sounds almost like dialogue from the “timber wars” days- if we use it (timber, minerals), someone’s going to produce it- why not us? Hypothetically our environmental and worker protections are better than some other places in the world- why not do it if it produces jobs for us and reduces our trade deficit?

Similarly, with regard to private timber, this story.

Kitzhaber: Oregon can’t be China’s timber colony
Cuts on state land could help boost local mill jobs

By Tyler Graf

The Forest Grove News-Times, Nov 9, 2011
(news photo)

Chase Allgood / News-Times

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber addressed the State Forestry Board last week, arguing that a balance between industry and environmentalists can be achieved.

In July, Stimson Lumber Co. announced a new round of layoffs at its Hagg Lake and Tillamook Mills.

The reason? Boundless demand for logs from China (where buyers want whole, unmilled logs) was draining the demand for local milling.

And as logs from private lands are heading east, jobs here in Oregon’s forested wilds are disappearing.

That doesn’t sit well with Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who tackled the issue during a speech he gave in Forest Grove last week.

Private land owners account for the vast majority of timber harvests and, unlike state-owned forests, are not legally required to mill their logs in the United States. Private-land harvests are often sent whole to China for milling.

“This amounts to nothing more than exporting our natural capital and jobs,” Kitzhaber said.

It’s necessary to increase harvests in state forests, Kitzhaber said, in part to protect struggling mills, but it’s also important for the state to find other revenue streams, such as selling the forest’s carbon credits on the open market.

State forests can take the lead in drafting a more durable future for forest health, the governor said during the regular meeting of the State Forestry Board in Forest Grove Thursday, calling for a new approach to forest management.
Finding middle ground

The governor’s speech centered on finding middle ground between the competing interests of state, federal and private forests and creating “long-term, sustainable practices” that both create jobs and protect natural resources.

“We have the opportunity to break the mold of conflict,” Kitzhaber said.

The federal government owns about 60 percent of the state’s forestland, accounting for 17 million acres. But that land generates only 12 percent of the state’s timber harvests.

Since 1989, timber harvests in the state’s national forests have dropped by 90 percent, sped along by a 1991 federal ruling that closed much of the Northwest’s old-growth forests to logging to protect Northern spotted owl habitat.

On the other hand, the state owns about 3 percent of forestland, including the Clatsop State Forest, and generates about 10 percent of the harvests.

Kitzhaber pushed the board to set aside state forestland for conservation areas, which would be free of timber harvests, as a way of demonstrating that the state is serious about protecting its forest from over-harvesting./blockquote>

But also note that log exports have been good for the Port of Olympia here.

Finally, a piece in the Denver Post this morning on rural jobs and clean energy about Michael Bowman here.

Last week, he found himself the only person to represent rural interests in America at a White House Champions of Change award forum, the Obama administration’s weekly initiative that touts people across the country making change in their communities.

His group of 15 individuals focused on green energy and job creation.

“Everyone knows we make food, but often people don’t think of these rural communities as places where the fuel and energy is going to come from to meet these new demands,” Bowman said.

He praised the wind farms of Colorado’s Eastern Plains and solar development in the San Luis Valley. “The most exciting things are happening where there are renewable-energy projects being built, and putting a tax base into a region where there was none before.”

He also met with officials at the departments of Defense and Agriculture, and pitched a plan for energy independence that would create an alternative to the strategic petroleum reserves — a “working reserve of bio fuel that every farm, ranch, and forest in America can participate in helping create,” he said during a phone interview.

He talked about the fuel-agnostic engine developed by Sturman Industries of Woodland Park. He serves as a consultant to the company, co-founded by Eddie Sturman, who invented digital valve technology for the Apollo space program in the 1960s, and then advanced that technology to create smart engines that run on all types of fuel.

2 thoughts on “Our Public Land/ Private Forest Resources: How Not to Be a Colony”

  1. Just a couple thoughts:
    –State of Oregon lands make up 3% of the “forested acres” and yet harvest the same or more than the USFS which makes up 60% (In 2010 the state harvested more than the usfs). And yet the dirty little secret is every state MAKES money while the USFS looses. Maybe the SAF ought to do a story about that. In the last 20 years I’ve only read ONE study that analized that situation. Maybe the public has a right to know.

    –It’s projected that because of the MPB epidemic, Canadian lumber exports to the US will be reduced by HALF by 2015. At the same time both the US and Canadian exports to China are booming, at the same time our economy will recover (hopefully-right?), at the same time retiring baby boomers will need homes to accomodate their shifting demographics. I’d say it MIGHT be the perfect storm for higher lumber prices. These high prices may be a boom for some of the various “restoration” scemes floating about (ie. Arizona OSB), but they might also push the public to demand higher timber harvest from the last available source-the USFS.

    I don’t mind being a colony of China. I come from a “natural resource” state. The corn farmers are going to be the new oil sheiks. Why do you think Warren Buffet bought Burlington Northern? Tracks run right to Peking. Besides, i’snt Canada a colony of ours? Isn’t Montana a colony of east and west coast enviros?

    • Derek- I do wonder what the official wood supply and demand projections are for the next 20 years. There are people who study that, I will try to get some links.

      If baby boomers are poor, due to poor performance of their investments, it seems like they also may remain in place, share homes, or “recolonize” aging/cheap urban and rural areas.


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