COMMENTARY: It’s time to judge forest policy by its result, not by its intent- Rural Americans suffer while the Northwest Forest Plan fails to save owls

Thanks to Bob Zybach for this one.. an op-ed in the Register Guard here.

COMMENTARY: It’s time to judge forest policy by its result, not by its intent
Rural Americans suffer while the Northwest Forest Plan fails to save owls

Published: (Sunday, May 27, 2012 04:25AM) Midnight, May 27

By Rob DeHarpport

For The Register-Guard

Failed federal policies implemented by unelected agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management during the past 30 to 40 years remind me of a quote from the late economist Milton Friedman: “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”

The Northwest Forest Plan enacted by President Clinton in 1994 may have had good intentions, but it has failed catastrophically.

According to Forest Service records, the volume of timber harvested on Forest Service lands declined from a peak in 1987 of 12.7 billion board feet to 4.8 billion board feet in 1994. That harvest further declined to 2.4 billion board feet in 2011. When the Northwest Forest Plan was adopted in 1994, harvest levels already had dropped by nearly two-thirds — and today are merely 19 percent of the peak harvest level of 1987.

Pacific Northwest forests in the spotted owl zone grow anywhere from 500 to 1,000 board feet per acre per year. The Northwest Forest Plan encompasses 23 million acres. Growth on those acres has been at least 16 billion board feet per year. During the past 18 years, the annual harvest has been only 3 percent of growth.

The resulting build-up of biomass in Northwest forests has led to catastrophic fires burning millions of acres. Spotted owl populations have crashed by 60 percent or more. The Northwest Forest Plan has failed to save owls and instead has caused the incineration of their habitat.

The Pacific Northwest is the premier timber-growing region in the world. Yet today, America is importing 40 percent of its softwoods from Canada.

Does this make any sense? We are in a prolonged period of high unemployment in America — and especially in Oregon, Washington and Northern California. Poverty in rural areas of the Northwest continues to fester.

More than 25 percent of rural Oregon families are on food stamps.

In Oakridge, 80 percent of our public school students qualify for free lunches based on family income.

The Oakridge School District now enrolls slightly more than 500 students, down from a high of nearly 1,200 just 30 years ago.

At least 44 businesses from the Oakridge-Westfir area have closed their doors since the late 1970s.

CEO Peter Pope of the shuttered Pope & Talbot mill in Oakridge said, “The spotted owl issue destroyed any chance to keep the Oakridge mill going.” Pope explained that a failed effort to save the species was the “death blow” to Oakridge.

These failed policies continue today. President Clinton promised that, “We must never forget the human element and local economies.” Guess what? Rural timber towns and their residents have been forgotten.

Local Forest Service officials are held hostage by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., and the policies they have created. Increased local control and stewardship is the logical answer, yet this solution is unattainable in the current top-down bureaucratic structure.

15 thoughts on “COMMENTARY: It’s time to judge forest policy by its result, not by its intent- Rural Americans suffer while the Northwest Forest Plan fails to save owls”

  1. What a foolish and fake-data driven diatribe. The supposed “analysis” (of X acres grow Y board feet and therefore we have these billions of board feet of lumber being wasted) is something you might expect from a sixth grader. This editorial writer should be fired.

    The good-ole answer of local control…that is the worn-out grasping for straws solution from people who just don’t want to accept the fact that these are federal lands, not state or county or private forests. Any thinking person who knows even a smige of history realizes that there would be endless clearcuts and brushfields instead of forests if locals had total control the past century.

    i admit ignorance on the poor owls, their habitat and the need to tie up so much woodland for these birds. As someone with biological training I usually root for the critters in such battles, but with this bird, I am not sure. But I think most of know that this huge reduction in the timber cut is not totally due to owl restrictions. Many other factors are involved. Lets get real and talk honestly about these issues.

    • Your assumption that every forester would love to clearcut, slash and burn is offensive and prejudiced. Here in California, we have proven that excellent forestry can be practiced economically without clearcutting OR highgrading. Sadly, those practices of fuels reductions may come to a crawl, with ridiculous diameter limits impacting the economics of paying for non-commercial treatments with logs.

      • Larry: I’m even more concerned with the statistics regarding failed businesses, failing schools, free lunches, and food stamps. To have these dismissed as a “foolish and fake-data driven diatribe” is both arrogant and stupid beyond belief.

        I am now convinced that Ed (whoever that might be) is an idiot; and I’m usually a pretty tolerant guy. To seemingly categorize himself/herself as representative of “any thinking person who even knows a smige [sic] of history” pretty much indicates why “Ed” is anonymous.

        At least he/she admits ignorance on the owl issue (and yet presumes to ridicule the writer); I’m not shocked, but saddened, by his/her claim to be “someone with biological training,” but maybe Ed is just claiming to be house-trained.

        If I’m going to follow his/her advice to “get real and talk about these issues,” it won’t be while wasting my time listening to this type of clap-trap.

        Who IS Ed? (Please don’t let the answer be someone getting paid for working for an agency.)

  2. (Ed, please excuse poor Dr. Zybach, he just can’t help himself — as an inveterate bigot bent on attacking commenters, labeling, and speculative seething is far too tempting for him than simply factually commenting on the post in a non-derogatory fashion. Some day, he may even offer an insightful comment.)

    As for this wonderful op-ed:
    Thank you for this masterful spoof on cause/effect analysis of America’s colossal macroeconomic policy failures. My only disappointment is that the literary treatment (akin to, “it was my headache that caused my brain tumor”), was entirely too brief. It left me wanting for more examples of reverse logic. After all, Lewis Carol created a timeless treasure with his “Through the Looking-glass” using the same treatment in over 200 pages.

    I especially appreciate how the op-ed begins with a revered quote from Milton Friedman, the architect of free market fundamentalism,which is largely responsible for the economic failure of not just the PNW but the rest of America as well. Friedman was also teacher and inspiration of the libertarian “Chicago Boys”, who did so much for meshing neoliberal goals of deregulation and privatization with General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorial ambitions for Chile. So it comes as no surprise what Milton has done for America.(That the Chicago Boys received the “charity” of the Ford Foundation which has been so generous to America’s Environmental Gang Green is an added bit of irony here.)

    So, at what point will the Register Guard understand there are laws applicable to national forests called the National Forest Management Act, and the Endangered Species Act? Did it ever occur to the editors there are forest-dependent creatures besides humans, or that there are more ways than one for the best and worst intentions of Congress to be thwarted?

    Captured agencies like the USFS are among the worst intentions of a corporatized Congress, which provides a rational basis for the colossal mismanagement of the USFS before, during and after Judge Dwyer’s decision. NFMA and ESA are among the best of Congressional intentions but are routinely outmatched by the agency charged with “Caring for the land, and Serving people”.

    And at what point will the Register Guard realize it not only takes several generations of humans to grow a rotation of merchantable trees, but perhaps conclude too much too fast was liquidated in the familiar boom/bust resource extraction cycles which brought down not only the owl but the rural bubble economy inflated by all the aforementioned factors?

    • Wow, David: “bigot?” Good one! Nothing like a mean-spirited ad hominem attack to demonstrate your capabilities as a thinker and a gentlemen. No need to apologize to anyone on my behalf; I’d say a good starting point would be to examine you own self-righteous writings and illogical rants as something to actually be sorry about.

      (True story: when I first read “Ed’s” comments my first thought was that maybe you had added an additional identity to your arsenal of pompous and dismissive name-calling posts. Birds of a feather, at least.)

      Note: If you had actually bothered to read the editorial you would have discovered that Rob DeHarpport is a private citizen that has actually lived in Oakridge much of his life and personally witnessed and experienced the events he was writing about. The Register-Guard “realizes” that it is a good thing for people to have differing opinions, and to publicly discuss those differences. Reading skills, dude, I keep telling you!

      Your analysis of the timber economy and national politics is something else you might want to apologize for. There’s a reason that you’re about the only person here consistently giving yourself “thumbs up” marks for your own (and “Ed’s?”) comments.

  3. Dr. Zybach, thanks again for re-demonstrating my observations to us all. One can observe and identify verifiable facts such as bigotry without it being a “mean-spirited ad hominem attack”– I’m just identifying it as it is, and presenting the proof, good Doctor.

    From Wiki:
    “Bigotry is the state of mind of a “bigot”, a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, ”

    From Dr. Zybach in just two comments:
    “To have these dismissed as a “foolish and fake-data driven diatribe” is both arrogant and stupid beyond belief.”, (and)

    “I am now convinced that Ed (whoever that might be) is an idiot;” (and),

    “wasting my time listening to this type of clap-trap.” (suggestion: then just don’t read it Doctor), (and)

    “your arsenal of pompous and dismissive name-calling posts” (and),

    ” a good starting point would be to examine you (sic) own self-righteous writings and illogical rants” (and),

    “you’re about the only person here consistently giving yourself “thumbs up” marks for your own (and “Ed’s?”) comments.” (uh-huh, and how are you going to backup that bigoted, and “mean-spirited ad hominem attack” by false assertion and brilliant hypocrisy, good Doctor? )

    My apology to Ed still stands.

  4. David: You are an idiot and I will not be responding to any more of your bile. As the ex-mayor of an imaginary town in Alaska that doesn’t exist because it is “off the grid,” you can go back to trolling the net and trying to convince others of your brilliance. I’ve got (much) better ways to spend my time.

    • Boys! Boys! (Thanks, JZ). Yep, I’m getting to the age where I should start taking more naps. Yell at the kids to get off the grass, they start taunting you back, and next thing you know, you’re dialing 911. Ten years ago I blamed beer.

  5. The author, Mr. DeHarpport, appears to have been asleep since 1971, just rooled out of bed and realized that there are now some environmental laws that stand in the way of the good ol’ boys doing whatever they please with our public lands. I assume, after he’s been awake for a few more days, he will also realize that while he slept the good ol’ boys wrecked our forests, our water, our wildlife and just about everything else people care about.

    How does this post contribute to any real conversation about forest policy?

    • TreeC123: It’s making you converse about it, isn’t it? Too, I think your demeaning comments directed toward Mr. DeHarpport don’t have much basis. Your use of a pseudonym doesn’t help.

    • You know, Tree, you can disagree with this fellow, but it gets very tiring when people’s responses to other people’s arguments is to impugn the person’s motives and make snarky comments about them. It seems to me as if that behavior does not contribute to the conversation about forest policy.

      PS I am aware that many posters and commenters on both sides slip into doing this; and I will try harder to pay more attention in the future when I have more time. but it would be really really nice is I didn’t have to try to be the referee and you all (not just Tree) would just stop.

      PPS I know others do it and will be doing it on posts that we will post, but that is other people and not us.

  6. Bob. I was asked this weekend to review this story for RANGE Magazine. 600 signatures already Huh? WE’ll see if CJ might could add a few more…

    • Be sure and contact Rob DeHarpport in Oakridge. I’m sure he’ll be pleased — in addition to being upset about some of the figures the paper edited in his essay; an opportunity to correct in Range.


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