A reader submitted this editorial in the Albany (Oregon) Democrat-Herald, which I think it an interesting bookend to the discussion about local wood below. So Santa Cruz-ites are finding a middle ground, where the sector has NOT been important, but where it has been important, in Southern Oregon, they cannot find common ground. Hypotheses anyone? I wish the People’s Research Fund could fund social scientists to survey folks across the west on some of their deeper values around this.
The story involved the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative, a local effort which has been working to reach a common ground on ecological issues and reforestation.
But the effort has hit a bump: The only representative of the timber industry in the group, Dave Schott, has resigned. In explaining the reasons for his resignation, Schott said that in his view, the group has been overly focused on the priorities of environmentalists and has failed to take into account the needs of the logging industry.
The director of the collaborative called Schott’s decision “short-sighted,” according to a story about the dustup in the Medford Mail-Tribune newspaper.
And that short-sighted assessment would seem justified, except for one thing:
Schott had spent eight years on the board.
Now, maybe the better part of a decade doesn’t amount to a lot of time in the effort to change the policies that have led to generations of gridlock over our forests.
But surely it’s not too much to hope that one would have seen some progress in those eight years toward resolving the issues that have devastated our rural communities — and threatened the health of our forests, as witnessed by this summer’s busy wildfire season.
When the group initially formed, the collaborative agreed to base its work on a three-pronged approach that included economic, environmental and social considerations, said Schott, executive vice president of the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association. But, he said, as the years went on, the economic prong of the equation kept getting short shrift.
No one thinks that logging levels ever will return to the levels of the 1950s and 1960s. And no one is advocating anything like widespread clearcuts or the elimination of old-growth stands.
But there is a place for logging as we work to reboot our rural economies, an important place. The idea that we should simply declare our public forests off-limits not only jeopardizes the health of our forests but makes it difficult to move toward any of kind of compromise.
And it also means there isn’t any way to compromise. As one player in this drama noted, “Special interest groups are hard to bring to the middle, no matter how big that middle may be.“
The result? Years go by, and little happens — except people who started a good-faith effort to locate some common ground increasingly despair of finding it.
Maybe the efforts currently running through Congress — in discussions led by members of Oregon’s delegation — finally will make some progress.
But there is a sense that time is running out.
“This is coming to a head,” Schott said of the debate. “People are realizing something has to be done. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road.” (mm)