Big Money Bought the Forests. Small Logging Communities Are Paying the Price

A very long and very in-depth piece by Oregon Public Broadcasting, the Oregonian and ProPublica.

Read it:

“The Rise of Wall Street Forestry Leaves Oregonian’s Paying the Tab.”

“Half of the 18 counties in Oregon’s timber-dominant region lost more money from tax cuts on private forests than from the reduction of logging on federal lands, the investigation shows.”

“The singularly focused narrative, the only one most Oregonians know, masked another devastating shift for towns like Falls City.”

“Wall Street real estate trusts and investment funds began gaining control over the state’s private forestlands. They profited at the expense of rural communities….”

7 thoughts on “Big Money Bought the Forests. Small Logging Communities Are Paying the Price”

  1. It would be funny if not so sad and infuriating that the legislators (and governor) who decided to eliminate severance taxes don’t even remember it happening. They fell for the timber industry’s story hook, line and sinker, and never bothered to imagine what would happen to communities who relied on those revenues. Part of the explanation is here:

    • I think that’s a bad thing, but I think communities losing their federal revenues, as in the graph from Headwaters in the piece, was also a bad thing. Communities suffering from externally imposed changes are always a bad thing to me. Whether that’s due to corporate profits or well-meaning NGO’s.

  2. This article sure traveled fast. A friend even emailed it to me. It is not a bad article, but obviously anti timber. It covers some of biggest changes to timber industry in Oregon in the last thirty years.
    Some of those changes just mirror what is going on at all economic levels. Which is the consolidation of resource and the means of manufacturing into fewer and fewer hands, where only profits decide management. (Somehow people expect timberland owners to be held to a higher standard.)
    My biggest problem with this article is that dismisses the lost federal timber harvests, and the economy of the timber industry in general as not important as is the lost of tax revenue from private timberlands.
    When our federal timberlands in Oregon were “locked up” by NWFP the impact was much larger than anyone I believe anticipated. Whole communities depended on robust management by our federal land managers. In some small communities the employees of the FS and BLM were a important part of their social and economic health. The wide variety of employment and resources they offered allowed for all levels of economic opportunity. This form of economy disappeared with the NWFP.
    The affects on our forests and manufacturing facilities were even greater. With the removal of 90% of the federal timber supply and timberlands, meant that 30% of the timber land base, the privately owned land, were now responsible 90% of timber supply. The results became obvious, an increase
    In harvest on private timberlands of smaller diameter trees, and the retooling of manufacturing facilities to handle these small diameter logs. Which meant longer rotations for larger diameter trees was no longer necessary. The Douglas fir plantations became ubiquitous. Along with the plantations came timberland investment management associations.
    I believe the financial figures use in the article does not accurately reflect the various influences that has brought about this deterioration of our rural communities. I also believe that healthy timber industry is essential for economic and social health of Oregon, and that its economic impact is widespread.
    I could ramble on, but that is enough for now.

  3. To which I would eagerly add, Bob, that the transition to small logs and short-rotation forestry on pvt industrial lands almost entirely PRECEDED the NWFP, thus the plan had little impact on what was already in motion. Loss of employment and economy from federal timber restrictions was very real, but so was the “efficiency” push in pvt industry that led to many thousands of lost jobs as well.

    • Be nice if there was an efficiency push in the Forest Service. Or if our wonderfully efficient Congress could allow such a thing. The clock is ticking on the fuels, faster every year.

      • Dave, what we can expect from Congress…

        “I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a disgrace, that two become a lawfirm, and that three or more become a congress. -John Adams”
        ― Sherman Edwards, 1776

        (I got this from which also spelled President Reagan’s name wrong, so who knows?)

    • I don’t think I entirely agree with that. I know in southwestern Oregon there were dozens of mills still dependent of a variety of species and log sizes provided in part by Federal timberlands. Very few of those mills exist today.
      One thing good about the small log mill and today’s markets is that there is a home for the small logs coming from the thinning and restoration projects taking place on our Federal timberlands.


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