We all received the terrible news this morning that Rough & Ready Lumber Company in Cave Junction, Oregon, was closing its doors after 90 years of doing business. They are unable to secure a sufficient supply of logs from the surrounding Federal forests to remain competitive. This is a family-owned company run by Jennifer and Linc Phillipi that has always done the right thing. They invested in their mill, treated their employees right, added biomass cogeneration. and certified as sustainable their timberlands. I know Jennifer alone has spent many long hours serving on the Oregon Board of Forestry and recently dedicated significant time participating on the Governor’s O&C Lands Panel.

In 1975 there were 22 sawmills operating in Josephine and Jackson counties, now there will be none. That’s despite the fact that the company survived the worst housing depression in memory and, ironically, there is excess demand from customers for their lumber products. There are now 85 former employees looking for family-wage work in a county that is located on land owned primarily by the Federal Government. Do the radical environmentalists have any answer for the effected families other than their property taxes should be raised to help pay for county schools and police that have no support from a timber economy? Why don’t they recognize that sustainability has to have an economic piece to it and the social consequences to rural residents are devastating? I wonder if the lawyers who file the continual lawsuits against even a small timber harvest are celebrating the closing of Rough & Ready? By the way, where are those eco-jobs that were supposed to materialize when we stopped the logging?

I saw a comment the other day from a politician stating that federal timberland are now being managed as if they were part of the National Parks department. Not only does this get away from the original purpose of these lands, which was to provide timber for housing and jobs, but the U.S. does not have the money to maintain these lands and, as a result, forest health is deteriorating and we have a mortality rate on the federal forests from fire and bugs that far exceeds the anemic harvest levels. It is hard to imagine a country with our natural resources importing billions of board feet of lumber from Canada to build homes because a very small segment of our population has overwhelmed the Federal Government with a tsunami of no-harvest litigation that they can’t afford to fight.

While we at Hampton only get a small portion of our timber supply for our sawmills from the Federal forests, we will continue to fight for a balanced approach to management because it’s the right thing to do for our country and the Pacific Northwest. John Hampton predicted the crash of the Federal forest harvest levels and understood that the most radical of environmentalists would not stop distorting the truth until they have shut down logging on all public and private lands.

What have our Federal politicians been doing while rural Oregon and Washington have been burning and complete towns are being driven to poverty? The Governor of Oregon recognizes the issue and has been working hard to find a political solution. To their credit, Representatives DeFazio, Schrader and Walden have aggressively introduced bills in Congress with an admirably bipartisan approach. Where are the Senators from Oregon? For the last decade they have spent more time on health care and filibusters than being willing to take on the tough fight to find balance in the Federal forests. I think the people in rural Oregon are tired of hearing excuses about how tough the political solution is. It certainly can’t be as tough as finding a family-wage job in Cave Junction!

As a lifetime Oregonian, I know our state has the right kind of spunk and toughness to work together to find a better way. Just because something is hard should not cause us to abandon hope. We owe it to future generations to leave both the health of the forests and our economy in better shape than they are now. We need to challenge our political leaders to face the brutal facts and deliver results, not rhetoric.

Steve Zika
CEO, Hampton Lumber