I am seeing some positive signs in the U.S. housing market and am hopeful that demand for lumber will improve over the next few years.
Pacific Northwest (PNW) timber availability is concerning me. Despite numerous credible studies showing standing timber inventories growing year after year, environmental extremists continue to push their agenda through litigation and political pressure. PNW residents have shown they are looking for balance, but certain courts and government regulators do not seem to be listening. Right now we are seeing the social and financial effects on rural counties of the lockdown of our Federal forests.
When Theodore Roosevelt created the National Forests, he intended they be used sustainably to create jobs and build the homes required by our nation. Instead, these forests have become unhealthy due to lack of active management with mortality exceeding harvest volumes.
When the forests were shutdown due to environmental lawsuits, Congress responded with welfare payments to the rural counties to partially make up for the economic catastrophe from eliminating family-wage jobs in those areas. Unfortunately, with federal government owning most of the land in those counties, there is no practical way to generate real jobs. We are still waiting for those tourism or eco jobs promised by environmentalists to provide jobs for the many people put out of work.
With the nation now heavily in debt, it is possible that Congress will let the county welfare payments lapse this year. The Senate recently passed a one year extension and the House will consider the minimal lifeline. However, I hope the House insists that any lifeline be accompanied by a new commitment to harvest some timber in these counties to put people back to work. Several viable plans have been put forth by PNW legislators that would allow for some additional harvest in these hard hit regions. All of the delegations in the West need to get behind one plan and get it passed ASAP.
Sustainability has to include the social and economic legs to stand on. Water quality, wildlife and all environmental attributes would not be affected by the nominal harvests that Congress is considering. In fact, forest health would improve and we could begin to get our communities off welfare.
We don’t need to cut any old growth!
There is plenty of available second growth timber that can be harvested sustainably to support industry and jobs for the communities. It’s time to show the political courage to work together to help us help ourselves.
Please email your congressional leaders and ask them to make this a priority! Contact Congress.