Forestry on cutting edge of climate crisis

Originally appeared in The Register-Guard. Shared with permission.

What if Oregon led the nation in growing a renewable resource, powered by solar energy that sequestered carbon from the air and produced sustainable building materials? What if responsibly managing that resource helped protect our communities from wildfires, enhanced wildlife habitat, created family wage jobs and directly supported essential public services such as education?

Oregon is a well-established leader in modern forestry, and that’s something all Oregonians should be proud of. Managed forests scrub our air of pollution and purify our drinking water. One recent study found that actively-managed forests store more carbon than unmanaged forests, in trees and soil, even when those forests have been harvested multiple times.

Every day, our local wood manufacturing businesses manage for — and make products that — capture and store CO2. There is a growing movement to construct more, and larger, wooden buildings in the world’s largest cities because elected officials, urban planners, architects, conservation organizations and others are recognizing the environmental potential of this resource.

Despite all these benefits, Oregon’s forest sector is under constant attack by deep-pocketed, politically connected anti-forestry activists who seem more interested in using fear, anger and half-truths to oppose the legal harvesting and replanting of any tree, offering no viable solutions. The result is confusion and an agenda that fails to meet our state’s most pressing environmental and social challenges.

These challenges include catastrophic wildfires destroying wildlife habitat and damaging watersheds, toxic smoke that is plaguing our vulnerable community members and a federal forest health crisis that will require billions of dollars in public investment to address. Fortunately, each of these challenges can be addressed through science-based, active forest management that provides the tools necessary to make our lands more resilient to climate change and other threats.

Anti-forestry groups are aggressively trying to stop logging and put Oregon’s timber industry out of business. You may have heard these groups say things like, "We do not want to get rid of logging, just simply do it in a different way." But that "way" is based on short-sighted ideology, political advocacy and fundraising campaigns, not in science, economics or the profession of forestry.

What would be the practical impact if they are successful? The local forest sector and the thousands of workers it supports would be decimated. Our local wood products supply would be replaced by non-local sources such as imports from Canada, or from countries with worse — if any — labor and environmental safeguards. This additional transportation would also increase the carbon footprint to bring products to market.

If the timber industry in Oregon were to be decimated, there would be no one to get work done on our public lands. This would eliminate the ability of federal land managers to complete the needed forest management and fuels-reduction work necessary to keep our forests from becoming tinder boxes for future megafires releasing large amounts of smoke and greenhouse gases. It would also destroy rural Oregon communities, undermine local economies and wipe out thousands of family-wage, blue-collar jobs that our neighbors, family members and friends depend on.

The pages of this newspaper regularly carry the opinions of anti-forestry activists. It’s time to take their arguments to their logical conclusion and recognize the implications of a political agenda that only serves to undermine sustainable forestry here in Lane County and throughout the state.

It’s time to ask what such an agenda stands for, and who would benefit. Without a viable forest sector, our society would only increase the use of non-renewable, carbon emitting building materials. We’d have higher carbon emissions from catastrophic wildfires. We’d also have fewer family-wage jobs and chronic budget shortfalls that result in fewer public services.

Is this the future we really want?

Amanda Astor is forest policy manager at Associated Oregon Loggers and a monthly contributor to The Register-Guard. She holds degrees in forest management, forest biology, and forest carbon: science, policy and management. She advocates for sustainable, economic and operationally feasible federal forest management.



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