Working together for a shared future


Coos County on the Oregon Coast has a long history in the timber business. Back in the early 1900s, it was particularly dangerous and hard to live as a lumberman, as this recent story from the Coos Bay World points out. Nowadays the toughest challenge for Coos County is how to keep its economy going while the timber industry changes. The news this week that a nearby lumber mill would lay off 50 people caused the World’s editorial board to take a look at what the county needs to do the maintain its economic future.

The paper’s answer? Diversify.

The wood-products industry is not what it once was, and it never will be again. Unstopping the bottleneck of federal timber harvests would help, but a recessionary economy makes demand, not supply, the bigger problem. We need additional avenues of prosperity…

So we need a diverse portfolio: A robust timber industry. An inviting waterfront. A rebuilt railroad. Organic dairies. Steel fabrication. Fishing charters. Chromite mining. Dune riding. A reactivated international port. Renewable energy.

All of those sectors can coexist. We just need to stop arguing about which one is best.

In other news, the Medford Mail Tribune took a look at a 58-million-board-foot timber sale in Southern Oregon that has the support of both environmentalists and forestry companies. The trick was bringing all sides together from the beginning.

“It does feel weird saying this,” added (George Sexton), the conservation director for the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, an Ashland-based environmental watchdog group. “If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be applauding a 58-million-board-foot timber sale, I certainly wouldn’t have believed it.”

But the the ranger for the High Cascades Ranger District Rogue in the River-Siskiyou National Forest helped work out any differences between the two sides.

“My hat is off to him,” Sexton said. “There were a lot of issues and comments to deal with in this planning process. He melded the concerns together to protect the old trees, watersheds and wildlands while producing a vast amount of timber from small-diameter thinning.

“He was able to hit that sweet spot,” he added.