Kathy Jones-McCann is pretty sure she’s a conservationist, a term she thinks is often confused in an effort to keep things tidy.
We love labels.
If you listen to her describe Oregon’s forests and her lifelong love of the woods and the creatures it sustains (including humans), you might even take Kathy for an environmentalist.
“I love the beauty and essential value inherent in the forest,” she told me.
If you’d like, Kathy could spend hours articulating the particulars of a healthy forest and if she didn’t hand you a business card at the end of that lecture you’d probably never take her for a “timber woman.”
Kathy and her two sisters, Becky and Jody Jones, run the Seneca Family of Companies, which was founded in 1954 by their father Aaron Jones. The company includes sawmill, timber and renewable energy interests with operations in Roseburg and Eugene.
Lately Kathy and her sisters have been on a mission to bring a new voice to the timber business, hoping to counter some of the misrepresentations and downright deceptions from those who would just as soon surrender Oregon’s millions of acres of forest land to the next match, or lightning strike.
Theirs is a different voice, fresh and passionate. It’s the voice of women who have stepped heavily into a man’s world that has defined the timber business for decades in what has been known as the Timber Capital of the Nation.
“Fortunately, I think women can speak with a more emotional voice about an issue that has been tried in the court of public opinion due to a very one-sided emotional stance,” Kathy said. “Whereas men in the industry rely on statistics and because the facts and statistics clearly support harvesting they think, ‘Enough said,’ and can’t figure out why the debate continues.”
Men and women throughout Oregon, she says, have been “deeply hurt” by the accusation of killing trees and devastating our forests purely out of greed and ignorance.
“The people of Oregon, multi-generational, are people of the land,” Kathy said. “They know how to live off the land and people who know how to live off the land, revere it. They absolutely revere it, protect it and feel a spiritual bond with it. “
To be suddenly accused of destroying and killing the forests that sustains them “steamrolled” many, according to Kathy, and it silenced them to shame.
“That was wrong and I have vowed to turn the tides on that mindset,” she said.
Kathy wonders if America hasn’t been “Albertsonized,” as she calls it. “We forget that everything we buy in the grocery store has been raised and harvested,” she said. “These people are living in wood-framed homes, going to wood-framed churches, sitting on wooden tables on wooden chairs and building a wooden deck on their house and say, “Stop the harvesting of trees.’”
To suggest that loggers love killing trees is like saying cattle ranchers love killing cows, Kathy said. “It’s absurd. Cattle ranchers love raising cows and they also like to eat.”
She said logging opponents won’t stop with just public lands, which make up more than 60 percent (30 million acres) of Oregon’s forest. “They will try to stop it on private lands as well,” Kathy warned. “That’s why we decided to talk about what was really going on in the woods.”
The only thing going on in the forests these days seems to be fire. An estimated 7 million acres of forest burn every year in America, according to Kathy.
“There is a reason forests need to be managed,” she stressed. “Just what were the trees created for, to sit in the forest and rot, or burn by the millions of acres? They are the most prolific and perfect building material we have and we can grow them into perpetuity. In fact, they regrow themselves. Do you really think Mother Nature didn’t know what she was doing?”
At the same time, Kathy understands the need to protect true, “old growth” trees. “The fact is, we have 7,000 square miles of untouchable, old growth trees in reserve right now,” she said. “It’s all over the state.”
Kathy is hoping to promote a more fact-based discussion, using the emotional tone a woman can deliver more effectively than a man.
“The environmental movement is based seemingly on emotions, with little science, or fact,” she said. “I guess that’s why a woman speaking to forest management and sustainable yield harvesting carries a different weight with people. We can’t be construed as raping forests and cutting old growth the way the iconic lumbermen can. Not that they were of that mindset either, but that they were more easily perceived that way.”
Kathy said she and her two sisters hope to “give a voice to the voiceless people in this state who have suffered for a long time under the guilt-tripping violation of a very small, but noisy fear-based group of people with little or no sense about what is real and how to survive on the land, to actually be one with it.”
Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or email@example.com.