Joseph Patrick Quinn

Joseph Patrick Quinn

Several important facts were omitted by the author of a recent guest column in The News-Review on March 17, “Starved of timber in a sea of trees.” On the Medford, Coos Bay and Roseburg Bureau of Land Management Districts, the three closest to the Swanson Glendale facility, from 2017-2019, a total of 55,197,000 board feet — roughly 2,845 truck loads — of timber sales went no-bidder.

Where was Swanson when those auctions were underway? Or maybe Swanson can’t compete with big real estate investment trusts, timber investment management organizations, and other super sized, multi-state players like Roseburg Forest Products, Weyerhaeuser, etc?

And that doesn’t include 160,545,000 board feet — roughly 8,274 truck loads — of public timber that was sold to the highest bidder on those three BLM districts, then cut and hauled to one mill or another, in those years. Skeptical? Add it up for yourself — just Google OR/WA BLM’s timber sale website.

Now, let’s look at some of the other facts the new Douglas Timber Operators spokesperson has chosen to fudge.

For example, did he once mention the many hundreds of millions of board feet of raw logs that have been trucked to the docks in Coos Bay over the last 25 years? It takes roughly 1,000 log truck loads to fill one of those communist Chinese ships. Why didn’t Swanson bid for some of that timber? Why does it make more sense to ship logs thousands of miles overseas to our nation’s competitors than it does to truck them to Glendale?

Historical fact: Oregon’s ancient old growth forests, public and private, were clearcut at an astonishing rate in the decades preceding adoption of the Northwest Forest Plan. To expect that plan, an act of near last-minute desperation in the face of watershed devastation and species extinction, to have repaired the damage done by this “sustained yield” environmental assault in just 20-something years might be seen by some as delusional.

Yes, the spotted owl continues to decline. And yes, some of that is because of the barred owl. However, the ODF FERNS website gives any interested citizen a bird’s eye view of the vast area of recent large private clear cuts and young monoculture fiber farm plantations that surround the public O&C lands.

This sea of private is habitat that, even more than 40-year-old “teenage” trees, is tasked with growing one principal crop: return on investment, in the shortest possible time. Money calls the shots here, not the rehabilitation of watersheds along with all of the diverse life forms healthy watersheds once allowed to thrive. Like county funding, that task is left to BLM and USFS lands.

Poor green tree retention, size and number of clear cut openings, restocking crowded monocultures, aerial spraying powerful chemicals — sometimes in untested combinations — depletion of forest soils, carving of ever more miles of forest roads. It all threatens imperiled species, terrestrial and aquatic, Endangered Species Act-listed or not. Abundant clean, cold water, carbon storage and natural beauty for we humans are also impacted.

Firewise, private plantations sited next to the precious remnant of primary old growth and mature forest stands on public lands are proven “fire bombs” in the event of wind-driven wild fire. A recent study done by Harold Zald and Christopher Dunn of Humboldt State University and Oregon State University, respectively, conducted following the 2013 Douglas Complex Fire and undertaken by two schools of forestry and the Roseburg BLM, concluded those private plantations had more influence on the speed and extent of that fire’s spread than did older neighboring BLM stands.

The author mentions reduced county revenues due to fewer sales of BLM and USFS trees. No mention made, however, of the many hundreds of millions of tax dollars lost to the state and O&C counties, after Big Timber helped rewrite harvest tax laws in Salem in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Right now, timber outfits owning 5,000 acres and up pay only the very minimal Oregon Forest Products Harvest Tax. Little to none of that tax is returned to counties to help support services being cut. Instead, a good chunk goes to pay for those phony TV ads trying to tell us how good clear cuts are for our watersheds. Bologna! Big Timber can afford to finance its own propaganda!

In Washington State, many of these same private timberlands pay a 5 percent per thousand board feet harvest tax, with 1 percent going into state coffers and 4 percent returned to the counties where the timber was cut. Timber taxes in Oregon were more or less comparable in decades past, not now.

Cooking up this kind of half baked public relations meatloaf, throwing sawdust into the mix, leaving out half the meat and all of the salt is, perhaps, to be expected from someone on the timber industry payroll, fair enough. But, public be warned: no amount of PR ketchup can trick it real, or make it taste like the wholesome truth.

Joseph Patrick Quinn currently volunteers as Conservation Chair and Vice President of the Board of Directors of Umpqua Watersheds, Inc.

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