Todd Vaughn

We have a subculture in Douglas County, whose members consider themselves to be “protectors of the forest.” As it turns out, many of these folks are more interested in local politics than local forests. That is, other than forests in county parks. Perhaps their leaders have convinced them that “all is well” in the Umpqua National Forest, and that they’ve established a very cozy working relationship with a Forest Service that is heavily dependent on the grant money that they provide. You might call it “an inside connection.” Can you imagine the outcry that would ensue, if the Executive Director of Douglas Timber Operators enjoyed the same sort of relationship with a ranger district as they do? It’s absolutely mind blowing.

The Tiller Ranger District is so under-funded that it relies on grants to pay for the disposal of campground garbage. This group boasts of having provided over $30 million in grant money throughout the past dozen years, most of which was paid to helicopter companies that have placed hundreds of “fish logs” in our creeks, with little improvement to our salmon runs. This amount of money is quite impressive, but is this arrangement ethical? Oh well, like they say, “money talks and,” you know the rest.

Either way, most of the members of this subculture are free to focus their attention on the political issues that plague our county’s elected officials. If you’ve been reading articles in this Op-Ed section lately, you know what I’m talking about. The problems facing our county are directly related to the loss of revenues from timber sales on federal forests, and yet these folks just can’t see any connection between the actions taken by their leaders, and our budgetary woes. Instead, they blame the likely loss of our library, and the reduction of other county services, on the “incompetence” of our commissioners.

It appears that certain individuals in this group might have political aspirations. What an interesting strategy. While their leaders get in bed with the Forest Service, which is forced to rely on grant money that the group provides, the rest attack the county commissioners, who are reeling from the effects of trickling timber harvests that earlier leaders have locked into place with excessive regulations and the ever-present threat of timber-sale litigation. You have to respect the ingeniousness of their plan, although it is rather despicable when you consider the potential impacts to a forest that has been rendered extremely vulnerable.

According to numerous studies conducted by the USFS (google if you like…I did), this forest is at extreme risk for uncontrollable wildfire events, and the risk is growing every year. By their own concession, future fires will continue to grow larger, and burn hotter than anything we have seen in the past, and the percentage of high-severity areas within these fires, will increase significantly. The soil will be badly damaged, and its nitrogen will be destroyed. Water quality will suffer dramatically. Erosion will be excessive, and the tons of sediment in our streams will plug up the gills of salmon that do return. The recovery of the affected areas will be measured in hundreds of years, and re-burns will be very likely. These predictions are accompanied by the warning that the unknown extent of climate change could result in worse conditions than the current models anticipate.

The only thing that needs to happen, for this dismal assessment to become a tear-filled reality, is the continuation of the current level of management, which is defined by a commercial-thinning extraction rate of 33 million board/feet/year for the whole Umpqua National Forest. This is less than the estimated growth rate, and doesn’t begin to address the incredible accumulations of fuel that drive the above-mentioned predictions. On top of all this, Umpqua Watersheds just introduced its master plan to remove 500,000 more acres from any possibility of future management. If you are one of the folks with political aspirations, you may want to separate yourself from this subculture before it’s too late.

If you really want to help this forest, why don’t you join us in promoting a forest-wide system of road-side fuel breaks, and assist us in pressuring the Forest Service to pay heed to their own foreboding predictions. We need to thin the Umpqua National Forest at a rate of 130 million board/feet/year, and the current leaders of your subculture are definitely not going to help with that. I know that this might spawn an identity crisis in some of you, and I’m sorry. We’ve all been through it, and most of us have learned that you should never be afraid to “change horses mid-stream,” if you can ride a better horse up the far bank. Who knows, in time, you may get your shot at becoming a commissioner after all.

Todd Vaughn is a member of Responsible Forest Initiatives in Tiller.

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(5) comments


Two awesome letters. Thanks. I agree that Marijuana is the future of Douglas County. Either get on the train now or it is going to pull out of the station without you. And yes, we are a retirement community not a timber capital.


Ring RIng.... Ring RIng..... Todd (and county commissioners), it's for you.... the 1950's are calling and they are wanting you to pull your head out of .... their out of date, economic playbook and bring your brain back to 2017 pronto!

Boy, I see the "Subculture identity crisis" runs rampant on both sides! You have your “protectors of the forest" on one side, then you have your "cut your way to prosperity" on the other! Can we all agree that theses two groups NEVER HAVE and NEVER WILL agree on anything. Nothing has changed except the fanaticals on BOTH SIDES have gotten older and grayer.... but the sniveling still sounds the same!

Being real about the current situation Douglas county currently finds itself in..... that tree lovin "subculture" and alot of other people that live here flat will NEVER allow Douglas county to cut down or actively manage O&C timber or any other timber on federal land! EVER! No matter how much you, the "cut our way to prosperity" crowd and the commissioners salivate to cut down those trees, it is NEVER going to happen ..... Pull it out and recognize that!

Notice that we have become more of a retirement town, than a mill town... and lets face it, alot of the people that are moving here these last 2 decades are moving from "tree huggin" California! The days of being able to go and "cut our way to prosperity" are LONG GONE... even with the price of timber at 10 year highs . Sorry, didnt mean to rub it in, but it does show ones motive and intent!

In my most humble opinion Todd, it is time for the "cut our way to prosperity" side to WAKE UP and realize that big Timber in this town, from now on, is at a virtual stalemate when it comes to logging federal lands... PERIOD

That being said, let me offer myself as a "bridge" or "conduit" between the "protectors of the forest" and the "cut our way to prosperity" group and be the FIRST to point out that, both sides truly do love our trees! One side loves watching trees grow and thrive (and maybe smoking a few along the way), while the other side also loves to see them grow/thrive (see, common ground already) to maturity, but then takes it one step further by cutting and process them (dont think for a second those boys out in the field arent smoking em too)! Which leads me to this naturally existing parallel and thought:


The good Lord has blessed us with the best soil, the best climate, hard working folks like yourself.... why not put your efforts into something that the world is actually demanding.... and actually legal to harvest on STATE LAND (who needs the feds now that they are not subsidizing us, right?)
Know that HIGH QUALITY HERB and the marijuana business is here to stay as per this article the cannabis industry will grow 700% in the next 3 years....

I read another study that values the marijuana industry at a 50 BILLION dollar industry.... TODAY!

We need a leader that recognizes and see's trends and as you eloquently said above KNOWS when to "change horses midstream"..... in which NONE of our county commissioners have shown they can or will do!

I think that the commissioners get alot of flack for NUMEROUS reasons, all of which is too long and detailed to write in this little post (but I digress), but know, I find them to be a 1 trick pony themselves....

.....for they just cant seem to see the marijuana fields through the trees! Pity!

/end rant


You summed it up very well. The Commissioners abdicated their responsibility and surrendered any economic fortitude by introducing ballot measure 10-143 on banning recreational marijuana cultivation, processing and sales, and sending the vote back to the people, knowing full well that it would be defeated. To me that is unforgivable considering the economic decline of the county. Sadly we will look like a wasteland in a decade, a drive-thru town on the I-5 between Medford and Eugene. Maybe we already are.


Douglas county could have been the WORLDS LEADER in marijuana cultivation and exported those marijuana "trees" all around the world.... Just like we do douglas fir trees! It is a natural fit!

.....and at a time when this county needs every JOB and every TAX DOLLAR it can muster, the self imposed ban on marijuana was a HUGE mistake made by our county commissioners and a HUGE injustice and mistake for our tax coffers as well as for everyone that lives here, looking to make a living.

KNOW, that In the first 9 months since being open recreationally, CannaKing has paid over $230,000 to the state in taxes alone.... and I am just one small, tiny store. Could you imagine the tax dollar / job boon this county would have had if the county commissioners actually let marijuana everywhere in our county. We are missing out... and that is NO WAY to lead. You just cant waste an opportunity like this, because you are afraid of "What your pastor is going to think".... The commissioners made it ALL ABOUT THEM and totally circumvented a state wide ballot initiative! Disgusts me!

That being said, I promise I will do everything I CAN to bring as many people off the freeway and visit/spend money in our little town.

Just wish that the "ruling elite" had a little bit of forethought / heavos and actually tried to bring us out of this budget conundrum, instead, because they hate the thought of any industry, especially the marijuana industry overtaking their old school timber ways, they just threw the baby out with the bathwater.

Also, I want to make it public that I had to goto lane county to purchase land (pity that some other douglas county resident wont see the proceeds from that sale either, for I would have preferred to purchase land in douglas county) for a tier 2 grow and will be hiring 15 - 20 MORE employees in lane county, as well as expect to pay 100's of thousand if not MILLIONS of MORE dollars in taxes to the state, and NOW lane county PER YEAR, all because they allowed recreational grows and get to collect those taxes....and we dodnt. All those dollars and jobs going somewhere else.... ouch.... the commissioners DROPPED THE BALL on that one and only time will tell to each and every one of us, who was on the right side of history, and who wasnt!

It is a sad state of affairs and a decision that rests SOLELY on the heads of 2 of the current commissioners and suzie morgan!


I can share your frustration. I was waiting for the vote to begin development of a $1.5 million per year recreational grow facility out in Lookingglass on my farm. I had spent thousands of my own dollars already in assembling all the information i needed including sources for all my infrastructure needs. We are now looking in Yamhill and Polk. I am sure judging by the people I have spoken to that the two of us were not alone. Douglas County had the opportunity to benefit from the almost $100 million in taxes generated this year as well as the injection to their economy of all the infrastructure costs that people like you and I were not willing, but waiting to put into their coffers. No they didn't 'drop the ball', they intentionally passed it out of bounds because of their own personal beliefs. Not only was this decision shameful, but it has more than likely been the final nail in Douglas County's coffin.

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