Many sawmills have closed throughout Oregon due to policy changes and seemingly endless litigation surrounding what are arguably already some of the healthiest, most productive, and most sustainably managed forest in the world. Our forests are being managed in an environmentally responsible manner. If we curtail the harvest of our timber, we will need to purchase logs from countries that don’t have the same level of environmental protections that we do.
The average wage of Oregon’s sawmills is about $24 per hour or about $50,000 a year, which is far above the average wage in Oregon’s rural communities and double that of the average recreation and tourism sector job. Wood manufacturing also creates opportunities for career development in the trades through in-house electrical, millwright, mechanical and leadership training.
These jobs are still incredibly important to rural counties. To use Clatsop County as an example, the forest industry accounts for 30 percent of the economic base in the county, and 12 percent of the employment, all while providing for a multitude of recreation activities and excellent water quality and wildlife habitat.
Clatsop County and the county taxing districts have recently received $20 million in annual direct revenue from the Clatsop State Forest. If harvest levels drop consistent with those that preceded the Elliott State Forest’s insolvency, rural education, health services and public safety will be greatly diminished along with overall economic resilience in the county.
Forest fires will never be eliminated; however prescribed burn emissions are far less toxic than wildfires. Roughly 25% of the sequestered carbon within the timber resource is released during a wildfire. The other 75% of the sequestered carbon is released over the following years as the resource decays.
Over $400 million dollars were used in fighting Oregon fires in 2017 alone. These costs increase every year. Utilizing prescribed burns on our Federal Forest Lands would help produce more resilient forests while assisting in mitigating life threatening smoke and protecting habitat, residents, property, the environment, industry and our communities.
Healthy forests soak up a good share of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Helping forests act as “carbon sinks” long into the future will require thinning out young trees, clearing brush in parts of the forest and utilizing controlled burning in our federal forests. The remaining trees draw a greater share of the available moisture and sunlight, so they grow and thrive, restoring the forest’s capacity to pull carbon from the air.
The result is healthy, disease resistant trees that are better able to fend off bark beetles. The landscape is rendered less combustible. Even in the event of a fire, fewer trees are consumed.
Woody material removed from the forest is locked away in the form of solid lumber or is burned as biofuel in vehicles that would otherwise run on fossil fuels.
Our Federal Forest Partners need to understand the vital part forests play in storing carbon.