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We Can Revitalize the Forest Economy, But Not Like This

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

 

Photo Credit: iStock

As a girl growing up in the beautiful John Day area, I was always cognizant of the importance of the forest industry to our local economy.

Many of my friends had fathers who either worked in one of the mills or worked in the forest as a logger. A number of my friends and neighbors worked for the Forest Service. And not a day went by where I didn’t see a log truck, heavily laden with recently logged trees, rumbling through town.

It was as much a part of life as going to school or church. And when my dad worked at the mill, it was how we put food on the table.

But I was also aware, especially as I moved into my teens, that the forest industry had begun to wane. The Forest Service began to pare down staff in the local offices. Fewer of the people I knew were working in the forest or at the mills. Some people left. Many that remained had to find other ways to make a living, which was a tough slog, because the leaders in our town didn’t find solutions to diversifying the local economy. 

A part of Oregon's economy

Logging will likely always be a part of Oregon’s economy. But the arrogance of some of those trying to lead the flagging industry boggles the mind.

This website sponsored by three daughters of Aaron Jones, founder of Seneca Timber, seems clearly meant to send out propaganda in support of the industry. But it’s so heavily weighed down by the virtual chip on its shoulder that it started to feel like I was reading nothing more than a screed by the 1 percent who are upset that the little people hadn’t given them their due.

It’s certainly not the way that the humble, hard-working people with whom I was raised talked about the industry.

This tome in support of the Jones sisters is dripping with attempts to canonize them as the matriarchal megaphones for the forest.

"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."

(From: The Oregon Land Legacy)

If this is the “new voice” of the timber business, I’ll take a pass.

How about a little humility? How about recognizing that Oregon’s forests belong to more than just those who want to make money from cutting down trees?

This brave new world of timber-industry propaganda seems to be complete with a tin ear and a hefty helping of narcissism. 

A true and honest desire to revitalize a flagging timber industry is one I can get behind, because part of a good forest management plan is harvesting. And perhaps these women really do have the best interests of the industry at heart. But this isn’t the way to go about getting there.

Go back to the drawing board, please. 

Carla Axtman is a landscape photographer, communications expert and rabblerouser extraordinaire. You can see her work at Carla Axtman Photography.

Banner Photo Credit: iStock 

 

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