Timber logging

Trees are harvested in Oregon’s Cascade Range. A bill before Oregon lawmakers would ban clear-cutting, road-building and applications of pesticides and fertilizers in forested watersheds.

Some folks sure know how to start a conversation.

Take, for example, a bill in the Oregon House of Representatives that could lock up more than 1 million acres of Oregon forestland. House Bill 2656 would ban timber harvests, road-building and the use of pesticides and fertilizers in any forest watersheds that provide drinking water to cities and towns.

Such a “conversation starter” is more like a punch in the nose for the state’s timber industry. State and federal timber regulations already protect water quality, yet this bill could virtually shut the industry down in some areas of the state. Hampton Lumber estimates more than half of its 89,000 acres would be impacted by the bill.

Under the bill, any activities would have to be approved by the state Board of Forestry. Because the plans would be made public ahead of time, one might also assume that environmental groups would insert themselves into the issue the same way they have in other timber management issues. In other words, the lawsuits would start flying.

The first question that comes to mind: Is there a problem with Oregon’s drinking water quality? Interestingly enough, the Oregon Association of Water Utilities just awarded the city of Stayton an award for the best tasting drinking water in the state. It is the third straight year the city has been honored. Stayton gets all of its drinking water from the North Santiam River, whose watershed has been logged for decades.

It should be noted that municipal utilities are required to constantly monitor their water quality. If there was a problem, it would be found immediately.

During a recent hearing, those who want to control and hamstring the timber industry tried to link the blue-green algae outbreak at Detroit Lake to logging. Just where, exactly, was that alleged logging taking place? Scientists say warm weather had as much to do with the bloom as anything else.

It’s clear that this bill, like others making the rounds during the legislative session, is just another anti-logging, anti-jobs and anti-economy measure aimed at shutting down an industry that has been part of the state’s backbone.

If logging is so terrible, why are we all surrounded by the green of public and private forests?

Well-managed forests have long been a large part of Oregon’s history — and its future, if the legislature and environmentalists don’t shut it down. The timber industry is in every sense the epitome of a renewable resource. Even those who don’t like logging probably live in houses built using lumber from Oregon’s forests.

And there’s more. New technology is allowing the state’s timber industry to take part in a revolution in which mass plywood and cross laminated lumber will be become an important part of future construction projects around the world.

Yet some folks want to start a conversation about stopping that.

“House Bill 2656 is an unnecessary and extreme solution in search of a problem,” said Mary Anne Cooper, vice president of public policy for the Oregon Farm Bureau.

That about sums it up.

If there are any problems, let’s address them in a meaningful and targeted manner. If there aren’t any problems, then maybe the conversation should end.

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