Santiam Canyon forever changed by wildland fires

Wildland fires glow near Gates, Ore. in the early morning hours of Sept. 8. The state is now salvaging some of the timber from the Santiam State Forest.

The state of Oregon’s plan to salvage the timber in a small part of the Santiam State Forest is a win-win both for the people who live and work there and for the people who own it — the taxpayers.

The state Department of Forestry wants to salvage the timber off 3,000 acres of the forest. That’s about 19% of the portion of the forest that was burned during the Beachie Creek, Lionshead and Riverside fires last September and about 6% of the forest as a whole.

Many who live in the area remember those fires. Wind-driven blazes became blow torches ripping through the canyons and over the ridges. Before the fires were extinguished, hundreds of houses had been destroyed and thousands of people had been left homeless. Many are still living in temporary quarters as they pick up the charred remnants of their lives and livelihoods.

Comes now seven environmental groups that want to stop any salvage logging in the state forest. They went to court in Multnomah County — Portland — hoping to find a judge who will shut down the operation.

Upon reading their complaint, the groups acknowledge that “the vast majority of the burning occurred on tree plantations within the Santiam State Forest....”

Presumably, that means those trees were intended to be harvested sooner or later. Now that they have burned, the Department of Forestry only wants to get some value out of them for the taxpayers before they rot or otherwise become worthless. It should also be noted that allowing those trees to rot would release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

It’s OK not like the timber industry. But to try to impose that opinion on everyone all of the time seems a bit, well, unrealistic.

As a society, we need timber. Nearly all houses and apartments are built using at least some lumber. Innovative building materials such as mass plywood and cross laminated timber are just a couple of new ways to construct houses and buildings using this plentiful resource.

Better yet, trees are a renewable resource and climate friendly. They absorb mass quantities of carbon dioxide‚ a greenhouse gas — while they grow, and then sequester it forever when they are used to build houses and other structures.

No one is saying every square foot of Oregon — or anywhere else, for that matter — should be clear cut. Far from it.

All many people are saying is state and national forests represent a perfect opportunity for multiple use. Yes, recreation is one of those uses. So is habitat. But so is timber production.

The state Department of Forestry got this one right. The highest and best use of that burned state forest is to salvage those trees, maintaining their value, providing jobs for Oregonians and homes for everyone, including environmentalists.

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