Saturday, October 22, 2005



This is an expansion of an earlier post

and the reply by "Hindu" at Sagebrush

Yes, it's true there ain't no spotted owls in Georgia, but there are loggers and logging companies: A lot of them transplants from the Pacific Northwest.

To really understand the impacts on the timber industry of the Spotted Owl, and why this really is a scapegoat -ScapeOwl, that is - you can't look at just a snapshot. You have to look at the whole industry, a laissez-faire capitalism boom-and-bust industry that got itself into the mess it's in now, and whose big players escaped the fallout, which mostly fell on the little guys. Much of the following is based on personal recollection. I was there. So forgive me if some of my dates are a bit off.

Timber trouble started as I recall in the late 1960's. Before that, government at al levels had mostly avoided regulation of this activity, while the industry repeatedly ruined itself.

Sustained Yield agreements, beginning with the one between the USFS and Simpson Timber company, effected in 1949, saved communities. Beginning in the 1890's, Simpson had logged their way through 130,000 acres of private land. By WWII, their supplies were exhausted. The 1949 agreement, which dedicated 140,000 acres of the Olympic National Forest to Simpson's care, saved my hometown and set a pattern of cooperation that clearly defined publically owned timber as green power: A resource to be harvested. National forests, created years earlier for their own preservation, were suddenly just so many billion board feet. No competing value was then conceived.

Over the next twenty years, industry bellied up to the trough, gorging on this cheap timber as an alternative to their own holdings. It was a time characterized by belief: Belief in sustainable forestry and belief in the right of private industry to harvest the public wealth, often paying no more than road fees and maintenace costs for the bounty. Big timber got cheap wood; the public "got" roads, etc. in the National Forests. People got jobs.

It was quite a deal. Whole communities began to rely exclusively on the bounty without considering the "what-if's."

There is no resource anywhere more variable than virgin timber. At its best, it is peerless. At it's worst, it is near worthless. Often it doesn't meet the modern definition of "oldgrowth." But it was "managed" by map, the good going with the bad. I recall jokes about roads built to timber that wasn't there, built because an engineer with a map said it was... It doesn't seem funny today.

Naturally, this attitude helped to generate a public backlash. Public forests belong to all, and even logging private land has public impact. Furthermore, public awareness generates public concern. As we watched the export markets bloom in the '60's, we watched initiative campaigns fight to ban them. By 1968, when State regulation here in Washington made "timber cutting permit" part of our lexicon, the writing was on the wall.

And big timber was the first to read it.

Big timber had all kinds of troubles. First, the sustained yield concept didn't live up to it's brag. Harvest cycles, the kind Sagebrush refers to as "thought to be sustainable," worked in the lowlands but not the high country where much private and most Federal timber was.

Then there was labor. Woodworkers in the Northwest had been some of the first to unionize, and the International Woodworkers of America fought aggressively to better its members. Wages were damn good for union shops, and striking loggers weren't to be trifled with.

Then there was competition from Canada, with timber holdings that dwarfed those in the US.

Big timber did what it always had: It moved on. Oh, not all at once, to be sure. It took years. Northwest timber giants like Weyerhaeuser bought millions of acres in Canada - if you can't beat 'em, join 'em - and the American Southeast, plus the timber rights to millions more acres.

The Southeast has natural advantages: Timber, especially pulp species, grow far better in the warmer climate. Then there's those pesky unions, much weaker there. The Southeast is closer to major markets. And while two-thirds of the available timber in the PNW is publically owned, in the SE the timber is 90% privately owned.

As for timber in Canada: It's is so cheap many consider it unfairly subsidized.

Here is a case where those big pictures are quite revealing: In 1970, the western region produced 70% of the softwood lumber used in the US while the South region produced 26%. By 1993, the year of the timber summit, the two regions were almost dead even at 46.8% vs 47.4% respectively.

At the same time, overall lumber yield per board foot of logs rose almost 25% and pulp recycling doubled.

Still, the ESA listing of the Spotted Owl had a lot of impact, no? Timber offered for sale after the timber summit dropped 8 billion feet a year, right? Yes, but the ESA listing was only one of several legal pressures. According to USDA analysis:

"Federal legislation—such as the Wilderness Act of 1964, the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act (MUSY), and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA)—requires that forest outputs other than timber be given due consideration in the management of national forests... In essence, public demand for nontimber outputs from federal forests has worked its way through a labyrinth of legislative and administrative channels to restrict the amount of federal timber offered for harvest."

All things considered, it's pure speculation as to how much of that 8 billion feet a year of timber would have sold at a price worth the trouble of harvesting it. What isn't speculation is that the industry in the PNW was already in big trouble, and big timber interests got out before the "crisis" they helped to create broke. Decisions to disinvest made long before the fact closed mills rather than remodeled them. Especially in the woods, union workers were laid off and private contractors hired in their stead. These contractors often had no more security than the patch they were currently logging.

In the end, it was those contractors who got screwed. It could have happened at any time for many reasons. The truth is it happened for many reasons at once, and the Owl got the blame.

And who picked up the pieces? The Federal government picked them up with community assistance, retraining, and similar assistance. I went to college on Spotted Owl money. So did a lot of others.

I went to Evergreen. Weyerhaeuser went to Georgia. As far as I'm concerned, they can keep going: Straight to hell.


Your post does a wonderfull job of explaining of how big timber used the excuse of the spotted owl to take the money and run and still look like victims. Not much need to expound on your basic premise. As we follow Alice in wonderland we come upon the wolves in sheep's clothing known as the professional enviromentalists. I am not talking about the moronic mob still believing in the social hallucinations of the 60s, I am talking about that handfull of movers and shakers who have learned to profit through advocacy.

Of course we can't leave out the facilitaters of profit through polarization, our very own federal lawmakers. After all how can a politician milk campaign money out of special interest groups without contentous issues such as the spotted owl?
sure - middle of the road

at least we know why you think the middle of the road is just to the left of lenin
Hpw about opposing every salvage logging deal until the trees rot?
Love for the woods and interest in protecting our environment is admirable, but be careful what you support.

It’s no coincidence that the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, was the hundredth birthday of Lenin (April 22, 1870). For those “educated” in our modern school system this was not a member of the Beatles, but Vladimir I. Lenin who murdered 3 million of his own people.

We are told that only a socialist one-world government can save the Earth from humanity. Neo-environmentalists see the end of property rights and free enterprise, with government ownership and control as the answer.

There are reasons why ecologist Lynn White Jr. refers to the free-market system as “the evil of capitalism,” or Nikita Khrushchev (1894 – 1971) said, "Environmentalism is the cornerstone of the New World Order."

When the Soviet Union fell the Marxists in this country didn’t go quietly into the sunset. They transitioned to the green movement and used the communist cell system to organize factions like the Sea Shepherds and the Earth Liberation Front, which are the terrorist arms of Greenpeace and Earth First (James Jarboe, FBI).

Think Socialism is a good idea? More people were murdered, in the name of socialism, during the 20th century than were killed in all the wars in the previous 500 years. Add them up: Lenin (Soviet Union) - 3 million, Stalin (Soviet Union) - 20 million, Hitler (Nazi Germany)- 6 million, Nikita Khrushchev (Ukraine) - 1 million, Mao Tse Tung (Communist China) - 50 to 70 million, Pol Pot (Cambodia) - 3 million. And this list does not include the millions murdered in Africa or Central and South America.

Scott Black
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