What do we want from our forests and how do we make that happen?
Where will the growing multitude of wood products we use come from? And if not from here, the most productive and most regulated timber region in the world, then where?
How much old growth/timber harvesting/wilderness is enough? Can we enjoy our woodlands and log them, too?.
What is "natural" anyway? And what is it about our natural resources that we value and want to conserve?
Like it or not, we've got to talk about these things. Soon.
Because our interactions with the natural world have changed it, and make us at least partly responsibility for how those changes play out. We need to clarify our vision for our forests' future and actively seek to make that vision real.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, the time is long past when we could just walk away from our streams and rivers - with their dams, pollution, siltation and channelization - and assume they will soon return to a "pristine" state. Likewise, we can't simply pull cattle off our rangeland -- after decades of overgrazing and riparian degradation, plus invasions of noxious weeds and extensive plantings of non-native grasses -- and assume that this land can, on its own, revert to some "pre-European" condition.
The same goes for our forests.
Oregon's forests -- nearly all of them -- reflect the impacts of human activity. Long before Lewis and Clark, Native Americans harvested hundreds of kinds of plants and animals from the woods and burned large areas to improve hunting and food gathering.
In the years since, most Oregon forests have been logged at least once. And even in "pristine" old growth, a century of fire suppression has eliminated the cycles of wildfire that once defined these ecosystems' "natural" condition.
People have forever altered what the forests are and what they will become. And there's no going back. These systems are dynamic and ever-changing, and they will continue to evolve in one direction or another. That's where we come in. For better or worse, maintaining healthy forests often requires some kind of human involvement.
Perhaps it's time for us to refine our expectations, to develop some real vision for the future. We've called this program "Rethinking the Forests." But that will only be productive if we can figure out how to tone down the rhetoric and start to actually talk to each other; t o talk with folks on the other side of the fence and then, as John Bliss suggests at the end of the program: "Listen."
Eric Cain, producer