Finding Common Ground
“Family forestry is a relatively small piece of the landscape... It's the 16% along the streams; it's the lower elevations; it's the riparian areas; and, it's in some of the most productive forest-growing land around... These are the lands that are the closest to the big cities. So, ecologically that is a really important 16%.”
Management approaches to timber harvest stretch across a continuum. For the last 15 years, active management on federal lands has been dramatically reduced by controversies related to habitat protection. The majority of timber harvested in Oregon now comes off of private lands. If logging on industrial forests (5,000 acres and larger) is often driven by the need to show investors an increase in quarterly profits, management on family forests (5,000 acres and smaller) may more frequently allow for approaches that consider longer time scales.
“Money's good, nothing wrong with money, but to get maximum dollar in one year, you clearcut it. The intent here is to get maximum dollar over time – sustained dollar over time.”
There are some 40,000 family forests in the state; one of these is run by Leo Goebel and Bob Jackson in northeastern Oregon's Wallowa County. When they bought their property in 1970, it was supporting about 2 million board feet of timber. Over the decades – year by year – Leo and Bob have selectively harvested roughly that same amount, using techniques that would constantly increase the value of their woodlot.
“I took out the worst trees and kept the best trees – the opposite of what most people do. It's kind of like cattle and horses. You save your best and ship the rest... Most everybody "high grades" it – they take the best trees because that's where the money is... And what they leave is trash, poor genetics, and trees that aren't growing.”
Their approach contrasts with that of a nearby industrial forest where managers have clearcut, despite the fact that clearcuts do not regenerate well in the drier region of the state east of the Cascades.
Part of Leo and Bob's challenge, shared by other foresters in the community and around Oregon, is to find ways to turn smaller diameter logs into marketable products. To help address the problem, an area non-profit group called Wallowa Resources has turned a former mill into a post and pole-making operation they call Community Smallwood Solutions. In addition, they continue to work with interest groups in their community to overcome longstanding mistrust and animosities about the best ways to manage forests. Their collaboration is showing results. In June of 2005, the community saw their first federal timber sale in nearly a decade
“Fighting makes you feel good, but you don't win... We had to talk. So we sat together and wrote a plan and talked. And got it done. And we're still talking, because one of the biggest things out of the plan was a starting realization and understanding of walking in someone else's moccasins for a mile.”