This is the eighth part of "Felt Necessities: Engines of Forest Policy," a series of essays tracing the history of the conservation movement in the United States, and its influence on the nation's ever-shifting forest policy.
I am going to do this by asking all of you a very provocative question - one that I hope you will, in turn, ask each other throughout the course of convention.The question is: Does the logging industry have a future in the New Intermountain West?
Dick asked me if I knew where we might find a map showing all of the timberland ownerships in northern Idaho – not just an ordinary map, but one that had an overlay that shows at risk federal forest lands – these being lands that pose an insect, disease or fire risk to adjacent private and state timberland owners.
Your conference seeks to encourage you to become better leaders. That's a good thing because leadership is sorely lacking in the forestry and forest products manufacturing worlds today. Everyone seems to be going their own way. There are no leaders and there is no script. We are all freelancers doing our own thing in a world in which most now get their news through their favorite social media algorithms.
The Great 1910 Fire, which leveled some three million acres of virgin timber in northern Idaho and western Montana, most of it in a wind-driven 48-hour firestorm that claimed the lives of 87 firefighters – most of them skid row bums recruited from the streets of Spokane, Washington.
So, for the past 12 years, representatives of the timber industry, conservation community, U.S. Forest Service, non-profit sector and the state of Montana have been working to get to “yes”.
This must be a bitter pill for Seeley Lake residents who last summer endured weeks of smoke so thick that air quality meters could not accurately measure carcinogenic pollutants generated by the fire. The “new normal” we're told.
Just when I thought I'd said all that need be said for now about the cancerous risks of wildfire smoke, a friend sent me a copy of the “Montana/Idaho Wildfire Carbon Emissions Inventory for 2013-2017."
I've been trying for more than 20 years to interest the nation’s health care industry - including the American Lung Association - in this story. “Too controversial,” I was told, again and again. Such is the murderous influence of the “Don’t worry, it’s natural” crowd.
The Forest Service shares Governor Bullock's concern and his goal. Minus the presence of local, competitive and sustainable larger timber manufacturing infrastructure, the kind of collaborative forest restoration work we all envision is not possible. We are basing this forest’s five-year planning revision on the Governor’s Priority Landscape project on this forest.
We are at a crossroads with forest health, our mills and the future condition of our forests. The aftermath of a years-long mountain pine beetle epidemic, stalled projects on thousands of acres of national forests, and continued threats from wildfires provide a strong basis for increased focus on how we manage forests and how we ensure we have a vibrant wood products industry providing good-paying jobs for Montanans.
f we use insect and disease attacks as indicators of genetic simplicity, and resilience to these pests as indicators of genetic robustness, we can use harvesting to assist natural selection to build a more resilient forest ecosystem with a greater ability to survive climate fluctuations and associated perturbations. This may mean changing certain silvicultural paradigms and not selecting for the fastest growing or tallest trees - but intermediate sized trees that use their energy reserves for defense and water conservation as well as growth.
When cases are litigated misusing the intention of the Equal Access to Justice Act, the losses add up - whether the agency wins, loses, or the case is settled. Collateral damage includes lost local and regional business activity, decline in community health, lost timber sale revenue, foregone and delayed work, and analytical and administrative costs the Forest Service must pay from public funds.
Litigation is not a management strategy. Without injunctive relief, there can be no certainty in our active forestry management plans and the years of hard work our collaborative's have invested in forest restoration planning will also be lost.
Sawmills are vital to forest collaboration and restoration, healthy landscapes, and a productive self- sustaining community.
So much is at stake and so few seem to get it – the “it” here being the fact that Montana's timber industry is teetering on the brink of collapse at the precise same moment when it ought to be laying the cornerstone for its own bright future.
Good morning. I am your second-string keynote speaker. Your first-string speaker, Marc Racicot begged off, perhaps recognizing what a political mine field your conference theme poses. “The Law and Forestry”: oil and water, David and Goliath, night and day, the good the bad and the ugly. You get the picture.