Collaborate: A New Era

Log Deck from Forest Restoration

I read and hear people talking about how the environmentalists are to blame for all our forest health woes.  I also hear about the same on the other side of the coin saying that over-harvesting and past logging is the reason our forests are in the shape they are in.  Here’s my take:


Besides making you feel better about your position, what good are you doing?  We need change, not blame.  The fact is there are members of the forest industry and conservation groups working tirelessly to collaboratively address the issues facing our forests.

Collaboration is Working

Collaboration leads to healthy forest solutions

We need to further support efforts of collaborative groups.  The great work needs to be shared so people understand that the days of the “Timber Wars” are over.  Sure, I understand that some environmentalists still want the forest left off limits, public land, in particular.  Let me tell you, that is the minority.  There are also sawmill owners and timberland managers that want nothing to do with collaboration or talking with the “enemy.”  Those people and organizations have become and are becoming the exception.  It’s because of this we must focus on the good work of groups in the West. They have gone past the noise to a better way of solving our forest management issues.

On the Colville National Forest, we have over 3 dozen successfully collaborated projects.  They are growing in size and agreement as we learn from each one.  We are now focused on landscape-level impacts rather than smaller projects.  We are trying and succeeding at restoring a higher percentage of the forest within each project area.  The A to Z project is a national example of that success, but the truth is, it’s just another step in the process.  We still aren’t seeing enough of that land being thinned and restored.  There is no shortcut to all of this.  We must do the work.  Go to the meetings.  Have the discussions.  Create common ground and move the needle forward.

We All Benefit

Talk about future forests
We need to create a vision of healthy forests, then execute.

When these projects are completed everyone wins.  Our forests get the fuels reduced which saves them from catastrophic, stand replacement wildfire.  This allows them to keep producing oxygen and creating healthy, beautiful forests for generations to come.  Wildlife habitat is saved or enhanced.  Recreational opportunities are restored instead of destroyed.  Rural economic engines are fueled with the by-product of restoring or public forests which does more for the socio-economic fabric of these communities than most people will ever know.  In the near future, we will be turning these forest restoration by-products into mass timber, specifically CLT, which will benefit urban communities with sustainable, eco-friendly buildings.

The fault of how we got the forest in this mess is irrelevant.  The past doesn’t exist today.  We can only take actions today that will influence a brighter future.  Understanding history is one thing, making excuses and blaming others is a copout.  Be part of the solution, not the ineffective noise.

4 thoughts on “Collaborate: A New Era”

  1. Amen! Looking at who to blame never solves the problem. We need to start with defining the problem statement, then move forward.

  2. Russ,
    Thanks for the apt assessment of collaboration. Here in SW Idaho, much effort was expended by the Boise Forest Coalition to craft a reasonable salvage effort on the remains of 2016’s Pioneer Fire. We’ll know soon enough whether participation, compromise and consensus prevails over special interests as an injunction has been filed – as, unfortunately, was expected.

    My worry is this -assuming collaboration get’s federal forests moving toward a state of “resilience”, what will be next? It sounds to me like resilience is being touted as a condition where forests are able to respond to climate change and disasters without commercial intervention. In my mind, this returns the timber industry to the “gay 90’s” – on the outside, looking in. At some point in this transformation, I believe rural communities and the timber economy need to be re-integrated as part of the federal forest’s greater ecosystem. Understandably, this new timber community wouldn’t resemble it’s predecessors – and won’t take up much space in the “big picture”. That’s alright by me. On the other hand, continually allowing the topic of timber economics to be suppressed to the margins, makes us complicit in our own long-term irrelevancy.

    I’m not pointing fingers at anyone in particular – just leery of the direction all this is taking us.

    1. Eric, your concerns are real. I think we have good explanations and plans to make these efforts permanent and long term. I’d be happy to discuss this with you and your team more in depth. I’d also suggest that we interact with Sustainable Northwest to help provide some context and resources.


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