By Jack Petree
The forest products industry has undergone change in recent decades that is likely only a precursor to even more change in years to come. If all sectors of the industry are to survive and thrive in the future, industry participants will have to adjust to, and help shape, the nature of that change. The burgeoning Community Forest movement is one area loggers, contractors, landowners, and others should look at as providing one way to react to the concerns of both the environmental movement and the public regarding the forest, the changing way in which the larger citizenry views the forest products industry, and the need for a steady supply of harvestable timber to support the future industry’s economy.
Community forests are generally publically owned lands placed under the control of a nonprofit, community-based, entity charged with managing those lands for a variety of specific objectives. The objectives are set out in formal agreements prior to the management of the land being entrusted to the controlling entity. Sometimes, privately owned lands are donated or sold to the nonprofit, and sometimes entities like the nation’s tribes establish the forests.
Well Planned Harvest, Many Benefits
Increasingly, ongoing harvest is seen as fitting into the spectrum of uses a community forest is dedicated to. Well planned harvest can increase recreational value, preserve habitat, protect the forest from fire, enhance forest health, help fund maintenance, and generally achieve a range of other goals including employment. Recreation, a primary use of forests today, is increasingly living side by side with harvest.
In Portland, Oregon, an environmentally oriented nonprofit, Sustainable Northwest, bills itself as being at the “… radical middle of community, economy, and ecology.” The group recently worked with the Oregon legislature to fund, among other things, employment opportunities in small sawmills to turn a habitat-destroying tree, western juniper, into lumber.
About two years ago, Sustainable Northwest helped facilitate the formation of the Northwest Community Forest Coalition, a group” . . . focused on supporting the emergence, development, and management of community forests in the Pacific Northwest.” Sustainable Northwest supports the coalition with administration and financial management.
Washington’s Mt. Adams Community Forest is an example of the potential for success community forests hold. Beginning in 2011, lands were accumulated to establish the forest. A portion of their vision statement reads, “The Mt. Adams Community Forest (MACF) is a “working forest” managed in exemplary fashion to provide a sustainable flow of wood products to the local economy, maintaining traditional land uses, providing local employment, and exploring other compatible uses of forest land. The traditional uses include timber management, recreation, education, wildlife management, livestock grazing, aesthetics and research.”
A few miles north of Nelson in British Columbia’s interior, the Harrop-Procter Community Co-operative demonstrates the reality the Mt. Adams forest may someday achieve in showing how successfully a community forest can be managed to provide the forest industry, and other industries, jobs even as it meets stringent objectives for a variety of environmental goals.
The Harrop-Proctor Community Forest came about in the late decades of the last century. Today the forest is world renowned. In those days, Harrop’s watershed was threatened by plans to log nearly the entire shed. After a long, and sometimes painful, political process the Harrop-Procter Community Forest became a reality when BC turned the forest over to the Co-op with a signed agreement regarding management of the forest, an agreement requiring an economic component to that management.
A Healthy Watershed Supports Local Jobs
Today a healthy watershed is managed for a broad variety of attributes, including providing a supply of timber to support the economy of the region. A thin-kerf band sawmill operation, Harrop-Procter Forest Products, is a subsidiary of the Co-op. In supporting 7 to 8 FTE jobs directly, as well as jobs for harvesters, haulers, and others, the company provides the “value-added strategies to expand local employment,” so important to the Harrop-Procter community of 600. Each year about 10,000 cubic meters of logs (about 2,800,000 board feet) are harvested from the 11,300 hectare community forest (roughly 28,000 acres) utilizing carefully planned strategies to minimize disturbance to the land and assure the forest remains fully functional as a watershed. As a measure of sustainability, that works out to one very small tree harvested per year per acre, on average.
About one-quarter of those logs are milled into a broad variety of highly sought after products including both rough sawn and smooth-surfaced lumber, trim, fencing and deck boards, timbers for timber framers and others, siding, flooring, and paneling. The balance of the logs are sold to other area sawmills so the entire region benefits from the forest.
A Future for Healthy Forests
For several decades the forest products industry has watched the land base it relies on for raw product be eroded away. The still fledgling but rapidly growing Community Forest movement shows promise as one way to reverse course and, rather than remove public land from potential harvest, release the restrictions on harvest under carefully controlled harvest plans utilizing harvest as a tool to enhance all the amenities a forest is capable of providing a community. Those seeking a healthy future for the forest products industry should participate in the Community Forest discussion.
Jack Petree is a writer, advertising consultant, and President of Tradeworld Communications.
On the Cover
Photo taken by Lindsay R. Mohlere at the Iron Triangle operation in John Day, Oregon
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Father and son find themselves switching hats between equipment and tasks
Congress heating up forest management and wildfire funding
Riding the Cutting Edge
Iron Triangle Logging, example of leader in innovation and business savvy
From Crisis to Clean Up
Wolfpack Wood Recycling called in to assist when spillway issues occur at Orville Dam
Logging Tire Choice Impacts Bottom Line
Tires impact performance in the forest, but not every setup is ideal for every forest setting
Portable Grinders and Chippers
Community forests shaping the name of change