Jim DudleyForest to Frame

Jim Dudley, President
2019 Oregon Logging Conference

Edited from his address to the Oregon Logging Conference 2019.

I feel like I owe everything I have in this world to the timber industry. My grandpa and both my parents worked in the industry. My high school mascot was the Timber Jacks and my college mascot was the Lumber Jacks. From my education, to every car or home I have owned, this business has help me pay for everything. This business has touched every part of my life.

I share this about myself, not because I think I’m unique, but because I think we all share similar backgrounds. Most of us come from rural communities where the timber industry is the life blood of the community. Many of us have witnessed firsthand what the failures of the federal government’s timber management policies have done to the communities we love. During the course of my career, I have seen the listing of the Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet as well as the signing of the Northwest Forest Plan. In Northern California, where I grew up, these decisions led to the loss of over 80 sawmills and plywood plants between 1992 and 2000. Most of these closures were a deathblow to the community they were located in.

The pattern was similar after each mill closure; first the working-age people left with their kids, and then the schools dropped in enrollment or just closed, then the old people left because there were no services left. It has been a slow, painful process to watch. What’s left of the industry now is concentrated around areas with large tracts of private timberland, and the mills that were surrounded by national forests are all gone. The number of acres that burn each year in forest fires far exceed the acres logged.

I truly believe it doesn’t have to be this way. Watching people literally running for their lives trying to escape flames that are burning entire communities can’t help but tug at the heartstrings of even our staunchest critics. If there is anything positive that comes from these tragedies it’s that we are showing the world that a lack of management does have a consequence. Humans have been a part of managing our forests since the beginning of mankind, and we can’t just walk away. I have no illusion of turning back time to the good old days but we can do way better than this.

The good news is that some of the very politicians that voted to put us all out of work are now starting to backpedal when it comes to active management. As an industry, we need to resist pointing the finger and telling them to choke on the smoke. Saying “I told you so,” is not who we are. We have the moral high ground on this issue. We didn’t do anything wrong. I believe we need to embrace our critics’ newfound enlightenment and let them know we are here to help. We all win with more people working in the woods. If we care about our rural communities, we have to have a place for our young people to work.

Some of our elected officials would have us believe Ecotourism is supposed to save us all. Well tourism is not the answer; it is merely a byproduct of having healthy vibrant communities that people want to come visit.

We have a great story to tell, and it is my hope that instead of vilifying us, people will begin to see us as the good guys that we are. We turn air pollution into shelter by growing trees and cutting lumber. What’s more green than that? Our forests do not have to be protected from loggers, they need to be logged to be protected. The wise and sustainable use of our natural resources is what made this the most powerful nation in the world

As loggers, mill owners, and timberland managers we must all stick together and present a united front. We cannot allow politicians and special interest groups to divide and conquer us (cap and trade). If we allow the government to pick the winners, we all lose. Instead, we need to leverage all the positive things we do for the environment and continue to grow, to innovate, and to educate.

AOL has begun an ambitious web-based program called Planning the 2020 Workforce. They are highlighting the issues facing all of us today and bringing decision makers together to plan a path forward for our industry. We hope to re-introduce ourselves, and more importantly, our industry to kids all over the state. It is our hope that a few of them discover a passion for working in our industry. I would encourage each and every one of you to invest some of your time reaching out to the young people in your communities and share your passion for the business.

The problem is too many people have lost track of where their stuff comes from. They think hamburgers come from McDonald’s and 2x4’s come from Home Depot. They have completely lost touch with the outdoors and how things are made. These people are not evil; they just don’t understand how the natural world works. This is what causes the misguided good intentions.

We all need to do our part to connect people to the woods. When you put one of the uninformed on a mountain top, and all they can see is trees for miles, you change their opinion of us forever. The fact is we all do really great things for this state and this country and for the world. We were green before green was cool. It’s been my experience that people who take the time to get to know us and what we do can’t help but fall in love, and that’s why we need to keep telling our story. Thank you.

TimberWest November/December 2013
May/June 2019

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