The Public Needs to Know How Anti-Forestry Policies Affect Them

By Nick Smith

In the September/October 2019 issue of TimberWest, guest columnist Jack Petree made a strong case for why all forest professionals should be engaged in the conversation about carbon emissions. As we reach a new year, there will be plenty of opportunities in 2020 to get involved in the carbon discussion and many other issues that affect you and our industry. We have great stories to tell. If you don’t tell your story, who will?

Early in the year, several state legislatures across the West are scheduled to meet. Later in the year, candidates at all levels of government will be seeking your vote. Don’t miss an opportunity to make your voice heard. Elected officials in Salem, Olympia, Boise, Sacramento, and other capital cities are making decisions that will shape the industry for years to come.

In Oregon, the governor and legislative leadership have announced their commitment to pass a so-called “cap-and-trade” bill to impose arbitrary limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The bill could affect the forest industry in several ways if it is approved during the session in February. For example, small logging and log hauling businesses could face dramatically higher fuel costs. “Carbon offsets” in the bill could also discourage timber harvesting, particularly on large private timberlands.

In my previous TimberWest column (July/August 2019), I wrote about the rise of the #TimberUnity movement that has given a strong voice to workers in the forest products industry. If you are concerned about how cap-and-trade legislation would affect you, your participation in this movement will be needed more than ever.

#TimberUnity organizers will be holding their next “Let’s Roll” convoy at the State Capitol in Salem on Thursday, February 6. Even if you’re not a forester, logger, rancher, trucker, miner, fisher, or farmer, this is an opportunity to stand up and help influence the process. Be sure to mark your calendar and visit #TimberUnity on Facebook or timberunity.com for more information.

One of the great things about #TimberUnity in 2019 is that it brought thousands of people to the State Capitol who had never been there before, had never testified to a committee, nor had ever interacted with an elected official. Many people who were once intimidated by the process are now empowered to tell their stories and take our industry’s positive messages directly to the decision makers. Over the past year, #TimberUnity leaders have walked the halls of the White House and have held personal meetings with the governor. If they can do it, you can too.

Anyone can communicate effectively with elected officials, political candidates, and the public when they are prepared and have a good story to tell. The majority of the public is completely disconnected from natural resources, so it is especially important for us to describe how forestry and wood products are good for people, our forests, wildlife, and the planet. As someone once said, “People don’t care how much you know, they want to know how much you care.”

When it comes to misguided climate change proposals, it is easy to describe how harmful policies would affect us, our jobs, and our communities. But when it comes to communicating with politicians and the public, it is more important to describe how harmful policies would affect them. Our society would greatly suffer without forestry and logging, and the public needs to know.

As men and women in the forest products industry, we work to keep “forests as forests” through active management and sustainable timber harvests, using the best science, modern technology, and forest practices in the entire world. We produce locally sourced fiber to produce beautiful, strong, and sustainable building materials and products people use every day. We utilize this renewable resource to protect our communities from wildfires, keep our forests healthy, enhance wildlife habitat, and provide recreational opportunities for everyone.

Policies that harm our industry also harm the public. Without a robust industry, there is no one to keep forests as forests, and no one to maximize the potential of our forests to sequester carbon. As California endures yet another devastating wildfire season, much of their forestlands are turning into carbon sources and undermining the ambitious climate goals that have been established. California’s elected officials are just beginning to learn the consequences of policies that have restricted forest management and fuels reduction. We need to ensure policymakers in other states learn this lesson as well.

As you talk to elected officials and political candidates in the coming year, don’t forget to remind them of the benefits we provide by working in the woods and in the mills. Remind them of the carbon benefits of wood products and the need for forest management to support our environment and economy. Most importantly, show up. I hope to see you February 6, 2020.

Nick Smith is the Executive and Pacific Northwest Director of Healthy Forests Healthy Communities

www. healthyforests.org.

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The Public Need to Know How Anti-Forestry Policies Affect Them


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