Guest Commentary: Questions for OSU after 50 Years of Watching area Forests

As a long time – over 50 years now – forest researcher, activist, practitioner and miller of lumber, I want to support Doug Pollock’s recent guest viewpoint. It ran June 17, 2024 

I support his many criticisms of OSU’s extremely flawed planning process and forestry curriculum. It’s clear OSU’s agenda is perpetuating the Industrial forestry model while they conveniently ignore climate change, increasing extreme wildfires, totally busted rural forested communities where jobs have disappeared as a function of the short boom followed by the protracted bust, every time – no exceptions.  

How can OSU charge students $130,000 for an education that no longer supports future rural jobs? Where is integrity, reality or common sense? 

As one who has lived in the McKenzie Valley for 50 years now, I have watched as the significant over harvesting changed in the 1990’s when endangered species (Marbled Murrellet and Spotted Owls in particular) caused a very rapid decline in harvest. To put it into perspective, the Willamette National Forest has 115 years of history (It was the Cascade-Santiam reserve until 1934).  

Between 1950 and 1990 over 25.5 billion board feet of timber was cut. The other 75 years cut about 5 billion. 

Before 1990, the McKenzie school district had 800 to 1000 or more students. Today there are less than 180 in thirteen grades. No jobs – no young families. This is the rule, not the exception. When I asked Mary Mitsos, past director of the National Forest Foundation, if she could name ONE thriving rural forested community anywhere, she was honest and said – no. 

OSU has been the primary researcher at the H. J. Andrews experimental forest, the oldest and largest Forest Service research site. But, when I have participated in their workshops and open houses attempting to ask socially relevant questions, they have been mostly ignored, marginalized and forgotten. OSU’s track record at the Andrews should give anyone pause as to why they were chosen to lead research at the Elliot state forest or the McDonald-Dunn research forest. Particularly when they refuse to learn from our very recent past.    

Given the lessons of the past which confirm in spades that Industrial forestry is NOT sustainable – environmentally, economically or socially, or within the community – why doesn’t OSU learn and adopt a very different approach that includes local rural jobs and not just profits for the timber barons?   

Don’t we owe our children and grandchildren an education that is relevant for their lifetimes? Clearly OSU hasn’t gotten that message. It’s time they do. 

Some of my questions 

I’m asking the following questions to Oregon State University regarding their specific intentions, objectives and rational for the McDonald-Dunn research forest.  

  1. What are the specifics on the Woodpecker harvest? Total board feet, age class, species and if they are diseased, have insect damage, or are danger trees? 
  1. Is this considered a ‘selective’ harvest? How much do they propose to cut relative to what’s there? How are they determining which trees to cut? What is their criteria? 
  1. How much of the canopy will be left after harvest? 
  1. Are there any alternative methods (portable, on sight milling etc. ) proposed? If so, what are the specifics. If not, why not?  
  1. What specifically are the so called educational objectives? How do they differ from past objectives and harvests? What are the key lessons learned regarding past harvests? 
  1. What percentage of the trees cut become products? What percent becomes ‘waste’? How is the slash and debris handled/treated? 
  1. How many jobs per 1000 board feet of timber are created and sustained, and for how long? How much is spent on wages and how much on technology and equipment?

I believe these questions are all socially relevant. I hope OSU will give them their due. 

Craig Patterson is a longtime forest activist. His pieces have been published in the Oregonian, Register-Guard and Eugene Weekly. This guest commentary may or may not reflect the views of The Corvallis Advocate, or its management, staff, supporters and advertisers.  

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