By Jan Jackson –
I was surprised to read that Oregon’s timber industry has been engaged in forest conservation since before 1941. It is why we are still alive and green.
When my grandparents moved to Rainier Oregon in 1915, they weren’t alone in thinking that the forests would be here forever. They drove their wagon over puncheon roads (also called corduroy roads) made of rough-hewn logs that were cut in half vertically and placed flat side down to hold them in place. The logs kept those who drove on them from getting mired in the mud.
My grandfather cut timber from his place to build their first house. Later, he worked in the woods for the big timber companies that came in and cashed in on the easy pickings with no concern for the mess they left behind. He told of cutting trees so large that he and my young-at-the-time father could only manage to cut two a day – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. What I didn’t know until now was that a short 26 years later The Forest Conservation Act of 1941 would require reforestation and by 1971, the Oregon State Legislature would enact the Oregon Forest Practice Act (effective 1972).
Oregon’s forest management history is recounted in a paper called, “The Oregon Forest Practices Act: 1972 – 1994,” by John J. Garland, professor and Timber Harvesting Extension Specialist, Oregon State University. He summarized it this way:
“The Oregon Forest Practice Act of 1971 (effective 1972) had its origins in progressive forestry legislation in Oregon dating back before 1941. The Forest Conservation Act of 1941 was enacted to require reforestation of logged lands through a variety of options with fees collected from those who did not follow the law to cover state expenses of reforestation. In response to social activism and concerns of publics about impacts of forest practices beyond reforestation, leaders of the forestry sector (private and public) began to develop the nation’s first comprehensive forest practices act in the late 1960’s. The Oregon Forest Practices Act of 1971 covered most forest operations and provided protection for soil, air, water, fish, and wildlife as well as forest resources.”
So, as you journey down Oregon’s highways and byways, enjoy the diverse growing stages of our timber. Many mistakenly think forests were only made for hiking and indeed, many Oregon forests are saved just for that. However, in addition to our protected old growth areas, we have areas that are managed in perpetuity. They provide housing, income and taxes that support the people who live here. Today, Oregon’s form of management also supports fish and wildlife and we are proud of that.
Forest management began in Oregon long before the spotted owl became an issue (and the spotted owl problem didn’t even turn out to be timber related). I was surprised however, that it started in 1941. Maybe you are surprised as well.
Cover photo by Morris Pike