As third generation Oregonians and a long-time timber family, we three sisters feel a deep sympathy as well as an intense frustration at the announcement of Rough & Ready's closure in Cave Junction.
This never should have happened. It didn't need to. And contrary to what some in Oregon's urban areas may think, Oregon's forests will be no better off as a result of this closure.
Our great state holds the most prolific forests in the country; some 30 million acres of forests carpet Oregon. These are predominantly second-growth trees. Over 11 million acres, including 4.5 million acres of old growth, are already in untouchable reserves and set-asides.
Yet the radical activists' propaganda - too long unchallenged - has finally taken the ultimate toll: Oregon is broke. And good businesses and people are being unnecessarily penalized. In the case of Rough & Ready, 85 families have been thrown into desperation, forced to go on government aid to survive. They were good at their jobs, and their jobs were good for Oregon.
Their suffering - and Oregon's loss - is due solely to fringe elitists' legal maneuvering over the past 20 years, which have virtually halted all harvesting of state and federal timber. Rough & Ready is not the first canary in the mine to die. And if we don't come together for sensible, responsible use of our public forests, it won't be the last.
Rough & Ready's closure is an unjustified travesty, devastating on so many levels - not only to hard-working families and a socially responsible way of life - but to the health of the forests themselves.Oregonians must reclaim the use of this vast, renewable resource. Keeping our public lands locked up is a shameful waste of our state's greatest bounty.
We were raised to be responsible and industrious by parents who believed in self-sufficiency and an honest day's work. Like many Oregonians of our generation, we were taught to take great pride in working with nature. We grew gardens, canned, hunted, fished, and recreated in the outdoors.
Traditionally, Oregon has been all about providing needed goods to our society, building strong communities, and preserving the livability of our state.
However, in recent years, much of that practicality and good common sense has been trampled by those who are least connected to the land. They have loudly promoted the fallacy that old growth timber is part of our industry. Nothing could be further from the truth. Old growth by definition is 250 years and older. In the case of Seneca, our milling equipment won't even handle logs that massive. Seneca's average tree harvested is second growth - 40 to 60 years old.
At Seneca, as with all private timber holders, we've been practicing sustainable yield forest management for more than 20 years, which means that more trees are always growing than are being harvested. In fact, we plant two to six trees for every one that we harvest. As a result, Seneca's private timberlands have 80 percent more timber than when we bought them.
If public timber lands were managed as well as private lands, all of Oregon's forests would continue into perpetuity as the most beautiful, productive forests in the world, full of clear running streams and wildlife. Sustainable yield management allows for forests with many levels of growth, offering healthier, younger trees to grab carbon and produce clean air for us to breathe. They are more resistant to fire, provide good jobs, and offer world class recreation.
In contrast, federal and state forests - unmanaged due to the hands-off edicts of radical activists - are riddled with bug kill and fodder for fire. Retired forest service managers tell us candidly that Oregon's public forests are a tinder box, and could explode into the most violent and destructive fires this state has ever seen.
Continuing to lock up our public forest lands is absurd!
Our hearts go out to Rough & Ready's co-owners Jennifer Phillippi and Link Krauss, and especially their many unnecessarily unemployed workers, as well as the community of Cave Junction.
As women with an abiding love for our forests and a deep respect for nature, every mill closure is a blow to us. Here at Seneca, we vow to fight for our state, and the right of Oregonians to utilize our state's wealth and renewable resources to create prosperity and products integral to our lives.
We call on all Oregonians - especially those in urban settings who may think their values are different from "timber people" - to take a closer look at us and what we're doing. We invite you to join us as true keepers of the Oregon spirit and our state's livability for this generation and those to come.
Becky, Kathy, and Jody Jones represent the Seneca Family of Companies in Eugene: Seneca Sawmill, Seneca Jones Timber Co., Seneca Noti and Seneca Sustainable Energy.
Photo: Tim Lovitt, a seasonal forester, stands next to the base of a 240-foot ponderosa pine in Oregon State. Courtesy of USFS.