The stress was very heavy

  • Rose Comstock, president of California Women in Timber

    Ed Marston
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Rose Comstock is president of California Women in Timber. She also manages Clover Logging, which has shrunk from about 60 employees to two. The Barkley sale she refers to was a salvage-logging-rider sale that the timber firms on the QLG refused to bid on and then went to Washington, D.C., to kill. The bulletin board behind Comstock's desk displays every right-wing bumper sticker and poster ever made.

Rose Comstock: "For the first two years, sitting at the same table with the environmentalists was unacceptable to some people in my local chapter (of California Women in Timber). I understood their attitude, but if you want to make a difference, you have to be at the table. But many times I had doubts if I would continue; the stress was very heavy.

"It was worst when the Forest Service put up the Barkley fire salvage sale. As far as I was concerned, that sale was legal. In my eyes, leaving trees after a burn is as bad as a clear-cut is to others. Our people were struggling to stay working. Clover Logging was in tough times. The sale would have kept 30 people in the woods, and I know those people.

"But that land was off-limits to logging on the QLG map we'd agreed to, and ultimately I voted to oppose the sale. The Quincy Library Group members assured me they would work with the Forest Service to find an additional sale to make up for it.

"I had to trust them. Plus, Louis Blumberg (of The Wilderness Society) had said that if the sale went through, they would shut down the entire Sierra Nevada. Was it worth that?

"I was torn between loyalty to local logging crews and the statewide position. But I feel good about it now. That was the only way we could have gotten to where we are now. In the future, we're going to harvest differently and that's OK. We've always had to adapt. As long as we can still work in the woods.

"We're still in tough times. On Oct. 17, 1996, Clover Logging went on the auction block. We went out of business. We'd had 60 employees and 50 trucks and were working five sides (timber sales) at a time. Now I have me and a low-bed driver. My boss hopes we can come back, if the timber supply is there.

"I'd like to see Louis Blumberg go out and purchase a feller-buncher and make the payments and pay the taxes and then come up with a plan that would put the forest back to a healthy state and employ people at the same time."