Not all forest workers wield axes and chainsaws. In the oral history compilation Voices from the Woods: Lives and Experiences of Non-timber Forest Workers, 32 mushroom harvesters, tree planters, medicinal herb gatherers, and wild huckleberry harvesters articulate their lives and work in the forests of the Pacific Northwest (HCN, 2/15/99: An entrepreneurial spirit).
Antonio Perez describes the formation of a grassroots Hispanic tree-planting cooperative in the Cascades, Sherlette Colegrove talks of passing down knowledge of medicinal plants on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation to her son, and 'Nouay S. tells of his escape from Laos and his work collecting mushrooms and beargrass near Crescent Lake, Ore.
The project was conducted by southern Oregon's Jefferson Center for Education and Research, which works "kitchen table to kitchen table" with low-income, often migrant, forest workers and their rural communities to address labor rights, forest management, and immigration issues.
"Most people are unaware of these sets of issues and how pivotal they are," says project editor Beverly Brown. "This is an invisible workforce." The Center wants forestry professionals and policy makers to acknowledge and understand this multicultural, multilingual constituency.
The project is already proving its worth. Brown says forest workers whose first languages may be Spanish, Hmong, or Lao are using the booklet to bridge language divides and initiate dialogues within their communities.
Order copies for $5 (free to low-income groups) through the Jefferson Center at 541/955-9705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The publication is available in both English and Spanish.