Loggers and their communities were left out in the cold during the collapse of timber cutting on federal lands in the late 1990s. This is the conclusion of a recent study of the Northwest Economic Initiative, launched in tandem with President Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan in 1994.
produced by a nonprofit California think tank, Forest Community
Research, found that much of the promised $1.2 billion in federal
aid was available only as loans that out-of work loggers and
struggling businesses had little way to pay back. The jumble of
agencies managing the money lacked expertise in worker assistance,
so many dollars never reached those who needed them most. And many
job programs aimed at training ex-loggers to use computers and
restore damaged forests never got beyond the pilot stage.
Part of the problem was that the economic initiative, created in
just six weeks, came too late, according to the report’s lead
author, Jonathan Kusel. Technological advances and other market
forces had already displaced loggers before Clinton’s new
forest protections kicked into gear. “The reality was that
the problem was far more entrenched than anything exclusively
related to the Northwest Forest Plan,” says Kusel.
Another report due this spring in the Journal of Forestry finds
that 60,000 Oregonians worked in the wood-products industry in
1990. By 1998, more than half of them had left the industry, and
almost half of those disappeared from the job rolls altogether
— probably moving out of state, retiring or remaining
President Clinton’s Northwest Economic
Initiative is now largely dissolved; the Bush administration has
included no funding for it in its proposed 2003