If a tree falls in the forest, who talks about it?

 

As a fourth-generation Oregonian whose family has only minimally depended on the forest-products industry, I often find myself drifting far from zero-cut environmentalists on the one hand and industry cheerleaders on the other ("A New Forest Paradigm," HCN, 4/29/13). It's all too obvious to me how the industry and its dependent towns got into the current mess, and their refusal to accept their own part in creating it is their least attractive aspect. What struck me about the article, though, was something I've noticed for decades: Whenever the news media finds a person willing to go on record blaming everything on environmentalists, it's always someone once removed from the action: a shopkeeper, a truck driver, a local politician. In other words, it's always people who have much at risk in a situation they aren't directly contributing to. Of course, they don't want to blame their friends and neighbors.

We rarely hear from the people who have actually been doing the grunt work in the woods. Maybe they don't want to talk to journalists, or maybe journalists don't have the gumption to seek them out in their normal hangouts. Or maybe they just have better things to do than provide catchy sound bites. But I'd like to think the reason is more basic. I'd like to think that the folks actually doing the work, in watershed after watershed over the years, have a sense of their own contribution to the situation, and while properly unashamed of doing an honest day's work for an honest wage, are adapting as well as they can to the new paradigm with as much optimism as they can manage under the circumstances. Their neighbors might benefit from their example.

Jeff Winslow
Portland, Oregon