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Know the West

They're still cutting and running

  Dear HCN,

Kudos to HCN and writer Sherry Devlin for the timely piece on Western timber issues (-Timber companies export logs - and jobs - to Asia') (HCN, 3/21/94). During research in 1988 for my book, Cut and Run: Saying Goodbye to the Last Great Forest in the West, I learned how successful the timber industry had been in diverting attention from the fact that logs cut on industry-owned timberland, and then exported, have a direct bearing on increasing demands for federal timber.

Please allow me to add two points not covered in Ms. Devlin's story. Just a few years ago, in a phone interview with University of Montana economist Charles Keegan, I suggested that huge exports from timber-industry owned forests west of the Cascades must be affecting the demand for even bigger cuts east of the Cascades.

No, Keegan said, the Cascades acted as a formidable barrier separating interior and West Coast timber markets.

Devlin's story successfully nails down the undeniable link between log exports and Western timber markets on both sides of the Cascades.

Next, in a 1990 interview in Tacoma with Ted Nelson, a Weyerhaeuser vice president, this industry spokesman candidly explained how Weyerhaeuser got around federal log export regulations. Nelson told me that while Weyerhaeuser, a big exporter, "can't directly purchase federal stumpage," that didn't stop the company.

Nelson said Weyerhaeuser and other big exporters regularly bought federal timber "indirectly" through a third party.

The timber industry continues to have an amazing public relations record. With rampant forest destruction plainly evident everywhere in the West, you have to wonder when the public as a whole will get the real message.

Grace Herndon

Norwood, Colorado