Paper shines light on forestry in coastal Washington

by Ashley Bach

Sometimes it feels like forestry doesn’t get the media attention it deserves because so much of the work takes place in rural areas where large media outlets don’t exist and often don’t tread. Which is why it’s so gratifying to see the coverage of papers like the Daily Astorian and Chinook Observer, which cover the coastal counties of Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon.

The papers devoted the cover story of this month’s Coast River Business Journal, their sister business paper, to reporting on the state of the area’s forestry industry. Besides fluctuations in timber prices and housing starts, the big takeaway from the story is that everyone from large mills to tree farm operators are at the mercy of regulations.

Even without increases in regulation policy, the increasing number of agencies involved in land regulation put a strain on tree farmers, said Greg Pattillo, owner of Pattillo Tree Farms in Raymond, (Wash.). Roughly one-third of Pattillo’s 700 acres aren’t available for him to use due to regulations, he said.

…He understands the need to protect the environment, Pattillo said, but feels that, at times, regulations have been allowed to grow too far and create undue strain on foresters looking to use their land.

(It should be noted that the Pattillos won this year’s Washington Tree Farmer of the Year award.)

The Coast River Business Journal accompanied its news report with an editorial in which the paper bemoans the average person’s lack of personal experience with the industry.

Our cover story this month is the result of tours of forests and farms conducted last month in Clatsop and Pacific counties. The business of growing and harvesting products from the land is something our grandparents understood from first-hand experience. But for many or most citizens today, the forest is considered a scenic backdrop rather than a vital economic asset. This lack of personal connection often includes key decision-makers, whose regulatory decisions can have devastating impacts on forestry and the local families who rely on it.

No other citizens are called upon to do more for the our region’s environmental health than those who own forests. This is especially true of the owners of comparatively small wooded acreages. As our story describes, forest owners absorb much of the expense for stream buffer zones designed to aid salmon recovery and enhance overall environmental health. In some cases, these buffer zones amount to a large fraction of a family’s land holdings.

The more the average person understands how forestry is conducted today, the more likely they are make sure forestry professionals are treated fairly. It’s all the more reason to ensure that real, human stories about the industry continue to be told. 

From the editorial:

Even as we advocate for salmon, other species and healthy natural surroundings, we must seek equitable treatment for our neighbors who live and work in the forest.

[This post originally appeared on the Washington Forest Protection Association website.]