Timber more than any other single word best sums up Douglas County, after all, the very name of the county Douglas bears the same name as the dominant species of timber in the county, Douglas Fir. There are a lot of published statistics out there which I could draw upon to make the point, but because my audience today is primarily locally grown stock, I’ll assume that you’ve looked out your window from time to time and observed our great swaths of forests in all of their majesty. However, let us ask the question from a different perspective.
How is it that someone would come to believe that the timber of the county should not be treated as a resource and harvested for its wood fiber? It’s an interesting subject, and one worth pausing to consider.
I’ve always found it fascinating how it is that two people possessing the exact same knowledge and having more or less the same values can disagree so vehemently with one another on an issue. And I think that in the case of timber, it really isn’t so much about the resource itself, for which the two sides of the issue have fought each other so bitterly for the past several decades, but rather, it is due to a deeper philosophical difference on how the future should be forged. And timber fits within that overarching narrative, and has been swept up in the frenzy to realize that particular vision.
It’s a similar problem with which anyone who practices an ideology naturally runs into; Once you’ve committed to a path and accepted such and such to be true, then you are prone to continue building on those ‘truths’ until well, your timbered scaffolding has exceeded its weight bearing characteristics, and it all implodes, crashing down around you. Philosophers are particularly susceptible to this kind of intellectual folly, and since the time of Plato have repeatedly set off to take some particularly system of thought to its logical conclusion. All well and good, mind you, if you’ve stumbled upon perfection from the get go, but short of that, a healthy dose of pragmatism is nearly always necessary to avoid disaster.
And here is our problem. Liberal thinkers like Andy Kerr who recently drew a disparaging picture of the timber industry have, rightly or wrongly, concluded that the best future for mankind is one which does not include economies which are dependent upon the harvesting of natural resources. Timber, and the economy of Douglas County and other timber counties is really just an unfortunate casualty standing in the way of making progress toward that eventual goal. What we should ask ourselves is twofold. First, is he right to begin with, and second, how does our own self-interest play into our decision making.
For the sake of argument, let us assume that Andy Kerr is correct. He’s a visionary and in the decades to come the progressive movement’s anti-resource based economic policies will be seen to be right, just, and good. Further, for the sake of argument, let us consider our own self-interest in view of this public policy of the greater good which Kerr is espousing.
Let us ask this question. Is it good for the people living in Douglas County to shift away from a timber based economy and towards some other model, or, are we simply being asked to take one for-the-team, to sacrifice our well-being for the betterment of others? Having studied the issue for some time, and having come firmly to the conclusion that we require a much more diversified economy than we have, I can say with little hesitation that it makes little sense for anyone living in Douglas County or any other timber county to support a reduction in timber receipts in anyway.
We require a more diversified economy to protect us from being dependent on a single source of revenue and to buffer our local job market from the natural ups and downs of the housing market. Not though, as Kerr and others are suggesting, in lieu of a growing, healthy, and vibrant timber industry.
Anyone living in Douglas County or any timber county has a very real self-interest in protecting our most lucrative revenue stream. We’ve all watched and observed the death toll mount as our local economies have crumbled over the past three decades. From our higher than average teen suicide rates and lack of adequate mental health programs, to our shorter life expectancy and lower quality of life issues affecting our elderly, our citizens have paid with their lives due to the loss of timber revenue. The bullet which the people of timber counties have been asked to bite can, and frankly should be measured in lives lost. Like a Vietnam War era news cast, local media outlets should lead with a daily body count.
So, does Andy Kerr’s guest columns have a place among us? Do we need and are we looking for fair and balanced reporting? Or do we need to close ranks and place our own self-interest above that of what someone else, somewhere else may need?
The planet may need saving, but what’s the point if we can’t save our own first. Maybe we, as in we the people of Earth, need to move away from resource based economies, but not ‘we’ here in wee-little Douglas County. We need to look after our own. We need to be of one voice calling for the restoration of timber harvesting to legally mandated sustainable levels.
The only thing preventing us from restoring those receipts is achieving victory between what is in our self-interest and what may or may not be in someone else’s self-interest. Progressives are far more susceptible in erring in the use of deductive logic to realize greater truths than are Conservatives. Conservatism by its very nature is resistant to change, and is therefore less likely to jump to conclusions based upon deductions not yet proven to withstand the test of time. Timber receipts have historically been good for the people of Douglas County. We have no reason to believe that if restored, timber receipts wouldn’t continue to be good for Douglas County.
Our goal ought not be to merely get back to where we were thirty years ago, but to prosper even more so, and timber receipts cannot simply be left on the table because we’ve been asked to sacrifice for what some perceive as the greater good. Our future rests upon our ability to speak as one people, and our willingness to fight alongside one another to achieve what is in the interest of our teens and our elderly. This is why local liberals and progressives should join the fight to restore our timber receipts to the 500 million board feet annual levels which would restore funding to our impoverished local governments. One people, one voice, one goal, equals one victoriously prosperous future for all – as in our all, not their all.