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October 2005

Last Chance Adventure: Oregon’s Umpqua National Forest

Can you see the forest through the trees? Join a bittersweet trek through an old-growth wilderness in its final days.

“We can’t continue to just say ‘not in my backyard,'” says West. “If we are not going to manage our forests, where will we get the wood? As a result of the way the environmental community continues to play the game, 40 percent of our domestic consumption of wood products is coming from foreign soils. Is that good environmental responsibility?”

The implication in West’s statement is that, as consumers, we are all part of the problem. I, for one, certainly am. I live in a wood-frame house, and I recently bought enough western red cedar to build a backyard shed. Each year I consume mounds of newspapers, magazines, firewood, Post-it Notes, and toothpicks. As long as I keep buying wood products, someone is going to keep chopping trees down.

But within the polarities of the debate about timber management there’s plenty of middle ground. For instance, I have yet to find a conservationist who wants to ban logging outright. And I’ve spoken to only one logging advocate who believes every tree should be fair prey for his chain saw.

Jack E. Williams is a former Siskiyou National Forest supervisor who is now a senior scientist with Trout Unlimited. “When I was a forest supervisor,” Williams says, “I signed quite a few timber sales that I thought were very good. Those are tree harvests that weren’t harvesting really large trees or going into roadless areas. Some things they’re doing now seem almost designed to generate controversy.”

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