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Ironically, after decades of fighting between environmentalists and loggers, the line between the two is fading.
Unemployed loggers are looking for work in conservation and alternative energy. They’re tapping into the growing renewable energy market, stimulus money, and looking for income planting tree farms, collecting forest data, and thinning federal forests, which Obama’s stimulus package plans to pay for.
Reduced demand for timber thanks to a stalled housing market, and restrictions on logging are pushing unemployed loggers and mills running below capacity to think about how to use wood waste, and how to get in on initiatives that will help renew and protect forests. Mills are making pellets for stoves, investing in biomass energy, and loggers are growing forests instead of cutting them down, and harvesting undergrowth to reduce wildfire and disease. For mills and big timber companies, the work may be less profitable than clear-cutting a hillside, but, according to an article in the New York Times, these entrepreneurial initiatives are creating jobs in forest economy driven places, like Oregon and Washington, that have been steadily losing jobs.
One big question: will the Obama administration think long term and fund projects where forest “waste” can be converted into usable products, which could potentially strengthen rural economies and help create a new and sustainable economy poised for growth? Stimulus package allocations are being made now, so loggers, mills and lumber companies may get news sooner rather than later as to where the money lies. What might help: Oregon’s governor, Theodore R. Kulongoski, is on a committee that’s overseeing stimulus spending.