Surrounded by solutions: The forest
Exasperated newcomers who have just moved into dream homes in rural Nevada County call me every year at this time. The calls go something like this:Theres logging trucks going down my road!Yes maam. That happens here, I reply.You dont understand. I worked my entire life to buy this place, and now theres loud logging trucks roaring down my road, raising dust and scaring my kittens! No one told us they would be cutting trees when we bought here. Cant you do something? This is horrible!I break the news to them, as kindly as possible, that logging has been known to happen in these woods and was once a staple of the Sierra economy. I also tell them logging jobs on private property are still somewhat common here, and that companies often start cutting when the price for lumber goes up.Im surprised at how many of the callers assume logging is illegal or morally wrong. They do not equate timber harvesting with their new decks, hardwood floors and the paper in the phone book they used to find my number. What they also dont know is that logging was once an accepted profession that has been virtually wiped out by people who moved here and others who never understood it as something that needed to be changed, not destroyed.At the same time, it must be said the timber industry set itself up for the fall and officials did not move quickly enough when things started going bad. Anyone who has seen a large clear-cut has trouble understand what good that could possibly do to the land compared to selective cutting, which can thin a forest and make it healthier.The loggers also didnt understand that people were bringing in new money and ideas to a region on the cusp of change, and shouldnt have simply dismissed them as dope-smoking hippies escaping the city.Many logging firms also didnt hire the right lawyers when appeals against their timber plans started flowing like the Yuba River in April. And they werent fast enough to change the federal timber sales appeal process, which allowed anybody with a pen and paper to suspend a sale with no scientific basis at all.It wasnt just logging that was changed in the Sierra from the 1970s to the 1990s. A regional culture was wiped out, and now were feeling the effects.Kids who used to work in the woods and mills to continue family legacies and stay here no longer can do so. Only large timber firms and those who contract with them can make it these days because of the line drawn where everyone was supposed to pick a pro- or anti-logging side. I find the entire scenario an unmitigated disaster involving a renewable resource that could have been used better if only the shouting had stopped. It was a standoff between dunderheads on both sides more stubborn than the Germans I grew up with in the Midwest. Simultaneously, I also see it as a lesson that could brighten our future.Wood is still here in abundance, if you havent noticed, and can be harvested responsibly for the good of all.This summers fires, the ongoing energy crisis and the escalating costs of construction materials have turned long-term eyes toward the woods again.People with vision can see the Sierras ever-growing forests having vast potential to produce biomass which can be burned to create energy, saw logs cut for special wood products and yes, even made into lumber for those decks that keep getting built out there.Our kids arent going to stay for service-industry jobs. They need something lucrative enough to raise our grandkids. As I look around at Nevada Countys forests, it seems to me were surrounded by the solution.Dave Moller is a senior staff writer at The Union, the Sierra Suns sister newspaper in western Nevada County.
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