Logging Community Turns Over a New Leaf

An advertisement for the Oregon Logging Conference’s outdoor display. Papé is a company that employs Oregon loggers. Photo by Griffin Schumock.

Camp 18 Logging Museum sits 45 minutes west of Eugene. For over a decade, dedicated volunteers and a Board of Directors have continued to educate the public about the industry that funded the creation of the state of Oregon.

Logging existed as a decently sized industry until the need for lumber spiked during World War II. The state increased timber production from 5.2 billion feet of boards in 1940 to 9.1 billion feet in 1955.

These glory days were stunted when the spotted owl was added to the Endangered Species Act. A 1988 issue of the New York Times quotes the then Chief of the Forest Service, F. Dale Robertson, saying, “This has been an extremely difficult decision to make, but I believe it strikes a reasonable balance between the two conflicting goals of sustaining spotted owl populations and providing timber supplies that are vital to the economies of Oregon and Washington.’’ This led to 3,300 workers being laid off. This, along with global lumber competitors, hit the Oregon economy with a devastating strike. Lumber workers were seen as environmental antagonists, which demonized them, leading to a poor worker retention rate.

In the technological age, things are getting worse for the logging community. Recently, lumber work accrued a bad reputation for its environmental impact. A general belief amongst the younger generation is that joining the forestry industry may do direct harm, either to the environment or to their physical well being. Young people have grown up with a negative image of logging. Earth Liberation Front is a radical group, founded and based in the Pacific Northwest, and made up solely of young adults, no older than 35. The group has gone as far as to destroy property belonging to major logging companies. This is not the only problem plaguing the community. Technology has created millions of new jobs that are drawing young adults away from logging families,  away from their family businesses. Between expanding alternative job opportunities and the bad environmental reputation, there are declining numbers of youth joining the forestry industry. In Oregon the community is beginning to take steps to save their industry annihilation.

Many efforts are being made to get young people excited about forestry. Camp 18 hosts a logging exhibition every Mothers Day weekend. High school teams compete in events such as tree climbing and hatchet throwing. Teams come from all over the region, with several Canadian teams competing as well. A donor has just enabled them to begin a multi-million dollar remodel, which will bring Camp 18 and the logging industry well into the 21st century.
Forestry clubs have formed through 4-H and Oregon State University. Starting as small groups of high schoolers, they have evolved into a nationwide community. OSU’s Forestry Club webpage says in their mission statement, “We are a recognized student organization in the College of Forestry for those who dare to experience what the outdoors have to offer. By pooling together the resources and abilities within the club, and from our advisors, we are able to create the opportunity to experience nature’s adventurous edge, one step further.”

At the center of all these endeavors is the Oregon Logging Conference. Rick Kriege, the OLC President, stated in his welcome that the year’s theme is “80 Years Evergreen and Growing,” and growth seems central to their purpose. In his opening statement, the first event he spoke of was their Future Forestry Workers Career Day. He said “The Oregon Logging Conference, in conjunction with Oregon Women in Timber, will host more than 500 high school students, teachers, and career counselors.” The event helps educate a young community about the opportunities in the forest industry. As part of these events, there are the several information booths. The booths cover everything tree related, from lumber insurance to wood art.

William Etter was a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency. He retired and now works in logging. He spoke about the extreme level of caution that must be used because of the environmental regulation. He also mentions that he and his coworkers do not mind the extra work, as they want to respect the environment. Etter worked as a substitute teacher in the Scappoose area for several years which helped prepare him for educating youth on their opportunities in the logging industry at the recent Logging Conference.

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