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FAR - Introduction

Oregonians share a bond of pride and respect for this beautiful place in which we live, and for the quality of life that we have created.

We are proud of our natural landmarks such as Mt. Hood, Crater Lake and the coast. Our historical roots, from prehistoric Native American cultures to the Oregon Trail, are a source of great pride. We prosper in some of the most livable communities in the nation like Portland, Eugene, Ashland, Baker City and Lakeview. And while we have a lot in common, we have our differences, too.
Take forestry for example. Surveys consistently show that people want a full array of goods, values and services from our forests. But a person’s needs and wants from a forest largely depend upon their proximity, physical relationship and economic dependency. For years the “community of place” – towns like John Day, Klamath Falls and Mill City that exist because of the forest and are dependent upon the traditional economic benefits it provides in the way of timber products – was often at odds with the “community of interest.” The community of interest is much larger yet physically less connected to the forest than the community of place. Oregon’s community of interest is its citizens, many of whom live in the Willamette Valley’s three urban centers. They have a strong sense of what a forest should be and promote their visions through the political and policymaking processes.
Historically, these two communities have viewed each other with caution and suspicion. The short-term needs of the community of place have often been at odds with the community of interest’s long-term environmental concerns. For much of the 20th century, these two communities have been divided over how Oregon’s forests should be managed. Now, as we look to sustaining our quality of life in the next century, it is apparent that what unites us about our forests is more important than what divides us.

Our children are depending on us to leave them with a world that provides everything they need in which to live healthy, productive lives. As we look at ways of doing that, we begin to embrace the emerging philosophy of sustainable forestry. It is a concept that will allow us to meet our current needs for forest-related economic, environmental and social demands without compromising the abilities of future generations to meet their needs.

The complexity of sustainable forestry cannot promote the archaic “either-or” argument that pits economic needs against environmental concerns. Both communities’ perspectives are integral, valid parts of the debate. Consensus on how best to sustain our environmental, social and economic values will arise from this debate.

Because every process – natural and invented – and every living thing are inextricably connected to everything else, we cannot promote one sustainable forest value while ignoring the other two. The economic, environmental and social values all are linked. Forest landowner groups in Oregon – private, federal and state – are already defining their roles in sustainability. Forestlands in each category perpetuate economic, social and environmental values but tend to underscore one value over the other two. For example, federal lands are currently managed with a focus on long-term environmental conservation that is important to the community of interest. Private lands provide the community of place with the economic benefits they need to sustain their way of life, and state-owned lands are providing the economic, environmental and social values that are important to both communities.

Because we cannot discuss forest sustainability without knowing what the current forest conditions are, world environmental leaders at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environmental and Development in Rio de Janeiro developed a statement on forest management, conservation and sustainable development to help nations define this starting point.

World leaders, scientists and environmentalists gathered together by geographic area to develop evaluation processes. For the 13 countries with temperate and cold-climate forests, such as the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia, seven criteria were chosen as assessment starting points. Under each criterion, specific measurable forest indicators would be researched in order to paint a holistic picture of the state of the nations’ forests.

The Oregon Board of Forestry and the Oregon Department of Forestry are now bringing this approach home, applying these national criteria to Oregon’s forests – the first state in the nation to take on such a challenge. Currently, Department staff is gathering data as outlined in the criteria and indicators. The data provide a snapshot of Oregon’s forests today, a starting point for the discussion on sustainability. A policy advisory committee that includes members from the environmental community, forest industry, landowners, government agencies and academia is guiding the Department’s direction in this endeavor. The Board of Forestry will shepherd the public debate out of the paradigm of differences to a more productive, creative focus on results and solutions. This process will help the Board and the Department hone the Forest Practices Act and to develop the 2001 Forestry Program for Oregon, the Board’s strategic plan.

David E. Gilbert
Chair, Oregon Board of Forestry