Thank you all so much for having me. It is an honor to speak at your annual meeting.
Forestry is an integral part of Oregon’s history, and I believe an integral part of Oregon’s future.
From the open forests of the Blue Mountains to the slopes of the Coast Range carpeted with douglas fir, we certainly are lucky to call this place - this place that grows trees like no other place on earth - our home.
As you may know, earlier this fall I spent a full day meeting with and listening to representatives of the wood products industry: log truck companies, landowners, loggers, mill managers, and more. I had the opportunity to tour two Swanson mills in Roseburg and Springfield. And I’ll tell you something - something you already know - forestry isn’t about the trees, it’s about the people.
In those mills and throughout that day I was inspired by the folks I saw working in high-paying, skilled positions that provide most meaningful work and allow them to make a lasting contribution to their communities.
I was inspired to see a world-class industry making world-class wood products.
I was inspired by the way that advances in technology have made these jobs safer and substantially more efficient.
And I was also inspired to see that even with increasing automation, these highly skilled jobs are not necessarily going away. They’re changing.
During my tour of the Swanson mill in Roseburg, Vice President Jim Dudley shared with me that while on one hand they have replaced a person grading wood with a computer, on the other hand they have also partnered with Umpqua Community College to train needed mechanics, coders, and electricians to service those computers.
In fact, Swanson’s partnership with UCC is an excellent example of how the wood products industry can provide a seamless transition between college and career.
And many of Oregon’s forestry companies have been handed down four or five generations, re-investing in their communities for decades. Oregon still has these companies, large and small, and that’s what makes us unique. It’s the best place in the world to grow trees.
I know there are threats to this industry, including more fierce, frequent and ferocious wildfires.
I don’t need to tell you folks here, but every fire season I’ve seen since becoming your governor has been worse than the last, save for 2019 (knock on wood).
Our average annual wildfire costs have gone up from $10 million to $50 million since 2013. And the emotional impacts are significant. A few years ago, I met a couple who lost their home of 50 years in the Canyon Creek fire.
This is not just a financial challenge. It presents health challenges with more people in more places exposed to unhealthy levels of smoke for longer periods of time.
It presents safety challenges with long fire seasons that extend longer than May to September. And it puts a strain on our firefighters who are working tirelessly to protect our homes from wildfires.
As many of you may know, Oregon’s Wildfire Council is rounding out its last few meetings. I launched this effort because wildfire impacts every region of our state and all sectors of our economy, from health care providers to tourism to natural resources.
I look forward to getting the Council’s recommendations later this month, and I will be advocating to implement these recommendations with the legislature. I’m grateful to Matt Donegan and the many Oregonians who participated in the Wildfire Council, and I hope you’ll join me in this effort.
I also believe that combating climate change is vital to the health and safety of our state. Changes in temperature and precipitation are impacting your industry. It’s no secret to everyone in this room that addressing climate change is one of my top priorities.
The forest industry plays a unique role in combating climate change. Growing trees is one of the things we can do to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.
In this way, the forest industry is on the forefront of fighting climate change and working with the people who grow trees and make wood products is the Oregon way to be a part of the solution. This is a global problem, and for that we need all hands on deck.
Science says we need to reduce our emissions significantly over the next 50 years. To do that in a gradual, achievable way, we need to first set a limit on emissions, and then decline that limit gradually over time.
Second, we need a fair enforcement mechanism to ensure we hit that declining cap. There’s a lot of confusion and politics around the term “cap and trade” - but it’s really pretty simple: set a pollution emissions cap and make sure we stay beneath it in the most economically efficient way possible.
In my conversations with folks in your industry, I did not hear strong opposition to this idea.
What I did hear was concern that the wood products industry - which by definition captures carbon -- is not getting sufficient credit for the carbon it is capturing.
I also heard concerns from some that if the offset program is done incorrectly that could reduce log supplies for Oregon mills. I don’t want that to happen.
I really appreciate the collaboration OFIC and Kristina McNitt have had with my office over the past several months, and I look forward to continuing that as we work on this legislation.
Last week I visited the University of Oregon and saw the new Hayward Field and the Knight Sciences Center. It is really clear that advanced wood products are the wave of the future, and we should be leading this revolution.
One more thing I know from my tours of those mills in Roseburg and Springfield, you all are team players, you know how to band together and get things done, so let’s find a way forward together. Thank you.