A few weeks back, catastrophic wildfires began burning more than one million acres all over Oregon, leaving behind a huge wake of devastation. Those fires continue to rage, bringing with them evacuations, loss of life, destroyed homes and the unhealthiest air quality in the entire world.
These kinds of fires have, unfortunately, become the norm in recent years. That is especially the case in Southern Oregon. It didn’t used to be this way.
The timber industry was once the cornerstone of Oregon’s economy. Entire communities were built around lumber mills that provided adequate employment opportunities and a robust tax base for local government services. I speak from experience, as I spent an early part of my professional career working in helicopter logging and found it rewarding. That is a time in my life I will always remember fondly.
Politicians decided to take a different approach starting in the 1990s that resulted in changes that adversely affected the industry. It also meant that our sprawling, vibrant, thriving forests were no longer being managed. We are now seeing the consequences of that willful neglect firsthand.
I think it’s safe to say that things will probably never go back to the way they were in the industry’s heyday. However, we are being reminded of the importance of forest health and that it doesn’t just happen by accident. It takes management practices that are based on sound science, rather than political ideology.
My direct familiarity with logging operations and approach to natural resource issues have earned my campaign for Clackamas County Commissioner the endorsement of the #TimberUnity PAC. I am honored to have that support.
This is important because Clackamas County has a rich heritage of natural resource utilization and an abundance of resources that can enhance employment, recreation and other opportunities for our residents, tourists and others.
As a commissioner, I will be able to exercise some influence over natural resource policies, and not just locally. The Association of Oregon Counties has a series of policy committees that meet regularly and make recommendations on what kinds of legislation to support at the state and federal level. Some deal with matters like water and others involve subjects such as public lands. My position would enable me to pursue policies that will result in active management, the reduction of wildfire risk and the stimulation of the forest products industry.
What’s increasingly obvious is that what is being done isn’t working, puts many Oregonians directly in harm’s way and is bad for the environment and public health. We need responsible, reasonable, common-sense policies in place to govern how we handle the unique treasure that our forests have been for most of the state’s history.
I’m confident that as your next Clackamas County Commissioner, I will be able to use the perspectives I gained through my timber industry work, along with my military leadership, private business experience and good old common sense, to help us manage our natural resources and keep our forests from going up in smoke.