|Jennifer Phillippi (center) planting
millionth tree with her husband,
their daughter, a nephew, and
Jennifer's mother and brother
Forest health. Wildfires are chiefly what convinced a lot of former timber opponents that some forest management is necessary. Now, McKinley says, more people understand that leaving a forest alone doesn’t necessarily keep it healthy. Since forming in 2005 to examine such problems, the collaborative has aimed its philosophy for forest management at reducing fuel for fires and improving habitat, management tools that are now being embraced rather than eschewed by environmental advocates. In nine years, the collaborative has grown to include 15 agency partners, including environmental groups, as well as federal, state and local governments.
Their timber-sourcing plan for Rough & Ready helped spur a $1 million state loan from the governor’s strategic reserve fund and another $4 million in federal and state funding via the New Markets Tax Credit. The funding is being used to make long-deterred capital investments in the mill, making it more efficient and adding automated features that better its bottom line. Portland-based Ecotrust, one of only a handful of community-development entities headquartered in Oregon authorized to invest the tax credits, managed the transaction.
Rough & Ready will reopen in mid-June, running one shift per day and rehiring 67 of its workers. The news is good for former yard foreman Dan Harwood, who spent a year wondering what lay ahead. “At first it was a real depressing thing ... I’ve done sawmill for 28 years. That was all I’d ever done. I was third-generation sawmill, so I really enjoyed working there.” The lost tax revenue from the mill and other recession-hit businesses helped fuel a decline in sheriff services, an uptick in crime and a slump in people’s spirits in and around Cave Junction. Now, he says, “having the mill reopen has brought people back around a little bit.”
Tuchmann notes 23 forest collaborations have been born in Eastern and Southern Oregon over two decades, and more are moving west.
| Concrete pour and inscription:
1969 and 2014
“We see more organizing, and those who do organize are getting to ‘yes’ at a relatively swifter pace,” Tuchmann says. Such efforts have already paved the way for other, similar successes. And Tuchmann says the state plans to encourage more teamwork on timber-sourcing plans for struggling mills, while habitat restoration and thinning remain a focus. Meanwhile, Ecotrust is pursuing similar opportunities in economically depressed regions of the West. It has already revitalized two other mills with a focus on thinned timber: the Ochoco Lumber Company and Roseburg Resources Company.
“I think the fact that lumber manufacturers and Ecotrust can work together on a project like this is a pretty nice story,” says Phillippi. “We’ve all evolved to where we’ve developed that trust.”