The foregoing could have been—and likely was—the headlines in rural Idaho newspapers as well as Oregon and Washington newspapers ten years ago, especially in small Idaho towns like Bonners Ferry, St. Maries, Salmon, Tamarack, Council, Cascade, Emmett, and Orofino among others.
President Clinton came to Idaho in 1995 and stated a foregone conclusion that the timber harvests on the various forests in Idaho would be cut back dramatically from the heights of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. In the 1960s, for instance, the Clearwater National Forest near Orofino, Idaho provided upwards of 150 million board feet to the lumber mills in the Northwest. Starting in the 1980s, the priority shifted from providing timber and jobs to an ecological concern.
Today, the forest produces far less than 10 million board feet. The mills in Orofino, Idaho and elsewhere must obtain timber from private timber farms or elsewhere or simply shut down. President Clinton promised job training for the loggers, including computer training and the like.
Of course, the irony is that the loggers are not easily retrained into computer jobs and schooled into new skills. These men and women worked hard in the forest and when the good jobs were deprived of them, the small towns, schools, governments, and families suffered terribly.
The injustice is manifest. In the social justice agenda of today, there is a lot said about “earth justice,” “earth charter,” “eco-theology” and other nonsense. When it comes to jobs, taking care of families, and conserving the use of the land, federal policy has been a disaster.
The forests need to be cared for, and conservation practices used and instilled into the native population of the logging cities, etc., but to absolutely ban all reasonable timber harvesting in Idaho and elsewhere throughout the West has been a disaster. In Idaho, it has meant a loss of jobs, populations fleeing rural areas, and family problems.
For the forest, the extreme policies of limited timber harvest has resulted in a dense forestation and undergrowth, giving the annual forest fires the fuel to burn hot and destructively.
Where is the justice for the Idaho logger, his or her family, and the rural areas that need good and fair wages, that generates a life worth living that protects and conserves the natural forests, that provides for human needs, and protects the environment at the same time? Has it succumb to the modern claim that humankind is on par with all of creation and that it must submit to unreasonable ecological demands?
For whatever reason, until right reason and order is linked to federal policy mandates, the people and national forests in rural Idaho and elsewhere will continue to suffer injustice.