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An Open Letter to Loggers

By Ernie Pardini - Anderson Valley Advertiser, August 12, 1992.

Since I've "come out of the closet" so to speak, on my views concerning the timber industry, I've encountered an influx of misconceptions about the premise of my beliefs and about where my loyalties lie. I think it time to clear up some of the disinformation and clarify my stand on the issues involved.

First of all, a commonly asked question is "have you joined up with the environmentalists?" The answer is Yes. I have been meeting, along with several other timber industry people, with members of the environmental movement, to work as a group in a joint effort to secure the future of the timber industry in this area. Some of the issues being discussed are:

  • Corporate over harvesting--Ways to curb harvests so that we can minimize the coming lull in the logging industry due to long term recovery of vast areas of clearcut timberland.
  • Keeping timberland as timberland--Exercising our influence to insure that large corporate landholdings are not developed or subdivided into parcels that would convert it's main use to something other than timber production.
  • Alternative related industry--working to come up with alternative wood markets which are compatible with resource management and that would provide employment for laid off timber workers in similar and related fields.
  • Grant Research--exploring the possibilities of government funding to aid in the startup of timber-related industries which would help finance small businesses.
  • Uniting timber workers in an association of some sort that would strengthen their voice on issues of employment, pay scales, political action, local legislation, etc.

I have found the members of the environmental movement to be very willing to compromise for the benefit of the timber workers and very sympathetic to their plight. Even to the extent of expending their own energies to improve working conditions and provide alternate means of employment. They are not against the use of forest resources, simply against the abuse of same. They certainly offer more compassion than do the corporate heads who are really responsible for the industry recession.

I was told by the wife of a local timber worker the other day that she'd heard that "I had turned against them." Who is "them"? If "them" is the big corporations that have so blatantly taken advantage of us and our forests, then my answer is this. I haven't turned against them--I've always been against them, but just didn't know what to do about it. If "them" is referring to the logging community, my answer is absolutely not. I believe from the bottom of my heart that what I'm doing is in the best interest of the timber industry and its long term prospects. In short, its future. I also feel that the latest mill closures and cutbacks by the corporations should further prove that their intention in this area is liquidation. Abandoning us to deal on our own with the resource-poor state they've left us facing. L-P executive, Joe Wheeler, at a fairly recent meeting of the (county) Board of Supervisors provided data from L-P's own records that proved unquestionably that the company had depleted 90% of the harvestable timber in their privately held lands. He was ultimately fired for leaking this information. Are these actually those of you who still believe that L-P is going to remain here for the 50-60 years necessary for this land to become productive again? Wake up and smell the roses!

When I was a kid growing up here, I loved to hear the old timers swap stories about their logging days. I think what really put me in awe of them wasn't so much the content of their stories--not that they weren't extremely entertaining--but seeing the pride well up in them as they relived times past. By the end of one of their tales they had actually undergone a physical transformation. They would change from before my eyes from withered, wrinkled old men to barrel-chested, tight-skinned arrogant creatures, then get up and walk out of the room with the swagger of a youth fifty years their junior and a smile broad enough to accommodate a whole ear of corn. There used to be an intense pride that went with being a timber worker. Your job was hot, dirty, extremely dangerous and as labor intensive as any occupation in the world. But at the end of the day you could look back on your work and feel good, knowing you gave an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. you earned your keep, or as the old timers used to say, "You really made 'er pay!"

The one caution I used to hear over and over from my grandfather was "never get caught in the bite of the line." His planting of this subconscious has probably saved my life and limbs many, many times over. In the literal translation, that is. But now I think this caution is applicable in a much broader sense. Loggers, we've let ourselves get caught in the bite of the line, and the slack is almost gone; but we're quick on our feet and we've got a whole lot of heart. Let's help ourselves out of the jam we've gotten into. Let's reach way down deep inside somewhere and fan the smoldering embers of that pride that we brought into this generation until it flames high again. Let's take back what is ours, the heritage and tradition left us by our ancestors and the resources that made it possible. Remember, it was us who were here when they came, and it will be us who are here when they leave. It's late summer, hotter than Hell, and they're taking the shade with them. It's time to kick some corporate ass!

Sincerely yours,
Ernie Pardini

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