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Breaking Ranks

By Ernie Pardini - Anderson Valley Advertiser, July 1992; Reprinted in the Industrial Worker, November 1992.

Hello, my name is Ernie Pardini. Before I get started with what I came here to say to all of you, I think it only fair that I tell you a little bit about myself. First of all, Logging is a tradition that goes back through 5 generations of my family. I am a licensed Timber Operator - that makes me a logger. I also have a passionate love for natural beauty that God has surrounded me with, and an unfaltering desire to see it perpetuated, able to sustain itself throughout eternity. That makes me an environmentalist. I'm not here to represent either group individually, but both together, as a whole, as children of one family, those of the Planet Earth.

I.ve spent the last couple of years in what may have seemed to a lot of people a state of indifferent neutrality where the environmentalists vs. timber industry issue is concerned. I've observed factions of both sides do everything humanly possible to swing public opinion in their direction. From employing conventional legal actions, to slinging slanderous accusations with no hard evidence to back them. With all their efforts, very little has been accomplished by either side except to divide the co-inhabitants of an otherwise compatible and caring and peaceful community. I didn't come here with the intentions of making enemies, though some of what I have to say may offend some people. As a lot of you know my uncle's logging company is directly involved in the Enchanted Meadow operation. I will defend to the end his ability and conscience where logging is concerned, though I disagree with the overharvesting done by L-P, I know that my uncle's company will see that it's done in a manner that is environmentally sound as possible under the circumstances.

Even so, my standing with him will be strained at best when this day is finished. But I accept this, because I feel that what I have to say is important.

I am familiar with the history of logging in this area. I am aware of a gradual progression which began with the mass clearcutting of old growth forests around the turn of the [20th] century (due to that generation's ignorance of the long-term environmental effects), to what finally leveled off to reasonably conscientious logging practices in the pre-Lousiana Pacific era. I moved away from this area shortly before L-P moved in to take over the Masonite holdings, and returned two years ago from the East coast. Whether my period of absence made me see things differently, I.m not sure, but what I witnessed upon returning made my heart sad. When I left here, the logging industry was healthy and strong. There were vast timber resources, being logged conscientiously and in a manner which seemed to have no effect on the long term supply. Logging companies consisted of people who had long experience in the industry and had the benefit of learning from the mistakes of their ancestors. They were aware that the way they conducted operations today would determine the ability of their children and grandchildren to carry on the family heritage. They were well paid for their hard work and the results of their efforts reflected the pride they felt for the industry.

When I returned, it was like stepping into a different world. What were thousands of acres of healthy timber when I left, was now only rotting stumps and scrub brush. Loggers walk with their shoulders slumped and their heads hanging in despair, rather than the swagger and arrogance of years past. Many local operators are gone out of business, not able to adjust to the cut-rate logging prices dictated by the corporate monopolies. These were replaced by spoiled rich kids that became loggers simply for the thrill of playing with their expensive new toys. Those operators who did survive, did so by cutting corners. When once they would have taken the time to reset a choker to avoid knocking down a young tree, they now couldn't afford the overtime. Hours had to be eliminated, making it nearly impossible for workers to earn enough during the logging season to carry him through the lean winter months. Wages are only a few cents higher than they were a decade ago.

I began to ask questions of both loggers and environmentalists, trying to make sense of all this. Loggers told me they we're starving, barely able to make ends meet. Most of them hated what the big corporations were doing, and hated being forced to be a part of it. But what else could they do? It disheartened them to be contributing to a timber industry push that would result in a 50 to 70 year lull in the industry while the timberlands recovered. They had families to feed. Logging was all they knew.

Environmentalists, most of them relative newcomers to the area, had no feel for the tradition permanantly instilled in the logging population through generations of genetic evolution. They lashed out at the timber industry for what it was doing to the Earth, emanating disdain toward the loggers for their part in the devastation. They expressed disbelief at their ignorance in regard to the impact their work was having on the environment. I witnessed a constant verbal and sometimes violent warring between these two factions, and the only thing it accomplished was a long stalemate--which gave the corporations enough of a diversion to all but finish off their greedy rape of our timberlands, assuring huge short term profits and clearing the way for the corporations to move on to greener pastures--which was their intention all along.

The tougher forest practices regulations which will come as a result of the conflict, will give the corporations the excuse they need to move their manufacturing facilities to Mexico where labor is cheap; move their logging operations to a place where there are still plenty of trees; and the blame will be neatly placed on the environmental movement.

Suddenly things started falling into place. I asked myself why the environmental issue has only surfaced in the last couple of years, when L-P has been practicing the same frantic rate for over a decade. Why only now, when the damage is done and over 70% of all harvestable trees on L-P property is gone, are people taking a stand?

Why, if L-P is planning on staying in this area indefinitely--as they claim to the press--are their logging roads being built to specifications which meet county regulations for subdivisions? It has become apparent to me that, if the major timber interests didn't actually initiate the environmental issue, they at least secretly supported it.

Let's consider this number one: L-P has exhausted nearly all their marketable timber in the area to an extent that recovery rates will be very long term. This will soon leave them facing a drastic fall in log production, making the continued operations of their manufacturing facilities financially implausible. This means heavy layoffs in a local economy that is already depressed. This could severely damage their public image which is suffering anyway. The uprising by environmental groups and the rewriting of forest practice regulations, will give them the excuse they need to gradually phase out operations without losing face.

Number two: The national economy was and is suffering. Despite lower interest rates, housing starts are down, lumber inventories are high and lumber prices were lowering. In addition, their log supply has been exhausted, which meant waiting out the economic slump with large lumber inventories while production stood still. The industry needed to devise a means of moving large volumes of lumber quickly, but at the same time show the type of profits they were accustomed to. The environmental issue accomplished this for them. The stalling of Timber Harvest Plans, public awareness that lumber supplies were not being replenished as readily as in the past, the future of logging as we know it . questionable at best . all served to create a sense of desperation that sent lumber prices soaring. This gave the corporations a margin of profit on their finished products that allowed them to pay landowners higher prices for their standing trees, providing incentive for them to sell their resources. This gave the corporations enough logs to temporarily continue operations, and the increased log supply is allowing them to tidy up and finish the pillaging of what few stands of timber remain on their own lands.

Number three: By throwing up a couple of "sacrificial lambs", such as "Osprey Grove" and "Enchanted Meadow", a mere drop in the bucket compared to the annual harvest, they have created a diversion allowing them to carry out the devastation going on elsewhere -- virtually unnoticed. As the human race has proven throughout the course of its existence, warring factions often become so engrossed in battle they lose sight of the cause.

If I were to make criticisms, I would have to direct them to both loggers and environmentalists. First of all to the loggers: Why haven't you organized yourselves to make a stand against the cut rate logging prices you've been forced to accept? Where is that "Don't give a damn," "Won't be pushed around even if it means picking shit with the chickens," attitude that you displayed in the past? Can't you see that you're only prolonging your fate by adhering to corporate mandates, only to die a slow death at the end?

And to the environmental factions...while I would fight and die for your right as Americans to stand up for what you believe in, I deplore the way you.ve allowed certain groups of misdirected tactics such as tree spiking and sabotage. Why are many of you directing your anger at loggers--who are only following their survival instincts--instead of targeting the corporations directly? You criticize timber workers for continuing to work their occupations, but I haven't heard you offer any alternatives.

What I'm trying to say, I guess, to both sides is though your singular motives may differ, you both seek the same end: Perpetual Forests. Why alienate potential allies, when instead you could work together to become a single force in numbers large enough to really make a difference? I propose that we join to form a coalition to provide a forum for communication. Let's educate each other as to our needs and desires so that we might formulate some workable solutions. They're out there if we look for them.

As an example, and I'll be brief because I didn't come here to promote my business. I have spent the last two years with an associate to form a network of foreign and domestic markets for forest waste products. There are people out there who will pay us very high prices for what was previously considered as waste. As far as waging a war against the corporations, let's educate the public, initiate a boycott nationwide against buying products produced directly or indirectly by them or their subsidiaries. If you eliminate the demand, the supply will remain intact. We know that government is prone to react to corporate muscle. But we have a power over government that exceeds that of corporations. We pay taxes. If there's no tax money, there's no government. Again, these are only examples. Many more will surface if we concentrate our combined efforts--even if it has to start with a handful of us on the tailgate of a pickup, it's a beginning.

Thank you for listening and I hope I didn't come off as thinking I have all the answers, because I don't. But if what I have said today leads to one constructive conversation between any two of you, it will have been worth it.

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