A vibrant wood products market is good for Oregon and the climate
In his April 21 op-ed "," Dominick DellaSala proposes that the state can achieve this feat by disincentivizing wood production from our forestlands. He believes that Oregon's forests have the potential to be a large carbon sink, and that they should be managed to more aggressively offset emissions from other sectors. We are confident that his proposals would not actually decrease global carbon emissions and would come at great cost to Oregonians.
DellaSala alludes to the fact that Oregon's forests are already sequestering huge amounts of carbon. What he doesn't tell you is that this is true across all ownership classes. Federal forestlands, state forestlands and private industrial forestlands are all growing more trees every year than are harvested or lost to wildfire or mortality. In fact, the 30 million acres of forestland across the state are sequestering approximately half of all of Oregon's carbon emissions every year.
But rather than praise Oregon forest landowners for being part of the climate change solution, DellaSala proposes that they bear ever more of the burden. By taxing industrial landowners and paying others to stop cutting trees, he believes that even more carbon emissions from other sectors can be stored on Oregon forestlands. Putting aside the fundamental inequity of making forestland owners solve a problem caused by others, curtailing harvest means curtailing the forest products industry and all of the otherwise carbon-neutral employment in rural communities those industries support.
But the real punchline is this: Domestic development and redevelopment will not stop. New houses are built every day in Oregon and across the United States. By reducing the state's wood production, we only ensure that developers turn to wood from other jurisdictions with more lenient environmental protections than we have here. Or worse, that they use less-climate-friendly alternatives to wood. For this reason, DellaSala's proposals would not actually decrease global carbon emissions and, in fact, could increase net emissions depending on what products are substituted for wood.
We hope that reasonable people see DellaSala's op-ed for what it is: A thinly-veiled anti-logging agenda. In most mainstream circles working on climate change issues, including the International Panel on Climate Change, use of wood products is strongly encouraged. The panel concluded that in "the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fiber or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit."
Of course, wood products come from trees. And there's no better place in the world to grow (and re-grow) trees than Oregon. In light of its positive contribution to climate change, we look forward to working with state lawmakers on finding ways to encourage the use of more Oregon wood, not less.