Timber industry rebounds creating more goods for America's canopy of tree businesses

EUGENE, Ore. – A local mill is "busy as all get out," stated one happy logger who’s part of the growing resurgence of Oregon’s estimated $60 billion timber industry that offers America business much more than building materials.

Wood and tree-based products can be found in some highly unexpected places, states a Bloomberg BusinessWeek report titled “Out of the Woods” in its May 7 – 13 edition that points to tree products now being used in movies, flooring, beer, ice cream, cheese and even disposable diapers. In turn, after decades of both recession and a timber industry downfall in parts of Oregon, there’s new business opportunities as both Oregon’s and national timber companies diversify with increasing success as highlighted in the new book “American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation.” In turn, Bloomberg highlighted the book’s good news in its special report about timber now “being out of the woods” and even what’s for dinner when explaining new uses for America’s timber.

America’s trees now felled for a variety of products

Back in the day when President Lincoln signed into law the “Yosemite and Big Tree Grant, which ensured that the Yosemite Valley would be protected for public “use, resort and recreation,” there was plenty of timber across the land for use in building materials.

Later, “popular pulp replaced cloth rags and brought paper and print top the masses,” reported Bloomberg in its recent mid-May edition; while also noting how “brawny chestnut and white oak were once felled for railroad ties, usually just one tree per time, 2,500 ties per mile of track, and at peak consumption, 60 million ties in a single year. Hand in hand with prosperity came profligacy. America’s original energy addiction was wood.”

In turn, Bloomberg explained how today – tree products even contain “what’s for dinner.”

For instance, the report explained how many of todays wood and tree-based products can be found in some highly unexpected places.

As an example, wood products from Oregon’s massive tree reserves are now used for such things as:

-- Movies and photographs. Created on cellulose acetate film. Cellulose is derived from wood pulp.

-- Low-fat ice cream. It’s creamy “mouthfeel” comes from purified wood pulp.

-- Linoleum flooring. Contains pine rosin and wood flour.

-- Rayon. Made from ground wood fibers.

-- Latex gloves. Made from the ooze of rubber tree bark.

-- Disposable diapers. Some 43 percent is from wood pulp.

-- Organic pre-shredded cheese. Contains powdered cellulose to repel moisture.

-- Beer. Cellulose gum is used to stabilize foam.

Overall, these and hundreds of other products are either made from the trees that allow products to have better looks, touch or taste.

American Canopy: the tree industry expands

As passionate as the author Eric Rutkow is about trees – in his new book “American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation” – Bloomberg reports that the book is “not an activist’s rallying cry, in the vein of Rachel Carson or Michael Pollan. Rather, it’s an even-handed and comprehensive history that could not be more relevant.”

For instance, the report explains how in March 2012, "the U.S. Forest Service finalized its new planning rule, the first update in three decades."

Also, Bloomberg reported how “after years of input from environmentalists, industries and the public, the Forest Service boasts that the new rule provides greater local flexibility over forest management and balances a variety of uses, like timbering and recreations.

In turn, “environmentalists seem pleased with the rule’s emphasis on watershed protection,” that’s of deep concern, as well, here in the “greenest” part of Oregon, at timber mills in the Eugene region where timber can be seen but cut and stacked almost non-stop, say mill workers, in recent months.

Mad timber cutting urged by GOP

Far less encouraging, reports Bloomberg, is the “roadless release bill, a current Republican-led effort to gut the Clinton-era ‘roadless rules,’ which withstood their final court challenge last fall.”

In turn, the report quoted Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) who said: “Millions of acres of land across the United States are being held under lock and key unnecessarily."

Thus, the GOP wants to cut more timber to produce yet more wood products that are are now sold for a wide variety of goods and services way beyond the usual products for building purposes.

Also, the view now, adds Bloomberg, is that the “roadless release” effort is “part of a long-standing American tradition of hostility to government intervention, the same ideology that informed Western lumbermen’s opposition to the creation of national parks in the late 1800s.”

Protect the woods and its timber

Today, reports Bloomberg, there’s lots of “impassioned objection to roadless release coming from sportsmen, outdoors enthusiasts, and environmentalists alike.”

Also, this opposition to cutting timber at will for big business profit is “rooted in another ideology, just as old,” reports Bloomberg.

In 1876, for example, 19th century naturalist John Muir – who played a major role out West in creating national parks - penned an editorial (that the late Eugene area writer Ken Kesey often quoted when discussing his book about local axe men titled: “Sometimes A Great Notion”) that advocated government protection of all giant sequoias.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life," wrote Muir.

Thus, both the new book “American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the making of a Nation” - and this recent Bloomberg report about American being “out of the woods” in terms of its deep appreciation of the country’s timber industry - now “reminds us again and again are essential to our humanity,” while also producing a wide range of business products.

Image source of a very busy timber mill outside Eugene, Oregon, in May 2012. Photo by Dave Masko

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