Loggers & Tree Huggers Save Eastern Oregon Timber Industry, Town, & an Economy by Talking, Becoming Partners, Thinning Forests, & Drinking Together


Environmentalist want logging to stop and introduced legislation to do so;
Loggers and environmentalists battled then found common ground.
Fight began in 2003 over lawsuit to protect Woodpeckers & Redhead trout.
Timber industry experienced a 90% collapse in 1980  to 2000.
The town, John Day, is deeply conservative; Mill closures made people fearful.

Loggers & tree huggers cooperated & saved the town of John Day, Oregon.
Timber industry survived because environmentalist fought to save their jobs.
Realized that some logging was absolutely essential to make forests healthy.
Eastern Oregon forests were overgrown and prone to fires.
Loggers and environmentalists were at odds over what ought to be done.
Gaining agreement about what ought to be done was brutally difficult.
It happened: Sawmill is now spitting out lumber & keeping local economy going.

The Agreement offers America a model for solving problems by sitting down & working things out.
Lawyer & Environmentalist Susan Jane Brown spent 3 days in forest with loggers. Then listened & lead.
The two parties formed the aspirational Blue Mountain Forest Partners & forestry collaborative.
Adversaries found that best hope was to revive the forest & clear out small trees.
Needed funding so Oregon’s Senator Ron Wyden got involved with federal legislation.
U.S. Senate bill gained a 10 year stewardship contract to pay for forest thinning.
Now forest collaboratives are springing in other parts of Oregon

What was learned? -How to bridge hostilities & Creating Peace Process:

  • Find people on both sides who have humility & empathy
  • Defer to science and experimentation
  • Have dinner together, combining food, talk, & alcohol then act

Timber is the biggest industry in Blue Mountains &  John Day Town

“We thought, ‘Well, we haven’t killed each other, so maybe we should keep talking and let’s see what happens,’ – Susan Jane Brown,  Lawyer
“I am kind of an outcast in the timber business” – John Shelk, Managing Director of the Mill
What was said about Susan Jane Brown- “ Without her, we would not be”—Mark Webb

Nicholas Kristof Article in New York Times, April 11, 2021
“They Overcame Mutual Loathing and Saved a Town”

PEOPLE OF SIGNIFICANCE [ Making this happen]:
1) Susan Jane Brown, Portland Lawyer –  brown@westernlaw.org

2) John Shelk, Managing Director, Ochoco Lumber Company

3) Pam Hardy, Western Environmental Law Center
4) Ron Wyden, U.S. Senator
5) Mark Webb, County Commissioner [ has PHD in Philosophy]

John Day, Oregon 

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