Anyone who has been married for more than two minutes knows that the fastest way to destroy a relationship is when there is a communication breakdown. The situation gets a whole lot worse when one or both people begin to use language that dehumanizes the other. We see this being done all over our country. It is no wonder that Americans are more divided than ever. Unfortunately, there is a communication breakdown on a topic of importance in our community: forestry.
I often hear dehumanizing language being used about foresters. I would like to humanize these mysterious people that work in the woods in order to help fix the communication breakdown so that perhaps we can begin to have valuable and balanced conversations about forestry that include all parties, including families like mine that depend on it.
My husband, Jake, and I are raising our family on the Tillamook coast. He is the reforestation manager for Stimson Lumber, and I am a special education teacher in Tillamook county. We welcomed our little girl, Ruth, into the world almost a year ago. She is the light of our life, and we plan to have more children in the future. Thankfully, I have been able to work part time during our baby’s first year. This would not have been possible for us financially if it were not for Jake’s steady, family wage income. We are so grateful to be one of the more than 60,000 family wage jobs provided by the timber industry. If it weren’t for these jobs, there is no way we or our friends could raise our families in Tillamook.
We love where we live and care deeply for the environment. We hike, hunt, fish, and collect mushrooms and berries from our forests. Those of us who work and play in the woods see the outcomes of proper forest management with our own eyes: we dip our hands in cold clean forest streams, we see wildlife browsing in openings created through harvest, and we hear the birds when we hike. Our forests produce some of the best water quality in all of Oregon; we know because we drink it every day. Since we are raising our family here, we have a vested interest in preserving the environment. We want our children to be able to drink the water and play with us out in the woods. Why on earth would we want to destroy that future for them?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. We have taken a picture every year in the same spot in one of Jake’s first reforestation sites to document our care and passion for forestry, the beautiful life cycle of our forests and the growth of our family. It starts in 2015 when we planted the seedlings and continues through our engagement in 2016, wedding in 2018, pregnancy in 2019 and finally when we welcomed our little girl Ruth into the world in 2020. We plan to continue this photo series yearly until the trees are ready to be harvested, in about 2055 when we plan to retire. It will be something we look back on with pride.
We are not an anomaly in the forestry industry. We are close with other families of forestry professionals in Tillamook who are dedicated, passionate and responsible about their work in the woods. They are as connected to the environment and the community as we are, and this guides every decision they make on the job.
It’s families like ours that make up the forestry industry. It truly hurts my heart when I hear the negative conversations being had around forestry. One sided conversations that do not take into consideration families like ours only create a further divide between the people that work in the woods and everyone else. Let’s begin to bridge that divide by seeing foresters for what they are; human beings with families that responsibly manage the forest with pride and care.