They update automobiles, don’t they?

My wife and I once owned a 1960 Volvo 544. For a poor, married student couple, it was one sweet ride. Safe, reliable, comfortable. But, of course, it didn’t have any of today’s features. These would be things like air bags, disc brakes, skid control, computers of any kind, passenger side-view mirror, and rear-seat seat belts. Nor did it have the niceties we now enjoy: radio, air conditioning, GPS, back-up camera, etc.

Once our daughters arrived, we realized we needed a bigger vehicle. We bought a 1974 Volvo station wagon. This was MUCH more advanced. Electronic fuel injection, a radio (and cassette player!), air conditioning, working seat belts – but still no air bags.

Today we no longer drive a Volvo, but our one current vehicle – a 2009 Nissan – is like something from the future. I mean, it’s so advanced that if something went wrong, unless it was a flat tire I wouldn’t know where to start looking for the problem (which is why they’re called “idiot” lights).

Here’s my point. The Oregon Forest Practices Act is not the same policy instrument it was when enacted by the Oregon Legislature in 1971. In fact, it’s been revised significantly, legislatively and administratively, more than 30 times over the past four decades. When groups call it “antiquated” or “out-of-date,” they’re blowing more smoke than came out the exhaust pipe of that 1960 Volvo.

In many instances, the Act has been changed with the advice and consent of the forest products industry. In other cases, changes to the Act have occurred at the behest of outside groups, sometimes over the objections of the forest products industry.

Here in Oregon, the citizen board that oversees forest policy is the Board of Forestry. This is a seven-member, volunteer board appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. Besides appointing the state forester, the board sets and oversees rules regulating state and private forest practices. These rules are adopted in public meetings governed by a democratic process and informed by the most recent scientific findings.

I don’t know what happened to our 1960 Volvo, but I sure wouldn’t want to drive one today as the family car – especially with my four precious grandchildren. Nor would anyone want our forests managed to the best science of 1971. That just doesn't make sense.

For the forest,
Paul Barnum