Donít hold firewood supplies hostage

By Observer editorial August 30, 2013 10:57 am

Being the weather forecaster for San Diego TV has to be one of the easiest jobs in the world. “Sixty-eight degrees and sunny. Back to you, Joe.”

Being a U.S. Forest Service employee must be one of the hardest jobs in the world. No, not because of mosquitoes, deer flies or backwoods toilets filled with junk. Consider their dilemma: The forest must be managed for multiple uses, everything from mushroom picking to mule packing. Managers are given a mandate to protect the resource, and enough rules to follow to wallpaper a large cabin. At the same time, they are told to allow in a horde of hunters and firewood cutters in hot pursuit of what some consider scarce resources.

What’s more, managers are told to watch the forest for all of America, not just the people who can hit the forest with a rock from their backyard if they have a strong arm.

Still, being good neighbors is important. And it makes one wonder when forest managers announce that, in some places, firewood is in short supply. Many Northeast Oregonians still heat with firewood. For some, it’s their primary heat source on those snowy December nights. For others, it’s their only heat source.

For many people, cutting firewood in the national forest is a family tradition going back generations. It’s a little like military families, where Son fought in Iraq, Dad fought in Vietnam and Grandpa fought in World War II. Wood-cutting families go back generations, too, to the days of the crosscut saw, when common sense was the law of the land — and sometimes even worked.

Yes, it is important forest managers protect the Wallowa-Whitman and Umatilla national forests for future generations. More little wood-cutters are on the way. It’s also important, with all the dead and dying timber in the woods, with insect infestations, with the threat of wildfires imminent, with forests virtually surrounding us and doing everything but holding us hostage, that managers make available an abundant supply of firewood.

Rules and regulations abound. That’s the way it is, and we as neighbors reluctantly live with these rules. Red tape is in long supply. Again, it seems to be a way of life, these days, and sometimes unnecessarily complicates what should be simple.

A Forest Service employee’s job is tough, a huge challenge. But let’s hope the responsibilities don’t grow to the point where they are mandated to hold firewood supplies hostage.