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July 20, 2022

Oregon Board of Forestry, Public Comment

Good morning.  I’m David Reid, Executive Director of the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce and I’ll be commenting on the proposed habitat conservation plan.  Our chamber is 149 years old. We’ve seen our towns thrive, we’ve seen them struggle, and we have 15 decades of case studies to understand what precipitates each.  This HCP falls firmly into the latter category.

We have 600 member businesses, organizations, and institutions representing thousands of local jobs.  How many of those members will be affected by this decision?  600.  Every single one.

Our economy is diverse, and it is interwoven.  One can’t simply inflict devastating wounds to a major industry like the one contemplated here without doing damage to other industries and jobs.

Our economy is diverse.  Why?  Because we spent the past four decades making it so.  We built it brick by brick, investing in education and infrastructure in order to grow new industries and jobs, using the gains from that growth to invest in education and infrastructure to grow industries and jobs, and so on.  It’s a staircase, not an elevator.  This proposal takes aim at some of the most crucial and foundational steps in that staircase, namely family-wage jobs, education, and social services, which rely on timber revenue.  We cannot recruit business, industries, or talent without great schools and safe communities.

We built this economy, and by 2019 Clatsop County actually had the second lowest unemployment rate in the state.  Then the pandemic hit.  With a respectable recovery underway, we find ourselves staring down a major recession and the highest inflation in 40 years.  And now this gut punch which amounts to nothing less than a self-inflicted wound to Oregon’s economy. Because it’s not just our local economy that’s interwoven.  The same surely must be said for our entire state.

Last time around you heard Kevin Leahy testify on the specific and widespread damage this plan will do to our county’s economy.  But perhaps the rationale is that the environment is more important than the economy.  Fair enough, but I submit to you that a healthy wood products industry actually helps the environment, and I can say with certainty that failing communities and increased poverty will do it great harm.

In the time I have left I want to talk about collaboration.  We have in Clatsop County some of the best managed and sustainable forestlands in the world and we got there through collaboration and hard-won trust between industry and environmental concerns.  

Hear me on this:  Collaboration and trust are how nearly everything of value in our society gets done.

Taking this sudden, wide, and unilateral swipe at habitat management breaches that trust and threatens to undo 40+ years of hard work and cooperation.

I urge this board to reconsider the proposed habitat conservation plan and start over with the whole picture in mind and all parties at the table.