Citing growing frustration, timber-industry representative Dave Schott has resigned from the board of the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative.
Schott, executive vice president of the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association, resigned Wednesday from the nonprofit collaborative, whose mission has been to help find solutions in the federal timber harvest debate.
Schott was the only timber/logging industry representative on the board. He joined shortly after the group formed in 2005.
"It came from frustration that, after almost 10 years of work, there were almost no accomplishments," he said. "That made us pretty sure not much is going to get done in the future."
The SOTIA board, with his concurrence, concluded his time would be better spent focusing on other issues, he added.
"That's not to say there are not some very smart people involved in the collaborative," he said, adding he enjoyed working with the group. "But we had no defined goal on what could be done to benefit timber jobs and mills and county funding."
Collaborative Director George McKinley expressed disappointment in Schott's resignation.
"It's unfortunate," McKinley said, adding that while other timber-industry representatives and contractors regularly attend meetings, they are not on the board, which now has 10 members.
"I think it is a little shortsighted," he added of SOTIA's departure. "SOTIA does have its own mission. And special interest groups are hard to bring to the middle, no matter how big that middle may be."
He also said the collaborative was making progress to reach common ground in the ecological and reforestation approach. Although the pilot timber projects didn't yield as much timber as he would have liked, they indicate a move forward, McKinley said.
"Something like this is never easy — there are always challenges," he said. "SOTIA has been fairly uncomfortable embracing ecological and reforestation approaches. But the notion that nothing is being derived from ecological or reforestation efforts here in southwest Oregon doesn't really stack up."
Fellow longtime board member Joseph Vaile, executive director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildland Center, said he understands Schott's frustration.
"I get his frustration," he said. "It would be better if there were more good projects moving forward."
But he noted it takes a long time for change to occur, particularly when it includes moving from logging old-growth timber to a focus on thinning and restoring forest health as recommended by scientists.
"I think there is progress in terms of the objective people want," Vaile said. "We just need more buy-in from the federal agencies to move forward with projects that restore forests, protect clean water and have an economic component that doesn't sacrifice the environment."
The group was originally an informal gathering of what was known as "The Knitting Circle" before morphing into the Southern Oregon Small Diameter Collaborative. It later became known by its present name.
Schott expressed concern that only one environmental group — KS Wild — is involved in the collaborative.
"That was a huge weakness," he said. "Other environmental groups were not bound by the considerations of the collaborative."
A similar collaborative in John Day has nine environmental groups participating, he noted.
At the outset, the local group agreed to base its work on a three-pronged approach that included economics, environment and social considerations, he said.
"We agreed we needed all three together to make things work," he said. "But the economic leg became secondary to the others."
Schott said he doesn't rule out participating again with the collaborative or a similar group in the future, providing he is convinced his efforts will be worth it.
"But, frankly, I think the only eventual answer will be in the courts or legislation," he said. "I don't see the various interests changing their tunes. I am talking about environmentalists. They exert control over the agencies in many ways."
A former assistant Jackson County district attorney, Schott said he will now focus on talking to legislators and local officials to change the status quo.
"I grew up here," he said. "The specter of mismanagement creating worse and worse fire conditions is abhorrent to me. Nobody wants to go out and cut the last old-growth trees. But we do need some management.
"Otherwise, we could have a fire that will make the Biscuit insignificant," he added, referring to the 2002 Biscuit fire that burned roughly half a million acres.
"This is coming to a head," Schott said of the timber debate. "People are realizing something has to be done. We can't keep kicking the can down the road."
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.