— It’s a time-honored tradition at this timber-rich village in Washington State’s Emerald Triangle, but in the last decade, many locals have grown weary of logging and are worried about how it might affect their communities.
The timber market has exploded over the past several years.
The number of logging permits issued to companies has more than tripled, and the industry is expanding faster than timber can be harvested.
The U.S. Forest Service estimates there will be up to 40 million trees cut this year alone, which is more than double what was cut in 2015.
Forest Stewardship Council of Washington president and CEO Ken Gulledge believes the state needs to make a decision about whether to preserve some of the timber that it has been able to save.
He says he wants the state to consider whether the forest preserve is a way to protect the local environment, but not as a way for private landowners to profit.
“It’s just a business decision,” he said.
“I think it’s just one way to make money.”
The timber industry’s resurgence has been accompanied by increased use of pesticides and other chemicals, and a growing concern among some forest preserve residents that some of these chemicals are making their trees more susceptible to diseases and pests.
The Forest Stewardships Council of Seattle estimates that between now and 2021, about 60 percent of the forest in the Emerald Triangle will be logged.
The council also estimates that logging could result in a reduction of nearly 30 million trees, or the equivalent of the state’s entire timber harvest this year.
“We know the forest is going to have to change,” said Dan Rochford, president and executive director of the Northwest Forest Preserve Association.
“It has to become more resilient.”
The Forest Stewardships Council estimates the Emerald Forest will be able to recover about 15 percent of its timber this year, but Rochfords fears the timber industry will keep pushing the limits of what can be saved by the forest.
“That’s when we need to look at ways to protect our forests and our land,” he told NBC News.
Rochford said that without timber, it will be more difficult to restore some of its other habitat, including marshes, wetlands, wetlands and coastal areas.
Forest managers are already using some of their timber reserves to preserve endangered species.
For instance, they have been using about 30 percent of their forests as habitat to create new habitat for endangered species, including endangered redwoods, eastern cedar, red-breasted sea otters, a rare species of sea lion and endangered bald eagles.
“You’ve got these endangered species that have gone extinct in the past and now are here,” said Mike Dank, a forest manager with the Forest Stewages Council.
“They’re the future of our forests.”
Some residents worry that the industry’s expansion could further decimate some of Washington’s most valuable forestlands.
“There are areas that are disappearing, and they’re going to be the next areas that you’re going see the logging come in,” said Karen Thompson, a resident of the Timber Ridge Village in Reeds, Washington.
Dank said that there is no doubt that logging will eventually have an impact on forests in Washington, but he says it’s not a threat as long as we’re careful about what we do with it.
“The forest has been saved,” he explained.
“If we’re not careful, the timber will be coming back.”