Representative Dennis Richardson: China Trip — part 1

Part I. 2009 Oregon Legislative Delegation to China
Forest and Timber Management:Challenge and Opportunity
By State Representative Dennis Richardson,

I am writing this newsletter from 37,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, as I fly homeward from Beijing to Oregon. Nine Oregon legislators, including Oregon’s Speaker, Dave Hunt, along with a small group of key Port of Portland and business leaders, have just concluded the 2009 Oregon Legislative Trade Delegation to China.

I have served on five trade missions to China since 2002, and this one was the most significant. We honored and celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Oregon-Fujian sister state relationship, signed in Fuzhou, the Capital City of Fujian Province, in 1984 by then Governor, Vic Atiyeh. In recent years, there has been tremendous growth in Oregon-China trade relations — China currently is Oregon’s number 1 trade partner (Oregon now exports more goods to China (including Hong Kong), than to any other nation). In fact, during the current recession, although Oregon exports have dramatically decreased, there is one stellar exception, China. When comparing the first six months of 2008 and 2009, Oregon exports to China have increased by nearly 24%. (Click here.)
In addition to honoring past successes, our trade delegation held several high-level meetings where we discussed (1.) coordinating efforts relating to sustainable use of forest resources, (2.) high speed trains and (3.) opportunities to enable Oregon students to lead the USA in mastering Mandarin Chinese as a second language. Since each of these topics deserves individual attention, I will divide them into three separate newsletters.

Today’s newsletter focuses on Fujian and Oregon’s timber industries and the challenges and opportunities they share.

Part I. Forest and Timber Management””Challenge and Opportunity.

Oregon State and Fujian Province are sister states and have much in common. Both have substantial forest-covered geography””Oregon, 49%, Fujian 63%.; both have water boundaries that provide coastal beauty and substantial shipping and fishing industries; and, both are known in their nations for having strong ties to the environment””Oregon is America’s “green state,” and Fujian is China’s “Green Treasury.” With such similarities, both Oregon and Fujian are confronted with the challenge of how to properly utilize forest products in a sustainable manner, and the opportunity of how to properly utilize forest products in a sustainable manner.

On October 8, 2009, our Trade Delegation participated in a three hour panel discussion on Fujian and Oregon’s timber policy and other key issues. I was asked to present my views on the forestry and timber situation in Oregon, for the benefit of an audience informed about Fujian forestry practices.

To begin, I presented the following Oregon forestry facts: Between 1945 and 1985 Oregon averaged between 7-9 billion board feet of lumber production, yet today Oregon’s production is down to 3-4 billion board feet per year (3.8 billion in 2007, 3.4 billion in 2008, and 3.0 billion forecasted for 2009). Oregon’s drastic reduction in timber harvests over the past 25 years, in my opinion, resulted from the replacement of Oregon’s time-honored forest management practices with an anti-forest industry, “pristine forest” political philosophy. This policy has resulted in a drastic reduction in timber harvests and a “hands off” approach to forest management. Although this “pristine forest” strategy intended to preserve Oregon forests, in hindsight, it has resulted in the build up of slash and combustible matter on the ground, beneath the trees, and has turned Oregon’s forests into tinder-boxes. The consequence of such misguided preservation practices has been a series of huge, devastating forest fires that have destroyed thousands of acres of prime timber and animal habitat, while polluting the air and ozone with tons of carbon-laden smoke. (Click here.)

I suggested Fujian Province can learn from Oregon’s mistakes by responsibly managing Fujian forests, instead of abandoning them as we have for the past 25 years. I recommended the value of establishing a “100 year sustainable forest plan,” where sectors of useable timber are designated for periodic harvesting and replanting. With such a plan, each sector of public forest is scheduled for harvesting annually and must be replanted within two years following the tree harvest. By using the “100 year sustainable forest plan,” no forest plot would be harvested more than once every 100 years. Oregon had such a 100 year sustainable forest plan before it was replaced with the current “pristine forest” (hands-off) strategy. (As you might recall, the current strategy was implemented through creative, aggressive, and successful litigation under the Endangered Species Act “” i.e., “the spotted owl controversy,” “” and effective lobbying of federal and state representatives and agencies, etc.)

Since 30 million of Oregon’s 63 million acres (Click here) is covered by forestland, if a 100 year sustainable forest plan were to be reinstituted, Oregon’s forests would be saved from the ravages of devastating forest fires, and Oregon’s economy would be substantially benefited by effectively managing such a high value national resource.

In sum, I stated that Oregon and Fujian forests were much more than just animal habitat for observers to watch from roads, rails and trails. In addition to habitat, forests are trees, and trees are timber — a vital commodity for industry and a valuable crop for the citizens. In short, timber is to Oregon and Fujian, what rice is to Hunan Province and what corn is to Iowa””a renewable resource and a high value, cash crop.

With responsible management, Oregon and Fujian timber can be an even greater economic benefit and source of wealth to the people of the state and province””and the economic benefit can be accomplished while maintaining environmental equilibrium through sustainable forest management practices. Such hope for a rational and sustainable approach applies to both Fujian and Oregon forests.

The people of both Oregon and Fujian are sincerely concerned about maintaining a sustainable environment. With such environmental concern comes responsibility to our children and to the future generations of China, the USA and the world. Wood products are in demand and will be supplied. They will either be provided from environmentally concerned sources, such as Oregon and Fujian, or from environmentally destructive sources. (Click here.) Oregon and Fujian have a responsibility to be sources of good timber, harvested with good forest management practices. If not, the timber Fujian and Oregon could have provided will come from foreign sources that care little about the environment and fail to use sustainable forest practices. Oregon and Fujian environmentalists should learn from the failure of Oregon’s “pristine forest” management experiment, which has resulted in catastrophic forest fires that have aggravated the very environmental problems it sought to alleviate.

In conclusion, the world’s demand for lumber will be satisfied and the lumber will come for somewhere. By leading the way and setting the example with a 100 year sustainable forest plan, not only can Oregon and Fujian help protect the environment and animal habitat, such sustainable timber harvesting practices also will create jobs and benefit its rural economies (Click here.), where most of the forests and timber are located.


Dennis Richardson
State Representative

Personal and Educational Background:
State Representative Dennis Richardson has been a resident of Southern Oregon since 1979. He grew up in Los Angeles, California, and volunteered for the U.S. Army in 1969. Dennis is a decorated, veteran helicopter pilot who served in Chu Lai, Viet Nam. After returning from Viet Nam, Dennis attended college and worked as a carpenter. In 1973, he married Cathy Coyl Richardson. They are the proud parents of one son and eight daughters-all have attended the excellent schools of Gold Hill, Rogue River and Central Point, and all have graduated from Crater High School. Dennis attended Brigham Young University, Harbor College, and various U.S. Army officer and pilot training schools. He completed his Bachelor Degree in 1976 and earned his law degree at the J. Reuben Clark Law School at B.Y.U. in 1979. His articles have been published in the B.Y.U. Law Review, Tax Digest, Real Estate Review, Colorado Bar Journal and Financial Freedom Report.