Simplistic finger-pointing

Posted: Thursday, October 04, 2001

When I read Dave Fremming's letter to the editor in the Sept. 28 Empire, it saddened me to see so much unwarranted finger-pointing directed at Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC). SEACC has been working hard for years to get more jobs out of each tree that is cut (that's what "value-added" means). A long-term view suggests that if you cut the trees faster than they grow, you'll work yourself right out of a job. You'll have more employment over more years if you pace yourself and process the timber as you go rather than export the logs. That is not an "anti-jobs" or "anti-economy" position. SEACC has also been working hard for years to make sure that salmon habitat is protected so that salmon fishermen can keep working. That is not an "anti-jobs" position either. Weyerhaeuser (part of the timber industry) was one of the pioneers of salmon farming on the west coast. To blame SEACC for a farmed salmon glut is nonsensical. SEACC has also been working hard to protect the scenic beauty, wildlife diversity, and recreation opportunities that our latest local industry, tourism, is so dependent upon. That is not an "anti-jobs" position.

After growing up in the timber towns of the Pacific Northwest, I learned to take a longer term view of what creates jobs and what makes for a strong economy. My dad worked for the timber industry in Washington. I watched the timber industry generate a lot of good jobs. I also watched the timber industry play a strong hand in wiping out good fishing jobs. I learned that sometimes the act of protecting one set of jobs means destroying another set of jobs. I would love it if we could never lose another timber job, have a robust fishing industry, have unlimited tourism and enough wilderness to make all the solitude-seekers happy. The unfortunate truth is that there isn't enough to go around. With limited resources and multiple demands, there are tough choices that have to be made and it often can't be reduced to a simple "pro" or "anti" jobs argument.

SEACC has done a great job of looking at the big picture, trying to make sure we pace ourselves and make choices that are less focused on short-term fixes and more focused on long-term, sustainable solutions. I don't expect everyone to agree with my opinion, but I do hope we can refrain from simplistic finger-pointing and acknowledge the complexity of the issues.

Kathy Coghill


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