The Jobs vs. Environment Mentality
The Points of the Compass article "Gray's Harbor," March 10, gives an excellent overview of the impact of environmental issues on workers and employers in such areas and of the efforts to find new jobs for retrained people.
As the author accurately reports, however, unemployment in the lumber and timber industries was already high before environmental issues heated up. This stemmed largely from the fact that changes in wood-processing technology have reduced the work force by one fourth or more.
Environmental concerns thus are by no means the only forces causing high unemployment levels. As the author states, there is the high cost of making the big mill in Gray's Harbor "competitive." This refers to technological changes in making lumber and paper and has little or nothing to do with environmental issues.
Let's not put all of the blame on the environment. John Hakanson, Milwaukie, Ore.
The article on Gray's Harbor and the human and economic effects of timber-industry restrictions is excellent. I particularly admire your focus on economic conversion and the community's efforts to diversify.
It is, however, troubling to find the cause of the community's problems laid to environmental restrictions on logging due to the spotted owl. This perpetuates the oversimplistic "jobs vs. environment" mentality.
Logging in the West has traditionally been an extractive industry; clear cutting has led to the degradation of water and land, soil erosion, and loss of habitat at all levels of the ecosystem. Communities centered around a single extractive industry shut down when there is nothing left to extract. Since the spotted owl issue has been brought to Gray's Harbor earlier than expected, this has forced the community to be abruptly weaned from dependence on the timber industry. They may come out ahead in the lo ng run. Pat Musick, Colorado Springs, Colo.