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The Final Forest

big trees, forks, and the Pacific Northwest

William Dietrich, a former science writer for the Seattle Times, is the author of Northwest Passage: The Great Columbia River and Natural Grace: The Charm, Wonder, and Lessons of Pacific Northwest Animals and Plants, as well as popular fiction.

Publication Year: 2010

William Dietrich has gone to the heart of the greatest forest left in North America and returned with a clear and compelling story of why so many people are fighting over it. Like the towering firs of the Olympic Peninsula, this book will stand the test of time. - Timothy Egan, author of The Big Burn

Published by: University of Washington Press

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Preface, 2010: Twilight Town

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pp. 11-17

Life surprises.
Of all the possible outcomes for Forks, Washington, that I might have imagined in tumultuous 1990–91, when I first worked on The Final Forest, the unlikeliest would have been the Olympic Peninsula town’s destiny as an international tourist destination. ...

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Introduction: The Last Corner

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pp. 18-29

If it were more ordinary country, less lovely and less hard, maybe the love and the outrage would not be so keen. But there is a quality about the forested mountains of the Olympic Peninsula, that very northwestern corner of the continental United States, that gets a grip on the mind and heart. ...

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1. The Cutter

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pp. 30-51

It is 6 a.m. and still dark this late September morning when the loggers begin crowding into Jerry’s saw shop. Although the fir and hemlock in back of the store are still just silhouettes against the fading stars, the town of Forks is awake and moving with men on their way to the woods. ...

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2. The Biologist

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pp. 52-65

Summer’s dusk is pleasant and soft in the Pacific Northwest. At that latitude the light lingers, a long, blue twilight seemingly reluctant to give up the landscape. The forest gently shadows, and while its details become less distinct to human eyes, it doesn’t rest: a night shift of wild creatures begins to stir. ...

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3. The Opening in the Trees

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pp. 66-78

The Olympic Peninsula is made of circles. There is a circle of mountains, a circle of sea, and by the end of the 1980s circles for owls: places on the map where a 2.1-mile radius had been drawn around each discovered owl nest. Biologists urged that not more than half the old-growth forest within those circles should be harvested. ...

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4. The Owl

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pp. 79-93

There is a sign on an office door at the National Council for Air and Stream Improvements in Corvallis, Oregon, a wildlife consulting firm hired by the timber industry to find out if spotted owls can survive outside old-growth forest. SINCERE BELIEF MIXED WITH CRAFTY DECEPTION IS CONSPICUOUS BY ITS PREVALENCE IN THE HISTORY OF BOGUS SCIENCE, the sign reads. ...

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5. The Town

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pp. 94-105

“Trees! Such monsters, all crammed together as thick as corn stalks,” wrote pioneer Amantha Sill of Oregon’s coastal forest in 1861. “God put them there, he must know what for. It is a great cave for animals to live, and Indians to come up on you so sudden. . . . Every day and night, I pray to be taken back to Indiana.” ...

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6. The Guru

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pp. 106-125

Standing waist high in pink fireweed on the crown of Gold Mountain, Jerry Franklin looks down a slope of Washington’s Cascade range to see an example of his ideas put into action. A score of U.S. Forest Service employees from the Darrington Ranger District northeast of Seattle have accompanied the scientist to look at one of their first attempts to produce what Franklin calls a deliberate “dirty clearcut.” ...

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7. The Industry

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pp. 126-143

The kind of forestry Jerry Franklin wants to change is best seen from the air, preferably in winter. Snow turns the modern managed forest into a checkerboard of black and white and gray. The clear-cuts are white, and the mature, uncut evergreens black. ...

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8. The Truckers

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pp. 144-158

The logging truck is the first thing a visitor sees when pulling into Dick and Barbara Mossman’s driveway. Their white shingled home with its red trim is near Forks at Pleasant Lake, that place where the startlingly shaven hills are fuzzed with brown stump stubble and the green whiskers of replanted trees. The Mossmans’ truck is hard to miss. ...

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9. The Environmentalist

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pp. 159-173

In late September of 1988, about two hundred Northwest environ- mentalists gave up the bright sunshine of an Indian summer morning and crowded into the windowless auditorium of the Mountaineers Club, not far from Seattle’s Space Needle. The occasion was an annual conference on wilderness, and the sacrifice of a choice Saturday had become customary: this gathering frequently ...

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10. Nobody to Blame

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pp. 174-190

Considering that it is a meeting to foment a polite revolution, the gathering in the basement of the Chimacum Community Center on the eastern end of the Olympic Peninsula is disappointingly small. Only eight Forest Service employees have shown up this October evening of 1990 to discuss reform of their agency with Jeff DeBonis, a former agency employee who describes himself as a “timber beast” turned tree hugger. ...

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11. The Forester

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pp. 191-203

Most careers result only peripherally in three-dimensional, visible achievement. Few give the worker an opportunity to see in a glance the results of a lifetime of work. Engineers can point to their products sometimes. So can architects, or carpenters, or visual artists. ...

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12. The Candidate

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pp. 204-222

The Ides of March of 1990 was a sunny spring day in Portland, the kind that seems especially sweet after the long gray winter. The barren trees along a causeway had taken on a watercolor wash of fuzzy green, and the sky was a scrubbed blue. To the east, the white crumpled cone of Oregon’s Mount Hood stood up on the horizon like a marble sculpture. ...

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13. A Name for the Trees

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pp. 223-238

In 1988 the leaders of a notoriously unyielding and effective environmental group called the Oregon Natural Resources Council gathered in the Portland office of Andy Kerr, the group’s conservation director. Combative and witty, Kerr thrived on controversy and reflected back the heat aimed his way by antagonists as if he were wrapped in aluminum foil. ...

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14. Refusing to Lose

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pp. 239-251

In the months after the report of the interagency committee chaired by Jack Ward Thomas had stunned the Pacific Northwest, the burly, gray- haired, thick-armed biologist would say to angry audiences, “I want to stand up here and let you see if I’m as big a sonofabitch as you think I am.” ...

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15. The Empty Mill

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pp. 252-264

In a chill dusk of the winter that followed issuance of the Jack Ward Thomas report, the million-dollar sawmill completed by Larry Mason is still. Its muddy yard is mostly empty of stacked logs now, depressions in the mud marking where the trees once lay. The few fat cedars left behind are like fossil remnants of Mason’s hopes for the future. ...

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16. Sanctuary, I

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pp. 265-283

The self-built home of recycled wood where Bonnie Phillips-Howard lives nestles on the six-acre site of a former logging camp, some forty miles north of Seattle.
There is irony in her homesite’s history: first, because Phillips- Howard has become one of the most implacable foes of freewheeling logging, a quintessential example of the citizen activist who has bit into the vulnerable heel of the timber industry ...

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17. Sanctuary, II

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pp. 284-300

Many of those who are most deeply affected by the final forest originally come from someplace else. The stolid trees are mute, inanimate, and yet they have a power to draw people, to promise sanctuary. Bonnie Phillips- Howard came from Wisconsin, and Larry Mason from Massachusetts. Mitch Friedman and ranger Fred Harnisch ...

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18. Epilogue: The Final Forest

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pp. 301-311

The final forest, that last magnificent remnant of what stood in America before European discovery, was quieter in 1991. It was as if all sides, exhausted by the acrimony and the worry, had paused to take breath. ...

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Afterword, 2010

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pp. 312-322

The battle over old-growth forest was ultimately settled, for the time being, at the polls. George Bush Sr. campaigned to roll spotted owl protections back; Bill Clinton more evasively promised to listen and compromise. On April 2, 1993, President Clinton convened a one-day “timber summit” in Portland, Oregon. ...

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pp. 323

This book was made possible by the patience and trust of the extraordinary people who fill its pages. I thank them for their time, help, and eloquence. I particularly appreciated the warmth and honesty of so many people in Forks, Washington. ...


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pp. 324-336

E-ISBN-13: 9780295802251
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295990620

Publication Year: 2010