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Looking for the middle ground

Lately I have been wearing a N95 mask, riding my bike behind the reservoir. Every time I go, there is a cigarette smoker with a blasé look on the face — a burning ember 2 inches from Madrone leaves. Hoping the well-managed watershed can take a fire, because I know it is going to burn.

Growing up and going to Ashland Middle School, and Ashland High School in the ’80s, there was no smoke in the air, except from woodstoves and giant rusty wigwams at both sides of town; Croman logging mill and McGrew Mill — old-timers used to say, “They made all the mousetraps in the world!” Medford had the biggest wigwam burner in the state across the street from where Walmart is now. Smoke during fall and winter created some kind of mystery fog from diesel smudge pots. At one time there was a 40-day period of fog, and the airport was shut down. But it was way better than today!

In the ’80s, instead of coming to the center and trying to limit clearcutting, the logging crowd had an agenda that was very logical, “Keep a job.” There were “Save a logger, shoot a spotted owl” bumper stickers, and I never saw one spotted owl, and I don’t remember anyone talking about them, but the environmental crowd tied themselves to bulldozers and logging equipment and pretty much wanted nature to take its course, and they won.

Supposedly there was a solution, but it would have taken a business adjustment — selective and salvage logging and proper stewardship — but there was a lack of coming together, a lack of the middle ground, which is the kind of disease we have today everywhere and especially in the tired-out political divide, and I wish we could let bygones be bygones and come to the middle.

What would have been nice, is if there were some moderate out there in the ’80s when it was all about jobs and money like today, where we could have harvested and maintained, and adjusted sustainability in real terms.

Recently I viewed a Ted Talk about a “patchy” forest like the pre heavy duty logging we had right after World War II and before the big equipment came in and decimated the old granddaddy trees, the Ted Talk showed healthy patches of trees, often not even touching or overlapping, and many dells, meadows and interspersed grassy lands, even bug-proof!. The theory is that there was a patchwork of different density forests that were often caught up in small, less than 80,000-acre burns. The Ted Talk lacked a little bit of the pro-Stihl kind of talk I would have liked to hear, but it did imply commercial logging on federal lands that would be helpful for the patchy-style healthy forests instead of our Disneyesque and misinformed “carpet of trees” we seem to enjoy today.

I have never found one person that seems to make sense on the subject. Case in point is how landscape architects and new homeowners plant a giant circle of overlapping trees, planting firebomb-style gasoline cans. aka trees, bushes and unkept shrubs that explode and burn their houses down in the name of shade, shade shade!

The knowledgable and local lady at Valley View told me that our Rogue landscape can be compared to Corsica because of our Madrone trees and annual rainfall. “We are now having weather like Redding or Red Bluff 20 years ago and we should act accordingly by planting wiser.”

Tom Frantz lives in Ashland.

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