Q&A with Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR5)

In recent years, Schrader has become a key figure in the forestry world, serving on the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy & Forestry. Schrader, now 61, worked as a farmer and veterinarian for more than thirty years, serving four terms in the Oregon State Legislature before getting elected to the U.S. Congress in 2009, representing Oregon’s fifth district.

In 2013, he helped introduce the bipartisan Healthy Forest Caucus to focus on the state of forest health and was part of another bipartisan group that has introduced bills to reaffirm the EPA’s policy of not requiring a water discharge permit for runoff for forest roads.

Schrader, a Democrat, recently spoke with Forest Landowner magazine about the state of the industry, where he sees it headed, and how the parties can find more common ground on forestry-related issues.

Q: It’s tough to overstate the importance of forestry in your district, both from an economic and recreational standpoint. How big a role does it play?

A:It covers more than 60 percent of the landmass of my state and a big chunk of my district. While much of urban America has struggled through this last great recession, the rural part of my district has been in depression for 25 years. Until we’re able to create more jobs in the woods and rebuild the economies of these counties and cities and families, it will continue to be in a very high unemployment situation, which is unacceptable. I think it’s unfair that as urban America progresses and rural America is left behind.

Q: How do you begin to tackle that?

A: You tackle it by starting to educate America that old 1970s and ’80 timber wars between the environmental community and the timber community are over. That’s done. We’ve lost so many mills. People are starting to wake up to fact that these communities are suffering. Locking up the forest and throwing away the key is not good management. We see it every summer on the news with wildfires running rampant and more species being in trouble.