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The Future of the Timber Industry After the Forest Conference

Regarding the Opinion page article "Key Results From Forest Conference," April 16: As a professional forester, I agree that important results may have occurred from the forest conference. However, I question the author's key points in regard to timber-dependent communities.

While the timber industry has increased automation, and competition from other regions has increased, the Northwest still grows the finest structural timber in the world. This, combined with the fact that the timber industry is one of the top three employers in Washington state, shows that the timber industry plays an important role in the Northwest's economy.

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While the economy within the region has been healthy until recently, the region's economy has now turned sour. One only has to look at Washington's No. 1 employer, the Boeing Company. This employer has been laying off people at an ever-increasing rate, which severely hampers the state's economic recovery. The state of California also has some of the highest unemployment rates in the country, which suggests that there are few opportunities for reemployment outside the timber industry.

The author's statement that the economy is rosy and that the timber industry in the region is decreasing in importance seems shortsighted with the present economic woes.

I do agree with the author that value-added wood products are a way to maintain high-paying wages. However, for these products to equal the dollar amount raised by exporting raw logs (which is not allowed in logs from public lands), the federal government must open the door for exporting these products to our trading neighbors. Todd Merritt, Rochester, Wash.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please fax letters to (617) 450-2317 or address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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