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Washington's Timber Industry
Transcript of Washington's Timber Industry
Washington's Timber Industry
During the mid 1800s, the Olympic Peninsula was the main supplier of lumber in Washington.
The California gold rush exposed the need for a steady lumber supply in Washington.
No other industry came close to matching logging in it's importance to Washington.
Many forests were nearly destroyed by the heedless practices of the early logging towns.
Loggers had the place to themselves for a while, and some logging towns in Washington gained a reputation as a den of lawlessness. Few outsiders dared to venture into the towns.
No logging town existed without a tavern. Since the men did not have much to spend their money on, they did a lot of gambling and drinking.
Loggers would set up a camp near the Puget Sound, cut down every tree in sight, and overload the closest ship to California.
The most notorious logging towns were around Grays Harbor, like Aberdeen and Hoquiam.
Billy Gohl, a violent criminal, was credited with many murders, arsons, thefts, and assaults. He was a bartender and union agent during the rise of the logging industry. He had special delight in targeting sailors.
In a single year at Grays Harbor, over forty dead bodies were found in the water.
Logging was a grisly profession
With automated saws, falling trees weighing several tons, and other such features, the death and dismemberment rate was atrocious.
The best way to transport timber was by boat. Any other form of transportation was difficult.
There were many attempts to unionize but many were shrugged off as sporadic, the possibility was always lurking though.
Then, in 1907, a radical group called the I.W.W emerged. All the sawmills near the Columbia River were shut down.
Business employers used all the usual tricks to fight the I.W.W, firing suspected organizers, attacking demonstrations, and infiltrating union meetings with spies.
The Spotted Owl
In 1986, a worried environmentalist petitioned to list the Spotted Owl as an endangered species, forcing the logging industry to stop clearing forests.
After arguments with the timber industry, the government, and environmentalists, in 1990 the spotted owl was declared an endangered species.
Under this provision, timber companies are required to leave at least 40% of old growth forest within 1.3 miles of a spotted owl nest.
Only 2,000 pairs of Spotted Owls live today.
On January 3rd 1900, Washington's timber industry was changed forever.
Frederick Weyerhaeuser bought 900,000 acres of forest land. This was the largest private transaction of land in American history at the time. He paid $6 an acre.
Weyerhaeuser is committed to replanting trees after they are cut down.