It’s the 1990s in the Pacific Northwest. A march of chainsaws clear-cuts the country’s last available ancient forests. Protesters bury themselves in front of bulldozers and spend months sitting in the tallest trees in the world. And at the center, the Northern Spotted Owl becomes the most controversial bird in the country. The "Timber Wars" podcast tells the story of how this conflict reshaped the Northwest and the nation as a whole, in ways we’re dealing with still.
For more, sign up for OPB’s newsletter that combines the podcast with further reporting to take readers through the history of this epic battle in stories, images, videos and more: www.opb.org/timber-wars-newsletter
Guest Episode: Grouse
If you’ve been enjoying Timber Wars, there’s a new show you should check out. It’s about a weird and wonderful bird: the greater sage-grouse. You’ll find these creatures in wide open sagebrush country, trying to hang on alongside oil and gas drilling, recreational activity, development and ranching, which puts them right in the center of a controversy that has a lot in common with the fight over the spotted owl.
The host, Ashley Ahearn, recently moved to sagebrush country to try to better understand rural America and what this weird, troubled bird can tell us about ourselves and our relationship with the natural world, and we wanted to bring you her first episode. You can find the rest of the series by searching "Grouse" in your favorite podcast app.
Bonus: Big Money Bought the Forest
In 'Timber Wars,' we've talked about how the northern spotted owl took the blame for a lot of other things that cost jobs and hurt timber-dependent towns, like automation and international competition. Well, there was another huge thing the owl took the fall for—something that cost timber towns even more money than locking up the national forests, at least in Oregon.
In a year-long investigation, OPB, the Oregonian, and ProPublica explored how Wall Street real estate trusts and other investors gained control of the state’s private forestlands—and how they’ve profited at the expense of rural communities.
Ep 7: A Way Forward
Is the Northwest fatally divided, or can we overcome our differences and work together? We tell the story of one group of loggers and environmentalists who have found some semblance of common ground. But it didn’t come easy. And no one knows how long it’ll last.
Ep 6: The Backlash
Before the Northwest Forest Plan had a chance to succeed, Congress seized upon the threat of wildfires to create a loophole and throw the plan out the window. With old growth once again being logged, the fight to defend it grew both more mainstream and more violent, seeding the tactics for many conflicts to come, from environmental to anti-capitalist movements.
Ep 5: The Plan
The Timber Wars grew so hot that one of President Clinton’s first acts in office was to fly half his cabinet to Portland to resolve the conflict. The result was the Northwest Forest Plan, the most sweeping conservation plan in U.S. history. But it might never have happened if not for some behind-the-scenes dramas that played out in a Capitol Hill bathroom-turned-office and a presidential lunch buffet.
Ep 4: Mill City
Mill City was one of dozens of flourishing timber towns, where a job in the woods or at the local sawmill could support a good life. But protests and court cases upended that, leaving locals to ask: are owls more endangered than loggers?
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