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, and transformed the way we see—and fight over—the natural world.
"Listeners are left with both an appreciation of the magnificence of old growth forests and the toll paid by logging communities when those forests were protected. Environmentalists and loggers don't agree on much, but I think they will concur that 'Timber Wars' is fair and brilliant journalism."
—"New York Times" columnist and Oregon-native Nicholas Kristof
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
Bonus Ep: Wildfire
In 2020, wildfires swept across the West, consuming millions of acres of forest and destroying thousands of homes and even whole communities. And sadly, this is just the beginning. Fire is the future here in the West. But what we often forget is that fire is also the past. It’s what our landscape has evolved with. The tricky question is figuring out how we fit into that.
So we wanted to bring you a bonus episode that dives into some of the reporting OPB has done around wildfire. Because, frankly, fighting over fire is really the new front in the Timber Wars. The battle lines are basically the same, it’s just the details of the argument that have changed. Now instead of jobs versus owls and old growth, the argument is over whether logging prevents catastrophic wildfires or makes them worse.
Guest Ep: How to Save a Planet
In the final months of the Trump administration, there were a flurry of environmental rollbacks that hearkened back to the Timber Wars, including changes that would make it easier to log old trees and a huge reduction in the area protected for the northern spotted owl. So we wanted to bring you an episode from another podcast, "How to Save a Planet," that helps explain environmental rollbacks like these in light of one of the big ideas we explored: how did environmental laws go from bipartisan agreements to a wedge in the culture wars. And while we looked at this idea as it related to the Endangered Species Act and forests, they explore it as it relates to climate change. The episode is called “Making Republicans Environmentalists Again.”
For more on this episode of "How to Save a Planet," hosted by the journalist Alex Blumberg and the scientist Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, including a reading list, check out: https://gimletmedia.com/shows/howtosaveaplanet/gmhwdon/making-republicans-environmentalists
Guest Ep: 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 Ep: 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.
If you want to learn more about the Timber Wars, you can find the additional reading list we mention, plus a transcript for this episode, at: https://www.opb.org/article/2020/09/01/timber-wars-trailer-episode-guide/
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.
I’m about to teach on this topic to my 4th/5th graders. You’ve helped me understand the complexities of this problem and what I’ve heard and learned will help me complicate the thinking of my students. Yes, this is about a PNW issue AND it is about so much more. I now see how the strategies, politics and arguments directly mirror other issues and changes our country faces like social justice and racism. Change is hard abd we can help each other get there. I hope we can skip the divisive part and quickly get to seeing each other as humans and collaborate.
A must listen!
Excellent in debts reporting- I was around at the time, but unaware of how it came to be.
So well done.
Love this. So informative. Can’t thanks y’all enough. Telling my friends.