A virtual premiere of “Uprooted,” a short film made by local resident Joel Roth that examines SDS Lumber Company’s land management practices, saw more than 100 in attendance of the Sunday evening Zoom session to watch the film and to discuss how those practices may be impacted in the future.
The nine-minute film analyzes how the lumber company has maintained operations through sustainable management of the land. Through interviews with industry professionals and knowledgeable locals, the film makes the case that SDS Lumber Company’s forest practices are both above average and at risk of being lost to a buyer who does not share those same practices.
Local environmental group Friends of the White Salmon River sponsored the documentary, which was shown amid the backdrop of news that Bingen-based SDS Lumber Company, which owns more than 100,000 acres of timberland across five counties, is preparing to sell the entirety of their corporate assets, leaving the future of local forests, critical area habitats located within the SDS-owned land, and the jobs of some-350 employees in the area uncertain. The video is hosted onine at YouTube, search “Uprooted.”
For the film, Roth interviewed Rainer Hummel, who worked with Washington Department of Natural Resources; David Powell, formerly an archaeologist with the Yakama Nation; wildlife biologist Bill Weiler; and artist/author Joy Markgraf. The film is available on YouTube for viewing.
“When we think about how SDS’ approach differs from other timber companies is that they have very strong local ties. So they’re very involved with the community, they deal with different stakeholders, be it hunters, recreationalists like mountain bikers or people that just want to go for a hike,” Hummel said in the film. Hummel said SDS Lumber Company uses a 60-year rotation for their timber harvest, longer than the industry average.
The film also explores the relationship between SDS Lumber Company and the Yakama Nation, and its presence as an economic engine in the county. Powell said in the film that he worked with SDS and Yakama Nation for the cultivation of cultural resources before a harvest, and said that “anything that we found, (SDS) protected.”
FWSR reached out to SDS to participate in the premiere but no one from the company attended, said Pat Arnold, president of the Friends of the White Salmon River.
“I’m really proud of Joel and proud of this film and I hope it serves the purpose of getting everybody talking and thinking,” said Arnold. “The potential impacts of the SDS Lumber sale just can’t be overestimated and we hope to educate people about what is at stake here.”
Roth had the opportunity to share his experience making the film.
“My perspective changed a lot while making this film. In the beginning, I was not really super pro-logging — you know I wanted the trees to stay there,” Roth said. “But as I read articles and learned stuff I really see that it’s an important part of this community; $13 million is the revenue that comes around and I thought that was just a really interesting fact.
“It was a very large project. We started working on it back in the fall and spent about 200 hours of work,” Roth said.
A short question and answer discussion followed. One viewer posed the question of what the ideal protection of the forest is in the perspective of Friends. Arnold replied that an ideal outcome, in her view, “is one that protects the forest, protects the habitat, protects the river.
“But we don’t think this is just about us. What hit us, when we first saw that press release, is the economic effect on the community, and the effect on friends and neighbors and people who live here and work for the company,” Arnold said, recalling the original announcement from SDS Lumber Company that they had intentions to sell the company.
“There’s just all sorts of ramifications here,” said Arnold.
Viewers also asked many questions about the process of the sale, but Arnold said much of it is “a big black box. We just don’t know.”
The conversation turned to how the community can get involved in the process. While it’s a private transaction, Arnold made told viewers that they wish to continue starting the conversation about the sale, and reiterated that the environmental group is speaking to prospective buyers to voice their concerns.
Arnold gave credit to StoryGorge, who provided technical assistance and guidance in the early stages of development, and also thanked the board members of the FWSR as well as those interviewed for the film.