People called them bulls of the woods -- the logging company bosses who could out-chop, out-saw, out-spit, out-cuss and out-brawl any man in the camp.
Those were the days, too, when clear-cutting money trees such as Douglas fir, spruce and hemlock left behind great piles of debris, called slash, that those bulls of the woods would burn. That or let it rot.
Tough men still boss logging crews, but they waste less of the trees they fall, and what they leave has a nicer name: biomass. What hasn't kept up with the times is federal policy for carbon dioxide emissions.
Slash produces CO2 whether it rots or burns -- only at different rates. But the Environmental Protection Agency may decide that only burning it as fuel produces a net gain in carbon emissions. Letting it rot doesn't count. This policy may make it impractical to do anything with logging debris other than let it go to waste.
That would be a shame. Biomass can be milled into pellets for home heating or to fire boilers instead of oil or coal. Better yet, biomass is a renewable resource.
Maybe best of all, it can play a role in thinning existing forests and removing brush and scrub trees. That material, along with tinder-dry duff, is just waiting each summer to feed wildfires.
Burning slash on site or letting it rot is as unwise as the cut-it-all-to-the-ground logging practices of old. To change current habits requires enlightened management.
Gov. John Kitzhaber wants the Legislature to renew tax credits for the fledgling biomass industry. Lawmakers should do so. The U.S. Forest Service, which owns most of Oregon's timberlands, must persevere in forest restoration projects that produce enough biomass to make harvesting it worthwhile.
Those old bulls of the woods are gone. But until state and federal governments fashion a policy of sustainable forestry, we're stuck with the bull.