Vernonia resident Mike Pihl is a logging company owner and the president of #TimberUnity Association, a grass-roots organization that represents logging, trucking, farmers, and those working in natural resources-based industries. You might have seen him on the History Channel’s “Ax Men.” He spoke to the Clatskanie Chamber of Commerce this past week.
“We really want to show everybody else that there’s actually people in America who get up early in the morning, go to work, and produce a commodity,” Pihl said of his company’s recent return to the popular TV program.
Pihl said the recognition he earned from being on the show and speaking about the industry across the country played a part in his rise to president of #TimberUnity Association. The group came together this past June in protest of House Bill 2020, calling for the defeat of the proposed cap-and-trade carbon tax legislation.
A walkout by Oregon Senate Republicans, heavily supported by #Timber Unity, ultimately led to the death of House Bill 2020. Loggers surrounded the Capitol building during several days of protests, circling in log trucks and standing on the front steps with signs against the proposed law.
Even before House Bill 2020 was proposed, Pihl said many businesses in smaller communities were feeling the burn from big-city lawmakers, seemingly targeted by laws affecting rural Oregon industries such as a gross receipts sales tax. When the cap-and-trade legislation hit Pihl’s radar, he and a handful of others started calling attention to it.
#TimberUnity Association now includes 53,000 members from far and wide and it is moving towards for-profit business association tax status.
“If it would not have been for our group, I believe myself, this would have passed – with an emergency clause, which means effective immediately, which means no voting on it,” Pihl said.
Pihl said when he first read a two-page brochure about House Bill 2020 it seemed worth supporting. After reading the more than 90-page bill himself nearly a dozen times, however, he still could not understand what he called its vague language, but he felt it would destroy the way timber mills operate through cap-and-trade carbon credit economics. He said it would also shut down forests, taking them off the market and making them unmanaged potential disasters.
Following the bill through the legislative process, Pihl learned the ins and outs of House Bill 2020, confirming in his mind that it was detrimental for the timber industry. He quickly went from a spokesperson for #TimberUnity Association to president. While he was happy to apply himself to the position, he said it is time consuming and requires that he constantly educate himself on important subjects.
His efforts earned him an audience with Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, telling her that his story of working for a living goes back to picking berries as a child, and like many he represents, he was taught to be a good steward of the land and the natural resources it provides. He highlighted the destructive industrial practices of China and warned against legislating Oregon out of its natural resources-based industries as competitors grow in strength.
“We really need to pay very close attention in February to what they’re trying to pass,” Pihl said. “Otherwise we’re going to be non-competitive … we’re a proud group of people; we don’t want to give up.”