Yakama Forest Products’ Cristy Fiander: The story of our forests
June 06, 2024
Cristy Fiander Resource Manager, Yakama Forest Products

PDX asked representatives from our four tribal partners to tell us the story of the wood they supplied for the new main terminal and how they manage their sovereign lands. Read all four stories.

Yakama Forest Products is an enterprise of the Yakama Nation. We get guidance from our board of directors, as well as the Yakama Tribal Council. The management of our company’s team are all enrolled members of the Yakama Nation. So are 60% or 70% of the people who work here. 

All the wood we supplied to PDX came from the Yakama Nation Reservation. Our reservation is 1.3 million acres, and 480,000 acres of it is commercially harvested forest. 

These trees, and the lumber we produce, are truly a gift from our Creator. When we take people up there to see our forests, we get so many compliments, people saying we have the best forests in the world. As a tribal member, living here my whole life, it’s just what we're used to having. When you bring people in there and they're so amazed, it makes you feel good. 

I come from a logging family. My grandfather had the very first Yakama-enrolled-member-owned logging company back in the late 1970s. He was always very prideful that we were a selective logging tribe. The only reason our forests are certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative is to show purchasers that we're logging sustainably. But those SFI requirements? We were already meeting them — if not better. 

We manage our land in a way that mimics fire: We log for forest health by taking out weaker trees. If the forest grows too thick and overstocked, diseases come in such as root rot, bugs, or needle blight. We harvest them before mortality sets in to continue to store carbon as lumber products are made. We always leave the best trees, the ones with the best crowns, the ones in the best health that will in turn produce healthy natural regeneration.

We still block out areas for spotted owl and to preserve old growth. We still block out areas for cultural resources. So it's not like we're going in there and we're logging everything. We try to manage the forest so that it is fire-resistant.

When we talk to young Yakama tribal members about the forests — my own children included — we want them to know how to take care of themselves. The Creator, he put everything that we need here on this Earth. We don't have to grow anything. We don't have to provide anything. It's already all out here for us. 

I want people to know that the Yakama people and our ancestors are from this area. And we are still here and active. Our usual and accustomed areas for trade, travel, fishing, hunting, and gathering extend down to Portland and all the way to the ocean. By showcasing our lumber as far south as Portland, we are also showing that we're contributing to the Northwest in many different ways.