Skokomish Tribe CEO Tom Strong: The story of our forests
June 06, 2024
Tom Strong, CEO, Skokomish Indian Tribe,
and vice chair, Skokomish Tribal Council

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. 

A 2009 settlement with Tacoma Public Utilities resulted in the return of forest lands to the Skokomish people. That, along with the lands we purchased under the Cobell Act Settlement land buyback program, motivated us to take a new approach to forestry management. We wanted to manage our resources to their highest and best purpose, as determined by the tribal government. So we developed a forest management plan by working with Northwest Natural Resource Group (NNRG). They helped us get FSC certification for our wood while aligning with the tribe's values. 

The Douglas fir timber that went to PDX was selectively thinned from 143 acres of overstocked forests. It's nice to produce a premium product and get a premium price, but ultimately we are the stewards of the land, whether that's for the birds and plants, all the way to fish and shellfish. 

We've all come to understand recently the impacts of human-caused development in our area. We’ve seen impacts from failing septic systems affect our shellfish beds. We see the impacts of climate change with ocean acidification. We’re watching these things happen around us. It's imperative to us to do what we can to mitigate those effects. We have people out there right now fishing for shrimp. We want to see those things continue. We have people working the beaches. We want to see those recover. 

With a mind toward stewardship, a mind toward consideration, and a mind toward economic opportunities, we will carry forward for our kids, and for the next seven generations. It’s important for us to be a model for others, demonstrating what can be done to make sure the ecosystem functions properly, the way nature is intended to. 

This timber, and the wood at PDX, reflects a new era for the Skokomish. [This timber] is a part of our tradition of trade and commerce. We did some archaeological work on the reservation a few years ago and came across an obsidian artifact. Because there's a molecular signature to obsidian, we could identify that the source material came from Burns, Oregon. We've been trading, tribe to tribe, all the way to Oregon and beyond for generations. 

The Skokomish Tribe is a tribe steeped in its culture and its history. The forest management plan is a continuation of who we are as a people. We're a giving people. We try to support and improve outcomes for everybody. We're in the boontoolies, but while that does create some economic hardship in terms of creating businesses, it gives us access to the most beautiful place on the planet. 

That's what I would hope that people know. We were created here. We will be here forever. And we want to ensure the things we enjoy, and the lives we have enjoyed forever, is something others have as well.