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IN BRIEF

Environment

September 05, 1993|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

SHOWDOWN AT OPAL CREEK: The Battle for America's Last Wilderness by David Seideman. (Carroll & Graf: $22.95 ; 419 pp.) The paper you are holding now probably has some white and silver fir, some hemlock and some spruce in it. These species, according to Seideman, a reporter for Time magazine, make up half the virgin fiber in newsprint. This is just one of many facts about logging in this country that form the backdrop to Seideman's real story: the friendship between George Atiyeh, a logger turned environmentalist and Tom Hirons, a lifetime logger. Inseparable friends and business partners for two decades, Atiyeh and Hirons part ways over 6,800 acres of one of the "largest stands of virgin forest in the western Cascade Mountain range," an area called Opal Creek. The fight is waged in Washington, in the state capitol, and over Tom Brokaw's head. Atiyeh has Opal Creek to lose; Hirons has a way of life and let's face it, an ego that is being steadily undermined by a dying industry. He has to work harder, buy bigger machinery and go deeper into debt to compete. His wife gets a job and is more successful than he is. His son doesn't want to work for him anymore and loses respect. Seideman enters a fully polarized situation, fueled by fear: As one burly logger tells him: "I've never been scared of nothing in my whole life. . . . But I'm scared . . . now. I have a sixth-grade education and been in timber since I was 16. Don't know nothing else. . . ." But the fact is, it's not the environmentalists putting these loggers out of work, it's the dwindling resource.

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