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Forestry for dummies

By Alan Caruba
web posted January 17, 2005

Recently, managers of the nation's 155 national forests were granted more discretion to approve logging and other commercial projects without the lengthy environmental reviews previously required by the 1976 National Forest Management Act. To most people that might not qualify as front page news, but it should be.

The nation was saddled with all manner of environmental legislation during the 1970s and part of the payback has been literally catastrophic for many of the nation's forests. There has also been a hidden cost for anyone using any kind of product involving or derived from wood.

The new rules brought the usual Greens screaming to anyone who would listen that, "the president's forest regulations are an early Christmas gift to the timber industry masquerading as a streamlining measure. So said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. Mike Anderson of The Wilderness Society lamented that "wildlife safeguards" would suffer. They are both not only wrong, but betray (1) the Green's opposition to any kind of industry that serves public needs and (2) an indifference to the truth about what will really serve wildlife in those forests. The goal of environmental organizations is to insure that no humans ever use our forests for any reason.

George E. Gruell is a wildlife biologist and the author of "Fire in Sierra Nevada Forests." In July, in a commentary published in the Reno Gazette-Journal, Gruel wrote, "With embers smoldering around Carson City, it's a good time to look at what fuels today's devastating fires and perhaps learn from history how to make our forests and communities safer."

"Historically," wrote Gruell, "Sierra Nevada forests were less dense and more resistant to catastrophic fire," noted the difference of just a hundred years. "What we have today is an unnatural accumulation of forest fuels." Why? Because Greens have conspired to make it illegal, difficult, and unprofitable to harvest timber from our national forests, although the law that established them made provision for that.

The Greens interference resulted in "an unnatural accumulation of forest fuels." Note the word "unnatural." Gruell wrote that, "Nevada's forests have experienced massive increases in tree cover resulting from human activities, particularly the suppression of natural fires." And here's the kicker! "As a wildlife biologist, I know a large body of evidence strongly suggests that increasingly dense forests are detrimental to wildlife, including numerous songbirds, and mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, and deer."

It's useful to keep in mind that the federal government owns most of the landmass of Nevada and so the restrictions enacted by laws put forth by environmentalists literally turned Nevada into the poster child for bad forest management.

Donna Dekker-Robertson is a forest geneticist and an adjunct professor at American River College in Sacramento, California. That state has almost forty million forested acres. In an August issue of The Washington Times, she wrote that, "the devastation goes beyond the unnatural (there's that word again!) accumulation of forest fuels that trigger megafires across Florida, Colorado, Arizona, California and the Pacific Northwest."

She noted that the US has a higher rate of wood product consumption than any other country in the world, about 2 cubic meters per person. That includes everything from paper plates and napkins, to newsprint, crayons, cosmetics, and charcoal for the barbecue. Despite this, compared to a mere 15 years ago, timber harvests in California were down more than 90% on public lands and 40% on private forest holdings. As a result, California imports an estimated 75% of the wood it consumes. If that just does not make any sense to you, you're right.

By permitting the managed harvesting of timber in California, not only would the cost be reduced, the forests protected against massive fires, and the environment for wildlife enhanced, but that State and all others that must now import timber would not risk importing non-native pests that are responsible for Dutch Elm disease and chestnut blight infestations. These originate in Asia. There are "at least 27 potentially dangerous pests that may be accidentally imported and thrive in our forests…"

"Wood," Ms. Dekker-Robertson reminds us, "is the only entirely renewable and recyclable building material we have. Compared to other building materials, wood saves energy, produces the least greenhouse gases, causes the least water and air pollution, and yields the least solid waste." Trees are so environmentally pure the power required to grow them comes entirely from the sun!

So why have so many major environmental organizations opposed the proper management of our national forests and made life for private forest owners so difficult? Why do they advocate restrictions that have caused, not just the loss of millions of acres of forest, the jobs generated by the timber industry, but the homes and other structures caught in the path of catastrophic fires?

As Gruell points out, "Thinning could save lives, enhance critical wildlife habitat, and improve other resource values."

These common sense reasons for good forest management run counter to the real goals of environmentalists, the destruction of the nation's timber industry, the requirement for higher costs to build new homes for the nation's growing population, and the further restrictions on public access to our national forests (and parks), one of the reasons Congress determined to save them in the first place.

Who are the real enemies of our natural forests and other resources? The Greens, the Greens, and the Greens.

Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba 2005


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