Get loggers out of our national forestsBy Jim Trageser
This article was originally published in the September 1, 1996 edition of the North County Times.
If a tree fell and there were no other trees left to hear it, would it still be a forest?
Ask yourself that question next time you visit a national forest. Because under a little-noticed law passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton, the U.S. Forest Service is selling off thousands of acres of our national forests including a bunch in Northern California to timber companies.
Which strikes me as pretty goofy. Why have a national forest if you're just going to cut it down?
They way I understood the national forest concept was that the federal government set aside broad swaths of undeveloped land to keep it that way to preserve sections of the land in the condition they were found in.
Which would hardly seem to include clear-cutting entire sections.
The Forest Service argues it needs to conduct these "salvage" sales to get dead and diseased trees out of the national forests. The diseased ones, maybe. If you've got some real nasty customer like Dutch Elm Disease sweeping a particular forest, then you might need to take drastic action. But I'd be a heck of a lot more comfortable having the Forest Service itself conducting that operation instead of contracting with a timber company.
Anyway, in order to entice the timber companies into bidding on the "salvage" sales, the Forest Service has to include enough healthy trees to make such an operation economically feasible.
Still and all, short of an actual emergency, dead trees ought to be left alone. They're part of nature's cycle and return important nutrients to the soil as they decompose. I mean, the forests seem to do OK for a couple million years without our help, right?
The timber companies, of course, want to get their hands on the national forests because few have done anything to replenish the stock of trees on their own lands Weyerhauser being the major exception, and more power to them.
But the national forests do not exist for the benefit of timber companies. So we have a couple options here: Shut down these "salvage" sales and actually protect the national forests or change the name from the National Forest Service to the National Tree Farm Service.
If we don't stop this, what will be next? Strip mining in Yosemite? Oil derricks in the Everglades?
Do the developers have to get their hands on every last piece of real estate in this country? Can't our government have the backbone to stand up and protect something for the next generation?
The national forests belong to the people and to the people they should be reserved.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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