Clearcuts aren't forests

Letter to the Editor

Posted: Friday, January 31, 2003

Related Link:

My Turn: Clearcuts can be part of healthy forest

Retired U.S. Forest Service forester Wayne Nicolls chastises me in his My Turn column of Jan. 29 for my public opinion on Ketchikan Assemblyman Dick Coose's role in the waste of public money. My comments specifically concerned Dick Coose, but Wayne obviously took them personally.

I don't have a forester's education, and concede being "ignorant" of that science as Wayne says. I do know foresters are very interested in "fiber volume" and "net growth in fiber volume per hectare." Wayne himself says that "logging to forestry is a first, not final, step toward long-term objectives." And, therein lies a problem for any U.S. national forest.

The younger a forest is, the more volume it produces per hectare. A forester naturally prefers a young forest for volume production. Clearcuts are ideal. Many claim clearcuts are "good" for the forest. Personally, I have a problem with calling a clearcut of stumps a forest, but that's apparently exactly what it is to a forester.

Any person who plants, takes care of and harvests beets, cabbages and most other growing things is called a "farmer," but a person who does the same things with trees is called a "forester." A more descriptive and precise term might be "tree farmer."

The Forest Service loses millions of taxpayer dollars on its timber program on the Tongass every year. The program destroys a valuable public resource and taxpayers pay for the privilege. We also lose much of the value of the public land for other uses. The Forest Service and its employees are not to blame. Their role is politically mandated to benefit certain deep-pocketed special interests. So what else is new?

The Tongass needs modern-thinking foresters and reasonable, sustainable, cost effective programs for timber harvest which protect all interests. Ideally, timber programs would "manage" only previously cut areas and preserve the remaining undisturbed wilderness. Perhaps, hopefully, the discredited practices of the past are over and shellbacks like Dick Coose can fade away into history's dustbins where dogmatic old anachronisms belong.

Unlike Wayne Nicolls, most Americans don't see our national forests as tree farms nor clearcuts as forests.

Erik Lie-Nielsen


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