My Turn: Leave old-growth watersheds alone

Posted: Wednesday, August 07, 2002

How lucky are we? We live in the Tongass National Forest, a temperate rain forest, one of the most beautiful, pristine, amazingly rich and diverse places on the planet, geologically and biologically. This is our home. Don't we have the responsibility to preserve the balance of our natural inheritance? Human activity in Southeast Alaska is inherent, people dwell on this great land. Most people try to be considerate of others' values. We strive to get along, based on mutual respect and cooperation; being courteous, and conscientious of what may be offensive to our neighbors, and willing to be of service in whatever ways we can be.

Clearcut-logging practices are not based on this moral foundation. Clearcut logging alters the entire ecosystem drastically. Not by just years, but for many decades. We won't experience these amazing natural places the same in our lifetime. We won't be able to use them or enjoy them in the same way we used to use and enjoy them and value them.

This is all because of one practice, one group of forest users who gets to molest and destroy what the rest of us treasure. Our forests get abused at the expense of those of us who would never dream of misusing these resources. No other user group messes up the forest ecosystem and landscape, and devastates recreational uses and other economic based opportunities, like clearcut logging does.

Who wants to take the family out to camp, hike, fish, hunt, gather traditional foods, sea kayak, photograph, take tourists out, go sailing and pleasure boating along decimated clear cut areas where it looks like a nuclear bomb exploded? This is an extreme practice! Extremely destructive and extremely disrespectful, and disheartening to an ever-increasing number of Alaska residents and visitors. It's wrong!

Clearcut logging is an outdated practice. It no longer has relevant applications in these modern times where people are driven by modern thinking, prioritizing low impact uses. It is wrong to use these destructive methods today in Southeast Alaska with human values set higher. We know better.

Logging advocates twist the numbers and statistics to deceive the public. Spend some time looking at your maps and it's not too difficult to see the truth of what areas are set aside for permanent protection. A lot of rock and ice, some nice forest, and a lot of rock and ice. Forest Service data compiled shows that two-thirds of the whole Tongass National Forest is rock, ice and muskeg. One-third is forest and. of that, half is commercially viable forest. One-sixth of that is the most magnificent old growth trees. And to date 70 percent of those extraordinary huge trees have been cut. Only 30 percent remain. That does not seem fair. Logging advocates should practice what they preach and harvest forest lands they've already butchered in the past. And leave these rare and treasured old growth watersheds alone for the integrity of the Tongass.

The Forest Service is taking public comment on their court-ordered wilderness review. Believing in protecting Tongass unroaded areas is one thing, but taking action through letter writing is a whole other thing. The deadline is Aug. 17. The address is:

Tongass National Forest - CAT

P.O. Box 9079

Missoula, MT 59807

Tom Lee of Douglas is an avid outdoorsman, recreationist and concerned citizen.

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