Alan has asked me to talk with you about sustainable forest management. I certainly do not claim to be an expert. but I do have some credentials since I come from a family of loggers.
My brother was a jippo logger on Lake Sutherland in Clallam County. The scars of the deep wounds inflicted on the breast of the mountain on the east side of the Lake are still visible.
My grandson, too was a logger until a snag fell on his spine.
All but one of my family live in the timber/tourist dependent community of Port Angeles. They talk shop - talk about logging and the forests.
These are my people who work or have worked in the woods, where they shared their lunch lovingly with the chipmunks and the birds.
For one reason or another we all love the forests. The environmentalists love them for their beauty, the recreational opportunities, their biodiversity and the habitat for wildlife that make up the ancient forests on public and private lands. To protect them has a high priority with environmentalists.
The corporate interests undoubtedly love the ancient forests for the same aesthetic reasons, but understandably the interest of the shareholders is the first priority of the corporation.
Native Americans, throughout the Pacific Northwest, love the forests because their integrity is the basis for the survival of the salmon, so dependent on uncut watersheds.
However our forests are not infinite. Without wise management they could become exhausted because they are living entities and abuse will kill them. The question is: How can we have our cake and still eat it? The answer is, of course, by making more cake to keep the supply coming. The same applies to our forests: we must keep them coming by wise forest management.
The timber corporations consist of shareholders, whose interests they must safeguard. In their long term interests, the corporations also must also keep the timber coming. It is not in their interest to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. The supply must be sustained.
In 1990, I attended a Wilderness Society Conference in Bethel, Maine. It had been called to protest the clear cutting of the piney forests to sell to Canada for the production of pulp for paper manufacture. These forests were not really pristine, having been cut some 150 years ago. To my western eyes they looked pretty scrawny. However, during the 150 years of growth, they could reasonably be termed "ancient forests" because the trees were back, and the native flora and fauna had been pretty well reestablished. The people attending the conference were protesting the cutting of these naturally reforested lands.
What was unusual in my experience was the attendance of many land owners, all of them joining the protest. I talked with one of them to find out why they they did so. He told me that he owned a considerable tract of forested land and that his family had lived off the revenue they produced for some four generations, and, although they could make a bundle if they clearcut it now, this was a short term process and did not protect the livelihood of the next four generations. They had to protect the source by sustainable forest management. Another way of expressing this is to see that the cutting of the trees equaled the overall growth of the forest.
The ingredients for this as set forth by my informant were:
1. The use of light-weight low technology that did not impact the soil. This was labor-intensive.
2. That the diversity of the forest was maintained by replanting the same species of tree as had been removed.
3. That the largest of the trees be spared to produce seed, thus improving the genetic stock.
4. That regrowth be permitted to develop naturally, not forced by use of chemically-based fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides, which ultimately poison the soil, and pollute the aquifer and thence other waters.
This is what my informant explained to me. No doubt it is an over simplification of what is a very complex natural process which even today is not clearly understood.
Nevertheless I pose this question: why would it not be profitable for the shareholders of the large corporations to support sustainable forest management according to the formula just set forth? They could hand on the revenue, which is the dividends of their stock, to the next four generations, at the very least.
Winona La Duke, a prominent Native American woman from the Bear Clan of the Mississippi band, speaks on behalf of sustainable forest practices as it is practiced on a reservation in Wisconsin by the Menominees people. She says: ".... the Menominees have a reservation. If you look at the map of northern Wisconsin you'll see farmlands and an area that's just trees. that's the Menominees. They have the same amount of trees standing and the same age span and the same diversity as they had a hundred years ago. They have a full-scale forest in operation. They only do selective cutting. They are very careful. The interesting thing is, I don't know very much about international certifications, but they are the only Green Cross certified forest in North America. I think there's something to be learned from that."
Before I finish what I have to say, I want to tell you a little story.
When I was a youngster about 12 years old I received as .22 rifle for Christmas. It came with a package of shells. In the absence of my parents my little brother and I set up a target in the backyard by slipping a coin under the shiplap of the outside wall of the house. We blazed away the whole package of shells, 99% of which missed the coin but went right through the wall into the kitchen, knocking out the plaster. I don't remember what happened to us over that incident. Whatever it was it probably didn't qualify as serious child abuse, although it should have.
On another occasion I went hunting with some adults, taking along my .22. They were duck hunting with shotguns. Three mallards appeared very high up, and far beyond the range of the shotguns. But not of the .22. I aimed and fired. Down came one of the ducks.
My fellow hunters could hardly believe that I had brought down a duck that was a mere speck in the sky. They marveled at it all the way home and beyond.
The truth was, I, too, marveled because although I had aimed at the front duck, it was the rear duck that fell. For years I never told anybody about this abysmal failure.
My impulse as an environmentalist would have me say, as the poet, George Morris, pleaded: "Oh, woodman, spare that tree, cut not a single bough". But we are dependent on trees for so many necessities: our homes, furnishings, for paper products; probably even skateboards.
Nevertheless, we must not allow clear-cutting on watersheds - a serious threat to the survival of the embattled salmon. And we must insist on sustainable forest management, to keep the cake coming.
(Last updated October 15, 1999)
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