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By Jerri Ann Lewis

Yes, there is one more environmental disaster during the "reign" of the Bush Administration up for discussion. Yet, this problem may be the oldest one of them all - old growth forests. Old growth forests are elaborate ecosystems that contain trees ranging in ages. Old growth forests tend to have many large old trees, numerous seedlings and saplings, as well as dead and decaying trees. They are homes to thousands of species of wildlife, producers of clean air and clean water, and contain rich, plentiful soil.1 However, what was once a major controversy between loggers and environmentalists is now once again. From the throws of one serious disaster rises another even more serious one. The disaster in reference is best described by the words of a famous naturalist:2

"Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed, chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. During a man's life only saplings can be grown, in place of old trees -- tens of centuries old -- that have been destroyed. It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods, -- trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ's time -- and long before that -- God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods, but he cannot save them from fools, -- only Uncle Sam can do that." -- quote from John Muir, August 1897

John Muir was on the right track with this statement. The only thing he was mistaken about here is the Uncle Sam part. Obviously, he had not yet encountered George W. Bush.

Due to the series of devastating fires in the western United States, the Bush Administration believes old growth forests should be thinned in order to constitute "healthy forests", aid in the prevention of future fires, and protect homes. However, his plans propose to lessen environmental laws that protect endangered species, water quality, and air quality in order to speed up the process of creating "healthy forests". The proposal recommends expediting or ending the "Survey and Manage" program of the Northwest Forest Plan. By eliminating this program loggers would not have to wait for a third party to perform a lengthy assessment for possible rare or endangered species inhabiting the land in question. The extensive surveys can cause more intense management of the forests to protect rare or endangered species, which could possibly halt logging of areas. Therefore, canceling out the "Survey and Manage" section makes it easier for large timber industries to log old growth forests. The rare species placed at risk seem to be of no real concern. However, with the use of such terms as forest health, catastrophic-wildfire prevention and streamlining, Americans are led to believe that the reason for the proposal is for the protection of homes from fire while helping the forests recover from the damage. By sugar-coating these proposals, the Bush administration is allowing some timber industries, such as Pacific Lumber, to "rake in the green" -money that is, at the downfall of not only trees, but entire ecosystems and, in turn, fund the President's reelection campaign.3

Carefully worded statements written by corrupt politicians cause many Americans to misunderstand the situation. What people are failing to see are the facts:

  • Most of the wildfires occurred on privately owned property, while the Healthy Forest Initiative plan is only for federal land. Vacationers, hikers, bikers, and avid hunters and fishermen utilize public property. Altering these areas reduces recreation for these people.4
  • Thinning old growth forest realistically means to remove the larger trees while leaving the smaller ones. However, the smaller trees, underbrush, and debris left from the thinned forests would be better fuel for a future fire than the untouched old growth forest. The truth of the matter is the higher moisture content and the thick outer-layer of bark protects the magnificent giants and makes them more resistant to blazes.5
  • The mechanized machinery used by big timber industries take the jobs from smaller, more manual, manpowered logging companies, thus, reducing the jobs for people. These monstrous machines also do more damage to the forests than the older, more ecologically safe logging skills used by our forefathers. Today's modern methods damage small trees considered undesirable by lumber companies or paper mills because they are not big enough to be useful. However, large trees are of no real use to loggers either. Over the years timber corporations have become accustomed to using even-aged "farm grown" trees for the production of wood and paper products.6
  • Without the "checks and balance" system of forest management (Survey and Manage Program) we are giving loggers the green light to proceed with thinning and, possibly, clear cutting of old growth forests. This will jeopardize many creatures' lives, homes, and food sources, as well as jeopardizing our water and air quality and our various ways of enjoying pristine nature.7
  • By changing or eradicating certain words in past environmental laws, our democratic rights change from living freely to living in fear of politicians and multi-million dollar companies stripping us of natural wonders for their own greedy desires.8

This entire drama is weighing out to look like just another ploy to give to the rich and steal from the poor, inevitably effecting everyone or everything on one level or another, while the politically suggested answers to the wildfires only add to the problem. The answer does not lie within the deduction or deletion of standing old growth forests, but the restoration and reconstruction of the fallen forests.

One quote from Merle Haggard best sums up this disgraceful behavior, "The people responsible for this destruction (government officials and timber company owners) should be taken out of their positions. These forests support the grandest life on earth; to have no feeling for it is criminal. Only money is being heard now, not the voice of the people."9 If the Bush Administration manages to carry-out their scheming tactics, I believe, "Ole' George and his pals" better hope there are some sizable trees left because they may need something substantial to hide behind as people become wise to the greed-based conspiracies.

1 "The Importance of Old Growth Forests", The Wilderness Society.
2 "Ancient Forests," The Mouth.
3 "Bush Administration Clearing Path for Clearcuts," BushGreenwatch. March 5, 2004.
4 Matthew Koehler, "Separating Fact from Fiction: Deconstructing the Myths Behind the Healthy Forest Fires,"
5 Brian Leitner, "Logging Companies are Responsible for the California Wildfires," October 30, 2003.
6 Bob Love, "A dose of straight communication would greatly improve forest health," Headwaters News. September 25, 2002.
7 Orna Izakson, "Smokescreen: Fire, Forests, and the Bush Administrations's "Healthy Forest" Plan for Increased Logging," The Fate of the Forests. November 2003.
8 "Bush Administration Lifts Old Growth Protections in Northwest," Environmental Issues, About. March 23, 2004.
9 Dan Bacher, "Merle Haggard and the Politics of Salmon," Counterpunch. March 2, 2004.

More Related Sites:
The Mouth. (Old Growth Forests)

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