by Anne Woiwode
Michigan Forestry and Biodiversity Program Director
A small girl stands in a pristine forest, looking pensive. The hush
is broken only by the headline. "Though we're one of the largest private
landowners in America, we know it's"--here the words grow so large they
require another page--"not only our land." If that doesn't convince you
international Paper cares about the environment, the slick magazine ad
provides three columns of text to finish the job.
Not to be outdone, Georgia-Pacific shows us seven children in a bright
green sea of seedlings. "I think it makes the kids feel good to know that
we care," we're told by "Jimmy Anderson, nurseryman." "That we're doing
our part. And that we're going to make sure Where will always be plenty
of trees. For them. And for their kids, too."
Those kids, as it happens, depend more than they know on the goodwill
of timber-industry giants. because, for the most part, federal restrictions
on logging don't apply.
Sierra Club members have been a powerful force in the effort to achieve
environmentally sensitive management for the vast National Forest System.
Yet well over half of America's forestlands-57 percent, or some 500 minion
acres--are privately owned or controlled by state or local governments.
The Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act's pollution runoff regulations
do apply in these forests, and a number of federal programs offer incentives
for sound management. For the most part, though, oversight for most of
the nation's forests is left to state and local agencies, whose concern
does not always match that of Jimmy Anderson, nurseryman.
The neighboring states of Michigan and Wisconsin provide a snapshot
of some of the significant differences in state and local forest management.
In Michigan, there is no fundamental statute creating the state forest
system, three-quarters of whose 3.8 million acres were acquired through
tax reversion. Michigan's Natural Resources Commission, as a result, makes
policy without the benefit of a coherent policy mandate. Wisconsin, by
contrast, has statutes governing the purposes of both the 600,000 acres
of state forest and the 2.2 million acres of county forestlands, both of
which emphasize management to promote the timber industry. An exciting
effort to rewrite the Wisconsin state forest law to include biodiversity
protection is currently underway.
It is increasingly clear--to quote from "Defining Sustainable Forestry,"
a report that came out of a 1993 conference on the subject--that "neither
our current system of forest reserves... nor any conceivable such system
will be sufficient to provide adequate protection of biodiversity in the
wide range of forest habitats." For that reason, Sierra Club activists
are focusing more of their attention on non-federal lands.
Forest practice aces have been in existence in some states since the
late 1930s, with She earliest laws focused on reforestation. But it wasn't
until the 1970s that more comprehensive forest practices laws were enacted.
Protection of water quality, habitat, soils, aesthetic concerns and timber
productivity are found more and more in the newer laws. These new laws
generally either prescribe types of harvesting activities permitted, or
require the timber harvester to assure that certain performance standards
are met through development of a plan approved by the regulatory agency.
As new laws were enacted in response to environmental concerns, the
forest products industry also began to weigh in, recognizing that by initiating
forest practice regulations they could check strict environmental standards.
For example, concern about local ordinances regulating logging activities
has prompted the industry to seek preemption of local controls in state
forest practice acts. That concern has also caused it to spend hundreds
of thou- sands of dollars on ads to reassure us that such laws aren't needed.
Nevertheless, Sierra Club members concerned about the future of forest
ecosystems and biodiversity ill most parts of the United States will eventually
find that their efforts demand moving outside the arena of federal lands.
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