- Focus on Herbicides, Bears, Koa in State Forests
- Herbicides Halted in Vermont
- White Pines Restored in Minnesota
- Aloha Logging?
Fighting the U.S. Forest Service isn't the only game in town; state governments
play an important role in protecting -- or failing to protect -- the nation's
forests. State agencies oversee land management and logging of the significant
forest resources held by the states (parks, preserves and trust lands) and
private landowners (ranging from industrial holdings of tens of thousands of
acres to individual landowners with ten acres). This year, Sierra Club chapters
in at least 17 states are working on forest-practices bills in their state
legislatures or influencing rulemaking by state agencies.
In Vermont, overwhelming public concern about a proposal to spray herbicides
from helicopters on forest lands owned by Champion International Paper Company
helped persuade the state Senate to approve a bill prohibiting the use of most
herbicides for forestry purposes. The Vermont Chapter has been pushing the bill
and is supporting two positive amendments, one that requires stream buffers on
timber-harvesting operations, another that eliminates a 300-acre loophole on the
timber-gains tax. Gov. Howard Dean (D) is expected to sign the bill if it passes
The governor already signed a bill that requires forest owners who want to make
cuts of 40 or more acres to file with the state. The Club supported the measure,
but argued that it didn't go far enough. "It fails to recommend upper limits on
the size of clearcuts or the percentage of an ownership that can be clearcut
over a specified period of time," says Tom Gilbert, Vermont Chapter conservation
chair. He adds that even clearcutting areas under 40 acres can have negative
When Lynn Rogers, Minnesota's nationally known bear expert, contacted the Sierra
Club in 1995 about the drastic decline of white pines -- critical sites for
black bear dens -- the North Star Chapter helped draft the Restore the White
Pine bill. It called for a moratorium on cutting white pines until the state
Department of Natural Resources could develop a sustainable harvesting plan.
"We found sympathetic legislators to introduce the bill," says Judy Bellairs,
Chapter legislative director, "and our forestry committee called members in key
districts urging them to contact their legislators in support of the bill."
Rogers presented his slide show at a hearing in the House Environment Committee
and explained the dramatic 98 percent loss of the majestic white pine. Two
lumber-mill owners testified in opposition, but the bill passed nearly
To galvanize Senate support, the chapter helped organize a field trip to
northern Minnesota for senators to see the problem firsthand. At this point, the
DNR got the message and established a scientific work group to recommend white
pine regeneration strategies.
This year, almost two years after the Restore the White Pine bill was
introduced, the governor, northern Minnesota legislators, loggers and
environmentalists are calling for $750,000 a year to fund planting, maintenance
and research on white pines. The DNR has agreed that the central goal of white-
pine management on state land should be to enhance white-pine habitat and
maintain the pines' regenerative capacity.
The DNR has also agreed to provide an annual report on the status of white
pines, to allow them to grow to at least 180 years old (minor thinning would
still be allowed), to double the acreage of young white-pine trees within seven
years, to assure that white-pine seed sources remain and allow for public input
before trees are cut. As the St. Paul Pioneer Press recently proclaimed: "White
pines win as environmentalists, foresters bury hatchet."
There are no major timber operations in Hawai'i simply because the state's
unique native forests, public and private, have already been devastated. Now
state and private landowners are looking to trees to replace the flagging sugar
and pineapple industries.
Reforestation proposals concern Hawai'i Chapter Director Dave Frankel because of
uncertainty on how the plans will be executed. "Will there be safeguards against
erosion?" he asks. "Will the timber be pulped and exported immediately? Will the
reforestation focus on quick-growing foreign eucalyptus or native hardwoods?
What if endangered species decide to occupy lands reforested with native
species? Will any of the little remaining native forest be bulldozed and
converted to commercial plantations?"
This year, the legislature passed one bill that increased protection for
endangered-species habitat and another making it more difficult to harvest trees
on public land.
Ironically, the chapter initially opposed the public-land forestry bill because
of a provision earmarking all revenues raised from logging for a special fund
available only to the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife. "We feared that
this would create a financial incentive for the state agency to allow logging on
public lands --- we were particularly concerned about koa, an extremely valuable
native hardwood," says Frankel. To accommodate the Club's objection, the
legislation added measures that would have made it more difficult to log on
public lands, then later dropped the special fund provision entirely.
Other state-level forest battles include the Tennessee Chapter's attempts to
legislate sustainable forestry practices, the Iowa Chapter's support of a
proposed ban on logging in the state's parks and preserves, the efforts in
Oregon to better regulate the type of forest practices that led to landslide
damage of homes and businesses this past winter, Californians' efforts to gain
protection for the Headwaters Forest, and opposition to voracious chip mills in
Arkansas and North Carolina.
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