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The Planet
June 1999 Volume 6, Number 5

Stumped? Or Standing Tall?

Good responses to tough questions about logging
in our national forests (in case it comes up on your next hike).

Question: Doesn't the government already protect our national forests from logging?

Many people assume that, like national parks, our national forests are protected. But the agency in charge of them, the U.S. Forest Service, manages them for "multiple use" - watershed protection and a steady supply of timber.

Question: So what could we do to end logging on our national forests?

The National Forest Protection and Restoration Act, H.R. 1396, would end the costly commercial logging program, but would allow people to gather wood for firewood or other noncommercial uses. It would also allow some tree cutting for restoration purposes.

Question: Don't we need to log the national forests to satisfy Americans' demand for wood?

Our national forests provide less than 4 percent of our wood products. Most come from private and state lands. By reducing waste, increasing recycling and using more wood alternatives, we can easily compensate for the trees now being cut from national forests. Approximately 48 percent of all U.S. hardwood-lumber production in 1992 was for use in shipping pallets, more than half of which are used just once before being thrown into landfills. This waste can certainly be reduced.

Question: If we eliminate national forest timber sales, won't the United States just import lumber from less developed countries that use far more destructive logging practices?

Ending subsidies for national-forest logging will allow the government to support wood alternatives, reduction and recycling. By decreasing our dependence on logging, we can decrease our need for imported wood. And if we only purchase sustainably grown wood, we can encourage more ecologically friendly forestry practices in other countries.

Question: What about those communities near national forests that depend on them for jobs?

Recreation, wildlife- and fishing-related activities provide 88 percent of the jobs related to national forests, while logging accounts for just 2 percent of the jobs. Additionally, logging is not sustainable in the long run, but recreation jobs can keep growing year after year. The Forest Service itself predicts that next year, recreation, hunting and fishing in the national forests will contribute 38 times more income to the nation's economy than logging. And H.R. 1396 includes funding for retraining displaced timber workers.

Question: Don't we need to log to prevent forest fires?

Logging actually increases the risk and worsens the severity of forest fires. It dries out the ground by removing the forest shade, and generates piles of highly flammable logging "slash" (bark, limbs, tree tops, etc.). Imagine the difference between a hot spark landing on a damp sponge (a healthy unlogged forest) and a pile of dry, shredded newspaper (a clearcut covered with dry limbs, pine needles and smaller broken logs).

Question: What about roads in our national forests that provide access to recreational opportunities?

Answer: The 440,000 miles of roads that currently crisscross our national forests provide plenty of access, but this massive network dumps silt into streams, ruins wildlife habitat and costs taxpayers money. Scientists consider unroaded forest areas critically important for maintaining wildlife diversity and restoring declining fish populations.

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