Fighting the politicization of National Forests
All western forests evolved with fire! But if you believe what the Forest Service says about fire being bad, by extension we wouldn’t have any forests at all. Did you know the Forest Service didn’t start logging our forests until after World War II (with the baby boom and all the growth that brought) and we had beautiful lush forests prior to that which burned on a regular basis? Yet no one thought anything about the fires because there were so few people living in those areas. And now that people do live in these areas most of them don’t bother to take the simple steps necessary to protect their home: http://www.firewise.org/wildfire-preparedness/be-firewise/home-and-landscape/defensible-space.aspx
Many people don’t realize the Smokey Bear campaign was developed to prevent fire and promote logging. But fire is nature’s way of renewing forests naturally.
Nature knows how to look after her own in very many ways that we don’t always think of. For example, there are species like Lodgepole pine which need fire in order to regenerate – their seeds can’t germinate without fire. There are species like Black-backed woodpeckers that need burned habitat and can’t survive without burned trees to live in. Yet because the Forest Service goes in to cut down and remove all the burned trees each time there is a fire, Black-backed woodpeckers are being proposed for listing under the ESA as a Threatened species.
Fire is ultimately a good thing. It is nature’s way of naturally thinning out the forest and building biologically important snag habitat for cavity nesters like woodpeckers and secondary cavity nesters like owls. Maybe if people were aware that all the information they thought they knew about fire ‘being bad’ had been created in large part by the timber industry, there would not be an outcry.
The bottom line is that our forests have always burned and in fact they burned more acreage before WWII than they do now because the Forest Service has been suppressing fires. Even though they admit that fire suppression is a problem, they still won’t let anything burn.
If you want proof, look at pictures of forests pre-1900 and see how beautiful and lush they were. They were not all burned up and dying from insects and disease. If you want a newer example check out any wilderness areas on National Forest lands in your area. Wilderness areas are not logged and are often allowed to burn. They look far better than the managed lands the Forest Service creates.
If fire was bad, why would we have all this documentation of beautiful forests and good wildlife habitat with large populations of wildlife? If what the Forest Service said was true, that wouldn’t be the case but sadly the Forest Service misinforms the public and lawmakers about fire in order to log our National Forests to benefit private timber companies. That’s not how our public lands are supposed to be managed.
The truth about logging on federal lands is that it’s done purely to benefit private timber corporations and that was never the intent for our National Forests. Revert to times pre - WWII and you can see that National forests weren’t logged back then and they were beautiful and diverse. The idea that we have to log our forests to make them healthy is a lie. But because the logging industry has gotten ‘an in’ with the Forest Service they just keep coming back and demanding more and more, and more! It is one unholy alliance...
One of the reasons the timber industry likes to log on National Forest land is that federal lands offer below-cost timber sales. After the Forest Service completes the necessary analyses and puts in the roads industry needs for access, we, the American people lose money. It’s outrageous that the American taxpayer is basically paying these companies to log our lands into oblivion. Maybe people just don’t understand what’s happening because if they did we believe they’d be raising hell about it.
It’s an incredible situation that most of the timber sales that Conservation Congress works on are losing millions of dollars in taxpayer money each year yet the timber company that logs the land makes millions of dollars in profit selling timber on the open market – sales that have been blatantly subsidized with tax dollars! It would be a lot cheaper for the American people if we didn’t log National Forests. The US treasury would save money by refusing to log our forests and in return the forests would serve naturally as wildlife habitat and sources of clean water for our communities.
The Politicization of wilderness
Wilderness is for all practical purposes the last truly wild lands that we have. And wilderness is a refuge for wildlife and clean water. Realistically, we don’t have a lot of wilderness in this country. While 109,129,657 acres sounds a lot, it amounts to only about 5% of the entire United States (an area slightly larger than the state of California) being protected as wilderness. Then remembering that because Alaska contains just over half of America's wilderness that means only about 2.7% of the contiguous United States (an area about the size of Minnesota) is protected as wilderness.
Unfortunately wilderness is also a testament to the lies of the Forest Service who tell us that if we don’t log our forests they are all going to be burned down or die from insects and disease. But people can fact check the veracity of this claim for themselves – take a trip to any wilderness area in Montana or Northern California for example and they look far better than the managed lands. They are not burning to the ground, they often have very little insect and disease and the water is cleaner. In addition, there are richer wildlife populations.
It is really against the interests of the Forest Service to designate more land as wilderness. The roadless lands that remain on National Forests are the areas the Forest Service is supposed to consider making wilderness, yet they don’t want to do it because private timber industry is interested in trying to log the large trees that still exist in these areas. Many people believed the Roadless Rule would end all logging and road building in roadless lands but it was filled with loopholes and we still see logging in roadless areas today. So wilderness has become hugely politicized and it’s sad because the National Forests are a living piece of our American history - they show what this country was like before every square inch was built on. And of course they are really important for wildlife and water.
Finally, because wilderness designation is difficult to get in these highly political times, there are some environmental groups in Washington, DC who are willing to sacrifice true wilderness for wilderness in name only. They are willing to carve up roadless lands into pieces doling out areas for snowmobiles and mountain bikers; leaving pieces for logging and allowing livestock ranchers to drive ATVs in wilderness to access their cows and water troughs. This is a tragedy and these groups should be ashamed of themselves. Wilderness is worth fighting for!
Please watch this YouTube film “American Inspiration: Wilderness” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxEZ75NE9Do
for the history of the wilderness movement and those including Conservation Congress who are willing to fight for it.
Timber sales cost the American people
Did you know that virtually every timber sale planned by the Forest Service loses money? YOUR money!
On private lands some John Doe who chooses to cut trees on his own property can just go ahead and do that, but rightly, the Forest Service can’t operate that way. They are supposed to look at the environmental impacts of the timber sale on wildlife, habitat, water quality, etc. Many factors contribute to below cost timber sales, including road building, unfair trade agreements, competition from Canada, and the price of timber is at an all-time low. In short, the Forest Service loses millions of dollars on these timber sales – millions of your tax dollars.
Not only do the American people lose out, but the bottom line is that every timber sale that Conservation Congress works on is destroying owl, fisher, marten or goshawk habitat.
Timber sales on public lands cause the loss of millions of dollars for the Treasury, so you and I are paying these companies to log our forests and destroy wildlife habitat. This results in additional expense to pay to protect the species that become endangered or threatened and we lose our clean water – one of the most precious commodities on the planet. It’s wrong and it doesn’t make any sense. Please contact your Congressman and Senators and tell them you don’t want your tax dollars subsidizing the timber industry at the expense of your National Forests.
The camera never lies
In the 1900s forests were healthy and teaming with wildlife but after WWII unsustainable logging began.
Now look what we do to old-growth forests…
"Searching for Gold Spot will help raise consciousness about the devastating effects of logging after forest fires which simply eradicates delicate and irreplaceable wildlife -- please help it get finished and widely distributed!!
A very special production..." Sally Weare, Retired Instructor, San Francisco State University
Searching for Gold Spot - The Wild After Wildfire
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