Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Message to new president on our dying forests

For nearly 100 years, the Forest Service managed the Forest Reserves (now the National Forest System) to meet the demand for housing products and aid in economic recoveries from domestic recessions by providing a stable supply of forest products. Our timber output topped out at nearly 12 billion board feet in 1985, but a few timber sales were not well thought-out. A concerned Congress, fueled by newly formed environmental groups, mandated restrictive legislation to tightly regulate how our National Forests would be managed. Decisions once couched in sound science were now subject to often uninformed public opinion, illegitimate science and extreme political persuasion through the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Aided by the 1987 Salvage Rider, ensuing litigation through the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) sparked what is well known as the “War in the Woods” that continues to this day. Rural economies plummeted when decoupled from raw product removal and legal property tax offsets. Many mills have closed due to lack of wood to keep them in operation and the inability of the US Forest Service to guarantee supply. The rise in green power groups as well as politically charged assertions about the government “raping the land” and “lawless logging” clouded the fact that nationally, high harvest levels in the 80s never exceeded 50% of forest growth. The timber harvests of the 80s helped lead this nation out of a deep economic recession. Today, forest growth far exceeds the ability to thin the overstocked trees because forests are not actively managed. Since the passage of NEPA and its subsequent reinterpretation by judicial proceedings, our nation’s forests suffer immeasurable environmental degradation that threaten their very existence and those who live in close proximity to them. Insects, disease and wildfire consume forests at rates not present in the historic record. With a rapidly warming climate, this damage will increase every passing year. The current framework of laws, rules and court decisions threatens clean water, local economies and preservation of our National Forests for future generations with the following results...more

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