ON June 4, just days before President George Bush was scheduled
to fly to Brazil for the Earth Summit, the United States Forest
Service announced that it was adopting a new "management
philosophy." No longer would clear-cutting be the primary method of
logging the public forests, Forest Service Chief Dale Robertson
stated. From now on, the agency would manage the 191 million acres
it holds in the public trust using an "ecological approach." "I
know this is a tall order," he wrote, "but I believe we are now in
a good position to do it."
Tall order indeed. Fifteen years ago, with the passage of the
National Forest Management Act, Congress required the US Forest
Service to manage lands for biological diversity. Since 1977,
forest management that protects soil productivity, wildlife,
fisheries, and watersheds - in short, ecosystem management - has
been United States law. The Forest Service has blatantly ignored
this mandate. Instead, it has followed a course of ecological
destruction for our public forests, relying on large-scale
The practice of clear-cutting is tremendously destructive. By
stripping away 100 percent of the forest in a given area, slopes
are exposed to increased erosion, which in turn contributes to
stream siltation. This jeopardizes fish populations that require
cold, clear water in which to reproduce.
Other wildlife are disrupted as well. Many species, including
the pine martin, the fisher, and the spotted owl, need extensive
tracts of continuous forest in order to survive. Clear-cutting
fragments the forest and guarantees the eventual extinction of
Clear-cutting also leads to the establishment of tree farms -
rows of replanted trees, all the same age, all the same species.
Biologically rich forests are transformed into sterile
monocultures. Often, slopes are so denuded and eroded that trees
are unable to grow back, leaving the ugly patchwork that so many
aerial photos of our forests have depicted.
Through clear-cutting, the Forest Service has not only worked at
destroying biological diversity, but has mortgaged the future of
timber workers in this nation. Relying heavily on mechanized
logging methods, clear-cutting employs far fewer people than more
sustainable forestry practices such as selection harvesting.
The recent Forest Service announcement is more than a slick,
politically motivated proposal. It is a swiss cheese plan that
would allow the Forest Service to continue its years of
taxpayer-financed destruction of our public forests. …