Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Health Crisis' Is Excuse to Raze Federal Forests Bills in Congress Don't Make Good Economic or Scientific Sense

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Health Crisis' Is Excuse to Raze Federal Forests Bills in Congress Don't Make Good Economic or Scientific Sense

Article excerpt

CONGRESS has proved again the danger of a little knowledge. Timber legislation now before both houses abuses science so badly that it ends up violating ecological principles and trampling on the Contract With America.

This story begins with the valid observation that some federal forest lands have been damaged by fire or insect infestation. Unfortunately, that marks the end of scientific objectivity in the current debate over forest management.

The House, leaping from the fact of some damaged forests to the politically expedient myth of a "forest health emergency," recently passed a national production requirement for logging 6 billion board feet of volume from salvage sales on federal lands for the next two years. This is more than twice the amount of salvageable timber the Forest Service estimates is currently available from our nation's forests.

Similarly, the Federal Lands Forest Health Protection and Restoration Act, due for a vote in the Senate in April, sets standards for conducting salvage operations which amount to bypassing landmark environmental statutes such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Forest Management Act to log forests where half the trees are sick or dying from insect or fire damage.

These standards may be appropriate for fireproofing forests in the urban-wildlands interface, where a century of fire-suppression activities led to the accumulation of dangerously high fuels that contributed to last year's fires in the West. But if applied indiscriminately across forested landscapes they will further reduce the resiliency of ecosystems already near collapse.

Such forests, some members of Congress claim, should be cut for the good of the forest and the good of people who depend on forests to make a living. Unfortunately, the proposed legislation prescribes a treatment -- more logging -- that is worse than the disease and is neither ecologically or economically sustainable.

Both the House and Senate proposals make the simplistic and incorrect assumption that the health of a forest can be measured by the marketability of its trees. …

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