Aug 26, 2002
President Bush used a recently burned area of forest in Oregon as the backdrop for announcing proposals to allow more commercial logging of federal forests. He claims his proposals will help to prevent the huge wildfires that have been burning out of control in western states.
Forest experts generally agree that the decades-old policy of extinguishing all forest fires as quickly as possible has created super-dense forests that can burn fiercely, particularly during periods of drought. Fires in these dense forests are extremely difficult to put out and have ravaged over three times the usual acreage lost to wildfires so far this year.
Controlled burning and limited cutting of forests have been recognized for some time as the best methods of forest management. But wealthy people, who in recent years have built more and more vacation houses on the edges of federal forests, have successfully resisted such measures near their homes. They even dared to pretend they are interested in preserving the environment, when they use some conservation rules to back up their appeals. The suppression of "controlled burns" has helped to create the conditions underlying the current rash of big wildfires.
Taking advantage of this, Bush stepped forward to propose to open up the national forests to commercial logging with few if any restraints. Bush pretended that this is intended to bring about a more balanced, environmentally friendly, type of forest management.
Behind all this babble, Bush is proposing to allow clear-cutting of federal forests. That is, lumber companies can cut down every tree in very extensive areas. Such clear-cutting will destroy the forests completely. This can only increase, rather than reduce, the chances for more even bigger, more intense forest fires in the future, because it will contribute to the accumulation of underbrush and small seedling trees in the cut areas. Moreover, since logging companies do not remove the debris from their operations, it will produce plenty of kindling right now.
This is not a way to "conserve the forests," as Bush proclaims. It is simply a way to subsidize profits for the lumber industry, which is owned by some of the biggest financial interests in the country.