Commentary: What do you want from a tree?

<B>Tree Talk<BR></B>It's difficult to see the forest for all the debate over trees. This week we introduce what we hope will help clear the view and become a regular feature: Tree Talk. Trees and the forests they create are an important part of Grant County. We want to support a lively discussion about all aspects of forest use and management and the environment in general. Is there something you would like to say about nature in Grant County? We welcome all points of view. E-mail or write to the editor at the addresses below.

If you were a tree, what kind would you be? If you planted a tree, what kind would it be? When you hear the word "tree," what do you see?

Some might conjure in their minds a picture of themselves sitting on the grass, leaning against the tree, under its shady canopy, reading a book, maybe - defintely napping.

Others might see a cozy home for critters, bugs and birds. Another view might see a home for themselves.

It could be an apple tree, for people who want to eat. It could be a warm fire inside while it's snowing outside.

It could be a piece of paper and a pencil. It could be a table and chairs. It could be a newspaper, board game or candy wrapper.

It could be a place for bears to scratch their backs, squirrels to store food, owls to perch or for campers to hide behind when nature calls.

A tree could be the hazard on a golf course, a place to hang a swing or a hammock, or it could drop coconuts on that fellow sitting underneath it.

A tree is, well, a "tree," and it's so many things to so many people, it's difficult to say exactly what a tree is, but it's important. On that, everyone agrees.

If what you want from a tree is nature, then you leave it alone and let it grow as it will.

If what you want from a tree is its wood, or its fruit, then you harvest and plant.

For the one, a tree is part of the great mystery.

For the other, a tree is a crop.

For years, man harvested the tree and worked the land as a farmer.

Then others began crying out against the rape of the tree. There was truth in what they said, and their word spread. Soon tree farming became an evil thing, and there were great battles against it, in the forest and in the courthouse. It was pleas before judges outside the forest that proved to be the best shield against using the tree.

It was necessary that the protectors of the tree spoke. Their shouts brought awareness of the delicate connection between man and the evironment. It was good that there was time to step back and reassess the nature of things.

In the time of reflection, the debate over the tree began to change. It appears that about anything can be done to a tree except ignoring it. Not paying attention to the tree stopped being an option when man discovered he could use it and that doing so made his life better.

After years of little farming and no management, the tree spoke for itself, whispering that the forest is crowded and overrun with brush and too many trees, that the ground is struggling to provide nuturients and that fire is threatening to engulf what everyone wants to protect.

Hearing what the tree is saying, the opposing views are seeing through the other's perception. There is hope on the horizon of a compromise.

One of those compromises could be the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act, introduced Rep. Greg Walden, R-OR, Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) in November. The measure is modeled after the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, which provides expedited procedures to protect communities from wildfires. Its introduction comes after nearly two years of hearings by the Forests and Forest Health Subcommittee of the House Resources Committee that focused on problems plaguing the nation's forests after catastrophic events.

The list of supporters of the act includes Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Oregon State University College of Forestry Dean Hal Salwasser, former Oregon State Forester Jim Brown (who served from 1986-2003), the Society of American Foresters, the National Association of State Foresters, the Association of O&C Counties, the Evergreen Foundation, and the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

That list is impressive from one point of view. We wonder what the downside of the bill is. Anyone care to comment?

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