We were asked which side of the tree we are on when it comes to managing forests. It's a direct question, and the direct answer is that we're for it.
Green groups, including the World Wildlife Fund, recommend setting aside 10 percent of the world's forests as protected parks and wilderness reserves free of human development. That's a good idea. Maybe more should be set aside. Even at 20 percent, there would enough remaining forest to support man's need for wood - but it should be actively managed, with concern for the needs of other species.
Man has contributed to the loss of many species of plants and animals through deforestation for agriculture, the building of cities and the introduction of exotic animals and disease, but not a single North American species has been lost because of forestry.
Many career foresters here will tell you that the forest is dying after years of neglect, and that what's not dying is in danger of being destroyed by fire.
Immediate post-fire logging should be the norm. We support the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act backed by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore). Examples on the ground that prove the benefit of salvage logging and of planting seedlings quickly can be found throughout the state and in Grant County. The Tillamook Burn on the coast is now a state forest. Locally, the area of the Tower Burn is thriving.
Walt Gentis of the Malheur Lumber Co., who is a part of six generations of a forest family, and who has spent years among the trees, can easily point to what the company has done (and is doing) to keep its 33,000 acres healthy and protected from fire.
Through Mr. Gentis' eye, you can see the difference between active management in one place and the leave-it-alone philosophy on nearly two million acres of local public land mandated by lawsuits in the name of nature and the requirement that the Forest Service do expensive, time-consuming studies before anything is done on the ground.
If your doctor had to jump through the same kind of hoops before operating, you'd be dead.
If you treated your garden the same way, there would be no backyard harvest. A garden needs attention. Weeds need to be pulled, plants clipped for health and better yield, and bad bugs need to be removed. That corn you're eating is old-growth kernels.
The irony is that the lawsuits and the studies are loving the forest to death because they have hindered (or prevented) logging and other types of management. The result is the multiplying of trees on soil that can't support them all. Things are crowded, and we are in a three-pronged crisis: density, disease and fire. (Arleigh Isley writes about this dangerous trio in this week's Tree Talk. A5)
Foresters say that much of our forest is in poor health, and that the the Forest Service has been regulated to the point it can't function to do much about it.
Back in the 1960s, when Earth activists stopped tests of hydrogen bombs and fought for the whales, it brought to wide attention that man was hurting the environment.
We needed them to speak up, or perhaps we would never have gotten the message. Many good things have come from the courage of the early greens to force governments and corporations to make changes in how man lives with and uses his environment.
We still need a strong voice for green power - consider the important campaign to educate people on the dangers of global warming, for example - but we believe that forests are part of the solution, not part of the problem, and that the green pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.
Much knowledge about forests and the habitat they create has been gained through the past 40 years. It's possible, and necessary, to manage our local forest in a way that supports a thriving commercial logging industry and a healthy habitat for all the species that depend on trees for survival.
We believe Mother Nature doesn't mind a little help from man. After all, what landlord doesn't like a tenant who takes care of things.