Economies, forest health depend on timber industry

2013-10-09T08:15:00Z Economies, forest health depend on timber industryGuest column by JULIA ALTEMUS missoulian.com
October 09, 2013 8:15 am  • 

Two recent opinions in a local newspaper highlighted the fact that Montana’s forest products industry continues to suffer from two tales of one industry.

The first (Aug. 26) opined that throwing billions more at logging was wrong and went on to suggest that “parroting of Bush-era ‘Healthy Forests Initiative’ propaganda” is “nothing but a smokescreen for more corporate logging.” I guess this sound bite plays well, as it is a label the author uses quite frequently and loosely. I don’t even know what “corporate logging” means. The author is equally guilty of stooping to the use of propaganda to misconstrue and paint a picture in the mind of the reader.

A couple days later (Sept. 6), another opinion piece appeared in the local paper from a certified forester. He and his wife were visiting our beautiful state from the east coast. He commented on the magnificence of our landscapes and how lucky we are to live here. “It is an outdoor paradise.” He went on to say, “In our travels, we saw several large sawmill operations and these mills were located in the midst of high-traffic, outdoor and recreational economies. It appears timber harvesting can, and is, compatible with that paradise and helps keep it alive and economically sound.”

French philosopher and writer Voltaire once wrote that “men argue; nature acts.” That was as true 400 years ago as it is today. As we continue to argue about active or passive or no management at all of our public lands, argue about the effects of climate change on the environment, argue whether America’s wood products should come from public forest management or loggers should be employed to harvest trees; nature is acting, and acting with a vengeance.

It is true, for centuries, nature kept North American forests in balance prior to European settlement. However, this balance was upset when people and cities started inhabiting the landscape. Centuries later, it would be ludicrous to ask everyone to leave. So our job, as good stewards, is to mimic the role of nature as best we can.

Until the last few decades, our national forests did not grow overly dense because the natural role of fire was replaced with a program of forest thinning. Forests were logged to provide wood products, recreational opportunities, resilient ecosystems and to prevent wildfires.

Even though forests offer many important intrinsic values and experiences, managing the growing stock (by harvesting trees), Congress treats wood fiber as a commodity, just like grain, cattle and so on. This is why the U. S. Forest Service, as an agency, is under the U. S. Department of Agriculture, not the U. S. Department of Interior, like the National Park Service.

When environmental groups started organizing in the 1970s, logging became unpopular. During this timeframe, harvest on national forests plummeted 84 percent, from 12 billion board feet per year in the 1980s to half the amount in the 1990s, and has sunk to an all-time low of about 2 billion board feet annually in recent years.”

“Men argue; nature acts.”

Our national forests produce eight times more new growth each year than is harvested. The result of decades of arguing is a massive overgrowth, and with warmer climates, a timber box, when ignited, leaves a moonscape where there was once “a paradise.”

The two tales of one industry is that logging leads to “more deforestation of our dwindling old growth forests,” and that “logging as the solution to wildfire is, at best, a myth.” That is one tale. The other tale is forests are not static environments. Trees keep growing and must be thinned in order to promote and protect healthy forests. This process provides jobs and economic stability to local communities.

The people who comprise Montana’s forest products industry believe they are not only compatible with outdoor and recreational economies, these economies are dependent upon healthy forests and interdependent upon the work this industry provides.

Julia Altemus writes on behalf of the Montana Wood Products Association.

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(10) Comments

  1. Matthew Koehler
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    Matthew Koehler - October 11, 2013 2:29 pm
    Hello anonymous posting "D". Nope, the Missoulian has not stopped me from exercising my first amendment rights. But it's nice to know that you apparently support censorship of substantive discussions, debates and issues. That's par for the course with groups like Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Wildlife Federation and other censoring and removing substantive on-line comments.

    Once again, instead of focusing on me, lying or making things up, why not focus on the facts and substance of what I wrote? Also, can you give me one example of where WildWest Institute's out-of-date literature or where we even claim that "clear cutting" is happening all over the place? If not, I will just assume you are lying and making stuff up, while hiding like a coward being an anonymous name. Good day, D.
  2. D
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    D - October 11, 2013 11:31 am
    Right on, SteviGirl. The Missoulian finally stopped Koehler from using the comments section as free advertising for his "no-forest management" organization. It's these so-called "environmentalist" organizations such as his that give the rest of us environmentalists a bad name.
  3. D
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    D - October 11, 2013 11:27 am
    I and others don't say anything about Daines' Bill because it's going nowhere, and we all know it. Unfortunately, Daines went too far. Tester's Bill is more reasonable.

    I used the term "clear-cutting" because I've seen Wild West's and other anti-management orgs' out-of-date literature, and that's the trigger word used for their anti-management hype. Yes, the USFS does do some clear-cuts. A "clear-cut" can be done ecologically responsibly. Clear-cutting an amount of acreage in lodge pole pine forests mimics their typical fire regime dependence...but not in a ponderosa pine situation. You guys constantly rely on the fact that most folks are not foresters. That's the point I was making. Peace out.
  4. Matthew Koehler
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    Matthew Koehler - October 10, 2013 5:22 pm
    Hello D. As a point of fact, the Forest Service still does clearcut in Montana. Also, clearcutting is not only allowed in the Daines bill that passed the US House, but with the tremendous increase in logging mandated in the bill, there will be more clearcutting on National Forests in Montana. Sure, the Forest Service uses a variety of 'harvesting' techniques, which vary unit by unit and sale by sale, but clearcutting, shelter-wood cut, regeneration harvest are still all being used. Also, while the Daines bill wouldn't allow logging in designated Wilderness Areas, it would allow, and encourage, logging in Inventoried Roadless Areas, which were afforded some level of protection under Clinton's roadless rule.

    I myself don't go around using the word clear-cutting very much, but these are facts as in the bill, and as currently practiced on US Forest Service lands in Montana.

    I do agree with you that " Each logging project must be done on a case-by-case ecological basis...there is not one size fits all." I also believe that public input, environmental analysis and Endangered Species Act protections shouldn't be curtailed as part of this "Case-by-case ecological basis"...but that's exactly what Daines mandated logging bill, supported by the MT Timber Industry, would do. Thanks.
  5. Matthew Koehler
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    Matthew Koehler - October 10, 2013 5:15 pm
    Hello Anonymous posting "stevigirl." .My 'verbose windbag' response said nothing about "the only trees we want to cut are the dead ones in campgrounds." You made that up and it's not true. Then again, you apparently have no response to the substantive, factual comments I made about Senator Daines mandated logging bill. Seems the only game you have "Stevigirl" is to remain anonymous, make stuff up or lie about what people actual said and ignore any substantive discussion or debate.
  6. SteviGirl
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    SteviGirl - October 10, 2013 2:02 pm
    Well said, Julia. I chose tale #2, and I hope the policy makers in Washington do, too. I, for one, am tired of overly verbose windbags who hijack every forestry-related piece on this website with their propaganda. We get it, the only trees they want to cut are the dead ones in campgrounds. What we need is landscape-scale management, the future of our forests depends on it.
  7. D
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    D - October 10, 2013 11:52 am
    Well said, Julia. No one is advocating clear-cutting or logging Wilderness. The lands that need management are often second and third growth from poor logging practices long ago. With nothing done, nature is now taking care of the mess...huge conflagrations that threaten infrastructure and towns. Each logging project must be done on a case-by-case ecological basis...there is not one size fits all.
  8. Matthew Koehler
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    Matthew Koehler - October 10, 2013 8:42 am
    It's interesting that Julia Altemus makes zero mention of Rep Daines mandated logging bill, which just passed Congress a few weeks ago.

    I mean, Julia was in the Missoulian signing the praises of Daines mandated logging bill, saying "I would love to have the opportunity to work through that.”

    Well, here's are the specifics of the bill, which Julia Altemus would rather keep the Montanans and the American people in the dark about.

    Rep Steve Daines' mandated logging bill, the so-called "Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act" (HR 1526), passed the US House on September 20.

    In Montana, it’s estimated that Rep Daines' mandated logging bill would result in a 6 fold increase in National Forest logging across the state. However, the logging mandates contained in Daines' bill would impact each National Forest differently. As such, Daines' bill would result in:

    • 300 X’s more logging on the Helena National Forest;
    • 150 X’s more logging on the Lewis and Clark National Forest;
    • 30 X’s more logging on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest;
    • 13 X’s more logging on the Lolo National Forest;
    • 7 X’s more logging on the Gallatin National Forest;
    • 6 X’s more logging on the Kootenai National Forest; and
    • 4 X’s more logging on the Flathead National Forest.

    (Note: Compared with 2012 National Forest timber sale volumes)

    These dramatic increases in logging would be achieved by undermining America’s public lands legacy by simply having members of Congress mandate dramatic increases in industrial logging by exempting all National Forest logging sales up to 15.6 square miles in size from public input, environmental analysis and gutting the Endangered Species Act.

    Rep Daines’ "Logging Without Laws" bill also has the US Congress simply closing the US Federal Court House doors, forbidding any citizen lawsuits on certain types of industrial logging projects, which is inherently undemocratic. Daines’ bill applies to all of America’s 155 National Forests, not just those National Forests in Montana.

    New information also reveals that, contrary to claims by Daines, Montana counties would get less money for roads and schools under Daines' mandated logging bill than what they current receive through Secure Rural Schools funding (Source: http://blogs.idahostatesman.com/rural-counties-would-get-less-under-hastings-timber-quota-bill/)

    While Rep Daines, Senator Tester, Julia Altemus and the rest of the timber industry claim "gridlock" prevents National Forest logging, between 2008 and 2012 the US Forest Service sold enough logging sales in Montana and North Idaho to fill over 239,000 logging trucks, which if lined up end-to-end, would stretch for 2,048 miles.

    Fortunately, President Obama has threatened to veto Rep Daines mandated logging bill. The battle now goes to the US Senate, which in theory should be against mandating huge increases in National Forest logging through "Logging Without Laws" and gutting the Endangered Species Act, limiting public input and environmental analysis.

    However, the fact that Senator Tester and Senator Baucus have their very own mandated National Forest logging bill (the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act) already introduced in the US Senate all bets are off and basically anything can happen in the Senate.

    It's also worth pointing out that, to date, there has not been one word of concern, protest, opposition about Rep Daines' massively egregious mandated logging bill from the Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Trout Unlimited, Montana Wildlife Federation or any of the other 'collaborators' supporting Sen Tester's mandated logging bill.

    Instead, the Montana Wilderness Association is encouraging Tester, Baucus and Daines to "work together" on a mandated logging bill for Montanans National Forest. How much sense does that make? Of course, we do know that MWA's "Timber Partners" such as Julia Altemus and the Montana Wood Products Association support Daines mandated logging bill, so maybe the "collaboration" between these few conservation groups and the timber industry is falling apart. After all, the timber industry just threw MWA, et al under the Daines mandated logging bus.

    Please speak out against Congress simply mandating more logging on America’s National Forests by gutting our nation’s laws, regulations and public input. Please contact Montana's Congressional delegation today. Thank you!

    http://daines.house.gov/contact/
    http://www.tester.senate.gov/?p=email_senator
    http://www.baucus.senate.gov/?p=contact

    -----------------

    “Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act" (HR 1526)

    • Creates a legally-binding public lands logging mandate with no environmental or fiscal feasibility limits, and reestablishing the discredited 25% logging revenue sharing system with counties that was eliminated over a decade ago.

    • Public participation and Endangered Species Act protections would be severely limited in Rep Daines' bill. The bill creates huge loopholes in NEPA and such biased ESA requirements that in practice these laws would almost never meaningfully apply. For example, any project less than 10,000 acres (that’s 15.6 square miles) would be categorically excluded from environmental analysis and public participation, and the Forest Service would be required to submit a finding that endangered species are not jeopardized by any project, regardless of its actual effect on the species.

    • Rep Daines successfully attached an amendment to the bill that would forbid the US Federal Courts from ever issuing injunctions against Forest Service logging projects based on alleged violations of procedural requirements in selecting, planning, or analyzing the project.

    • Another amendment successfully added to the bill has the US Congress closing the US Federal Court House doors for any national forest timber sale resulting from the 2013 wildfires. Essentially this results in “Logging Without Laws,” as one entire branch of the US Government (the Judicial branch) is forbidden from hearing this issue.

  9. gadflyohsofly
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    gadflyohsofly - October 09, 2013 9:13 pm
    By all means the environmentalist nut cases like Roger Hewitt and earth first need to be stopped from suing for injunctions for no reason.
    But will mandated logging flood the market and crash prices?
  10. AAO22
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    AAO22 - October 09, 2013 2:18 pm
    Julia - Hats off to you for this well written, refreshing, factual piece! You hit the nail on the head. The same holds true for wildlife management. Just like forests, wildlife must be responsibly managed as it is all connected and should not be hindered by emotional and political hype/agendas. When done right logging is like growing a garden - you can harvest year after year. Stop logging and you get a garden full of weeds (dead, dying and diseased timber / increased fuel loads; more fires etc...). With management and policies today there is no excuse not to resume logging...that is unless those anti-logging folks would rather hike through a barren landscapes after fires than a HEALTHY forest. Men argue, Nature acts.
    Responsible logging = Healthy forests = healthy habitats = healthy wildlife populations.
    An example is overgrown, dense forests reduce sunlight to the forest floor as well as inhibits growth of trees. Forest thinning allows sunlight to reach lower level vegetation, promotes tree growth to mature levels, promotes more flora / nutrition for wildlife and so on all while providing jobs and economic stability to local communities. Win-Win!! Compare that to the decades it takes for forests to naturally regenerate after fires.
    I am hopeful for the logging industry, timber market and the potential for rejuvenation of our currently unhealthy forests. Future generations are dependent on what we do NOW.
    Thank you again Julia!
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