Only you can prevent deforestation...the Feds won't
by Robert T. Nanninga
reemption is all the rage in Washington these days. All one has to do is define something as a threat and then stand back as big brother pummels the offending elements, whether they be man, mouse, or marbled murlett. Fresh off their unilateral victory in Iraq, the corporate puppets have not only set their sites on California's oldest trees, but judicial review as well. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Dubya & Co. have decided the only way to protect old growth forests is to cut them down.
And we are not just talking about western tree farms and private property. At stake here are trees that have stood for 2,000 years or more. For the Christians in the audience, that's three years younger than Jesus. Currently under attack is the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Sequoiadron giganteum grow in only 75 scattered groves in California, amounting to only 35,600 acres of forest. And this is just one threatened species. If the Sequoia is lost, other species will follow.
The most recent justification for the plundering of California's natural heritage is fire suppression. Claiming that to save a forest from fire one must cut down the biggest trees is hardly defendable by anyone other than those who profit from cutting down trees. Fire is a vital part of western ecosystems. Small fires help maintain ecological balance, by opening fallen cones and clearing away underbrush. Fire suppression interrupts this natural process and allows for large fires to rage, once dense buildup ignites. Despite this, fire suppression is now once again at the center of forest management politics.
But then again, why am I surprised? Smokey the Bear has been carrying an ax since 1944. Doh!
On April 30, 2003 the House Resources Committee approved a wildfire plan that the Bush Administration and their supporters in congress say will return forest management to people who know the forests and reduce the threat of wildfires. Known deceptively as The Healthy Forests Restoration Act the proposed legislation illustrates perfectly how the timber industry dictates federal policy, and undermines the biological diversity of western ecosystems. Gale Norton is absolutely gleeful.
Republican sponsors of the bill blamed environmental groups for bogging down the process of forest management to the extent that it must be streamlined and limits must be put in place to reduce appeals. In other words environmentalists are winning, and it is time to change the rules... again.
Colorado Republican Scott McInnis, a cosponsor of the logging bill said Some extreme environmental organizations have successfully exploited public opinion and moved the management of our forests away from the people who know the forests the forest rangers, our Forest Service and people on the ground and have moved it to Washington DC, where the management of forests is being done by emotion and not by science,
How is that for double-speak?
Let's break it down.
As this is a question of environmental protection, I ask, who does Congressman McInnis consider to be an extreme organization? The Sierra Club? The Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund? The California Wilderness Coalition? Perhaps he was referring to the Audubon society. It's true; these organizations are working within the system to protect ecological diversity. But they are far from extreme by any stretch of the imagination.
What does that mean? According to the people I asked (a random sampling, with a 4% margin of error), to successfully exploit public opinion means to have the public in agreement with. In other words, the public is in agreement with those asking for wilderness protections and sound environmental policy.
Excuse me, but I would think the people who know the forest aren't necessarily the individuals putting them up for sale, or those selling the rendered remains. Notice how Mr. McInnis did not mention biologists, botanists, and ecologists the people who best know the biological communities that make up forest ecosystems. Forest rangers are only as enlightened as the people who hire them, and Washington bureaucrats control the forest service. So the system is closed to those not in keeping with the Bush agenda. What does people on the ground mean? And when, have corporations ever been on the ground?
As just mentioned the forest service is a creation of the federal government and, as we all know, Washington D.C. and science has shown that fire is a part of forest ecosystems; it is only emotion that wishes to prevent fires in the first place. Human emotions tied directly to the crying over lost profit.
Biology says let small fires burn. Bush-ology says timber before trees.
Preemptive logging... you've gotta love it.
Robert Nanninga is a free-lance writer, producer and environmental journalist. A native of Vista living in Leucadia, he Chairs San Diego ZPG, as well as representing coastal North County on the Green County Council