Monday, April 18, 2011

Let's Protect ALL Remaining Old Growth for International Year of Forests

The United Nations has declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests. There is a very good video called “Forests” on the official website at

The truth is forests worldwide need our help. The greatest remaining wilderness in North America, the boreal forest with all of its incredible wildlife diversity, is being logged to make junk mail and sales catalogues. The tropical forests such as the Amazon continue to be logged for agricultural expansion, often for cows to produce more meat for Americans. It’s never been more important for all of us to think about how our lifestyle impacts forests as they are showing multiple signs of stress, globally. Many of these negative impacts start with the consumption patterns in our everyday lives.

Old growth Ponderosa Pine (marked for cut) next to an ancient Douglas fir in the Sugar timber sale. A tree core revealed the age of this Ponderosa Pine to be approximately 170 years, and HCPC saved it from logging.

Due to logging and clearing, the temperate forests are the most fragmented, degraded, and reduced from their original extent of Earth’s major forest types. At the local level I do think that management has improved in the past couple of decades. However there are too many projects on our National Forests that continue to propose logging of old growth forests. Take the Snow Basin project that is now open for public comment where the preferred approach would log tens of thousands of old growth trees in the southern Wallowas. That this massive loss of old growth trees would have serious ecological consequences is unassailable.

Old Growth trees saved from chainsaws by HCPC more than a decade ago. Now the Forest Service has proposed to log the same trees again in the Snow Basin timber sale to "help the small seedlings." How many times do we have to save the same trees? Why doesn't the Forest Service respect the public's wishes by leaving old growth protected?

Old growth forests are rare, they are “lifeboats” for many old growth dependent species, they are an irreplaceable part of our cultural heritage, they store huge amounts of carbon, and they provide numerous valuable services to our society. Proposing logging in these areas is like asking an artist to paint over a Van Gogh; or tearing down the historic district of your quaint downtown for “redevelopment.” Some of these old growth forests are remnant stands within heavily logged areas. Yet they enrich the forest landscape by providing a unique forest structure, higher quality wildlife habitat, and often harbor more sensitive plant species. Let’s commemorate the International Year of Forests by protecting the essential, protecting our old growth forests.

By David Mildrexler, Ecosystem Conservation Coordinator for the Hells Canyon Preservation Council

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