Forest products president makes flawed assumptions
California Forestry Product’s Commission President Donn Zea’s argument (Nov. 11) that forest conservation in California causes environmental degradation elsewhere is misleading. He makes three fundamentally flawed assumptions:
Increasing timber production in California will decrease timber harvests elsewhere. Rather, overall timber production will increase. Timber production rates in British Columbia and elsewhere will stay the same, in addition to increased logging in California, and in response consumption will increase. Timber company profits will continue to increase at the expense of environments and peoples both here and around the world, for the monetary benefit of a small group of business people.
As demand for forest products increases (especially in America), forestry products companies are obligated to meet the demand at the expense of environments and peoples elsewhere. Who is depleting the firewood used by native peoples elsewhere for cooking and warmth? It is timber companies, and they are knowingly doing so for their own profit.
High wood consumption rates are good and demand for wood products in America should continue to increase. Anyone who has traveled outside of America knows that simply nowhere else is it normal to house two to four persons in a 3,000-square-foot structure. The sheer gluttony of our resource consumption is astonishing, especially when you consider the energy used to heat and light these enormous homes, with the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. Federal forestry subsidies must end, the industry must learn to use trees more efficiently, the construction and housing industry must continue to develop tree-free and recycled building material options, and we must learn to be content with smaller homes and families.
Mr. Zea states that in addition to historic fire-suppression policies, harvesting too few trees has caused dangerous fuel density levels. This is a false assertion and scientists disagree with him. Unlogged forests have lower rates of catastrophic fire episodes, but areas where periodic logging or clear-cutting have occurred demonstrate the highest fuel buildup and tree densities.
High logging pressures and irresponsible practices have resulted in too many small trees and not enough large ones over most of our western forestlands. So, of course, one could make the claim that there are more trees now than there were in 1900. Most wildlife species that are dependant upon large, old, commercially valuable trees are now extremely scarce. While trees may eventually regrow in a clearcut area, extinct wildlife species are not renewable.
Environmentalists, private property owners and some corporations value healthy ecosystems, clean water, and wildlife, and want to protect forests here and around the world. That’s why so many citizens are now asking American corporations, government agencies and national representatives to change historic forestry practices and policies.
International forest conservation simply won’t be possible until American citizens, corporations and politicians demonstrate leadership by cleaning up our own domestic forestry practices, eliminating costly subsidies, and addressing our own greed and overconsumption.
Christy Sherr lives in Nevada City
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