From a Watchdog in Josephine County
Critique No. 2
Senator Wyden’s O&C plan will bankrupt counties
Regarding Clear Cuts
It might be fairly said that the entire thrust of Senator Wyden’s effort to repeal the1937 O&C Act is purely and simply to eliminate clear-cuts. As he has said: “Will there be clear-cuts? No. End of story.” This restriction is clear in the structure of his bill whether it is addressing conservation lands or forestry lands. But Senator Wyden offers no rationale for the elimination. He describes no advantage to be gained by the elimination. The approach is simply that clear-cuts must go. One is left to ask, “What’s wrong with clear-cuts?”
As much as the Sierra Club idolizes John Muir as the original environmentalist, no one has done more to popularize the environmental movement that the poet Robert Frost. Whether he describes stopping by woods on a snowy evening or choosing a path less traveled, his reader is always impressed that Frost has been there, that he personally experienced the sensations he was so talented at describing - and that he grasped the truth. And, if the reader also has been there, the reader knows the truth of the sensations and emotions experienced. This is important in the matter of clear-cutting because of a lovely book of poetry written by Frost in the 1950s -“In the Clearing.”
As only poetry can do, Frost’s book eulogizes the joy experienced by the woodsman when he comes to a clearing in the woods. The wonderful expansions of the sensations of life, joy and freedom that overwhelm one when suddenly released for a moment from the shadows and confines of canopies and crowded age old trees and moss.In the clearing there is life. Where the sun can penetrate, young green growth can sprout and the cycle of life can go on. In the clearing, one is released from the dark tomb of hoary old trees tenaciously clinging to the last moments of quiet destiny.
In the clearing, wildlife in all forms can thrive. All creatures come there to dine on the sustenance provided by the sunlight and the miracle of photosynthesis. The birds - be they quail, grouse or chickadees - forage on the seeds to be found. The mice, the wood rats and the voles can find food. The deer and the elk feast upon the tender shoots of new green growth. And the creatures that prey upon all the rest come there to feed also - the bobcats, cougars, wolves and coyotes. Even owls need the life found in the clearings if they are to eat. In the clearing, in the sunlight, the cycle of life renews itself and creatures young and old go there to survive.
A clearing is nature’s nursery. It is in the clearing that youth can thrive. There is nothing other than shelter and cover for the young in the dark woods. The message is simple. Eliminate the clearings and you eliminate the life you associate with the wild and the wilderness. Likewise, where there are clearings, nature provides wildlife.
Clearings are important to the forest itself. Fire is an integral part of the natural forest regime. There are several species of trees in which their seeds will only open when exposed to the heat of a forest fire. But, unchecked, fire can be a stand replacement event. Against such catastrophic loss, clearings stand as natural fire-breaks.
It should be clear that clearings are good. They are natural. They provide for the maximum development of all that is natural. By contrast, hoary old growth stands are tombs. They provide nothing and are only unproductive monuments to the past, soundlessly awaiting their doom.
Even the center of the old growth controversy - the spotted owl - needs clearings. While old growth stands may provide nesting habitat for the owl, they provide no forage because they foster no life other than their own. The owl lives on voles and voles live in clearings. The owl needs nesting habitat but it also needs forage habitat.
Besides their natural value, clear-cuts play an important part in the process of sustained yield timber cultivation. Clear-cutting, where the terrain will allow it, is the essence of rapid regeneration. It has been clear-cutting that made possible the remarkable increase of the merchantable timber inventory from 44 billion board feet to 60 billion after harvesting some 45 billion. Clear-cutting makes for rapid and cost- effective regeneration. While not without cost - young regeneration stands lack the fire resilience of older stands, these costs have been proven to be manageable if they are in fact managed with fire protection in mind. With out clear-cutting, forest management as envision by Wyden, Frankin and Johnson produces less merchantable timber and what is produced is far more expensive. If one would have a small percentage of our forests devoted to timber production for the benefit of the economy and the support of local government, rapid regeneration and tree plantation are the proven means.
Jack Swift is the Vice Chairman of the Southern Oregon Resource Alliance
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