Letters to the Editor

Timber Town Tumult

I greatly enjoyed the article "Trouble in Timber Town" which appeared in the December, 1990, issue. Author Sandra Hines is to be commended for producing the most incisive, sensitive and compassionate piece on this difficult issue that I have yet to read. And congratulations also to Columns for having the courage to publish it.

Gary A. Ritchie, '66, '71

I agree that vilifying all loggers is unfortunate and unfair. But haven't logging interests been guilty of stereotyping preservationists? One example is the anecdote of the $350,000 home owner in Sequim; few of us who want to protect old-growth forests are in this income bracket. Another example is the oft-cited and simplistic "jobs versus owls" argument--as if all we are concerned with is a single bird species and not the magnificent, vanishing ancient forests themselves.

I'm sorry, but forests on public land belong to all Americans for all time, not just to the logging interests and the people who live closest to them. Yes, the Forest Service has helped to encourage dependence on unsustainable cuts of old growth, but it's about time they stopped! Of course logging communities feel "under attack." But so are these forests. That's the urgent reality: Once old-growth forests are chopped down, they're gone. Second-growth tree farms are not a replacement.

Yes, it seems reasonable and fair for government to help loggers and their communities make the transition to jobs which don't depend on destroying our last stands of old-growth forest. But they would earn more sympathy and support if they and their elected representatives made that case--instead of stubbornly fighting for business-as-usual allotments of publicly owned old growth, year after year. If loggers are so "adaptable," as Bill Hermann asserts, why don't they adapt now--instead of waiting 10, 20 or 30 years from now when most of the old-growth forests would be gone anyway?

It's not just loggers who need to adapt. We as a nation, a world community and a species need to adapt quickly, too, if we are to cope with emerging environmental realities and to salvage what's left our our limited natural legacy. But how can we in America persuade desperately poor nations like Brazil and Indonesia not to destroy their huge rain forests if we can't save our own last remnants of old growth here at home?

Robert Morrison, '79
Cambridge, Mass.

I congratulate you for the article and picture in the December, 1990, Columns entitled "Trouble in Timber Town" by Sandra Hines. It is very well written and well researched and a credit to your magazine. I believe it will be controversial in an area that needs something to balance the buzzwords and factoids that are flung far and wide by the news media. Unlike the lumber industry, the environmental industry is logging the pockets of the public. ... Like environmental impact statements required by law, a whole new industry is springing up, to become prosperous investigating supposed hazards and dangers. It costs just as much to prove the good as it does to prove the bad! ...

John A. Fletcher, '46
St. Paul, Minn.

Never in my life have I read such a smug and ignorant article and never would I expect to read it in a UW magazine. ... Old growth is the issue. Why? Because it is almost gone. Why? Because of greedy, ignorant logging practices. If renewable forestry is so successful, why is there so much pressure to log the last stands of ancient forest, on public land to boot? Because private timber lands offer only second or third growth, must we now decimate our national forests?

Clearcutting destroys the entire ecosystem. ... Populations of salamanders, frogs and birds are fast declining. ... When and if trees are replanted, one species is planted along with applications of herbicides and pesticides. Now tell me, oh forestry expert, how in the most bloated stretch of the truth does this compare with the incredible diversity of the original forests which once grew here?...

Man is supposedly the adaptable, intelligent organism capable of anything. The view currently espoused seems to paint mankind, i.e. loggers, as simpering, bedwetting, wrinkled puppies capable of nothing but messing in their own nest (and then seeing an analyst).

Jeff McGrath, '78

... The article blithely dismisses the growing problem of forest land allocation by stating "actually, there are lots of trees." ...To imply that our current rate of harvest can be sustained indefinitely is plain wrong, and to ignore the fact that nearly half of the timber cut in the Northwest is exported is to ignore the basic problem with the industry.

Timber-based communities are indeed being victimized--as are we all. The annual, multimillion-dollar subsidy of our timber industry, together with lax environmental laws, has sheltered the large timber companies from the true cost of doing business. Unsustainable levels of harvest have endangered the future of a vital resource and a vital industry. The costs are being borne by small communities, small companies and the public. To dismiss environmentally concerned persons as ignorant "urbanites" [who are] "intent on tearing up ... America by its roots" is simply to play a game of smoke and mirrors, encouraging the same divisiveness which the article supposedly objects to. It's hard to believe Dr. [Robert] Lee would lend his name to such a stilted, inaccurate bit of writing.

Rich Haydon, '82
Grangeville, Idaho

... The article tries to compare loggers to family farmers. A farmer cares for his land so it will continue to produce. A logger who clearcuts an old growth forest has performed a one-time mining of the resource. Replanting an old growth clearcut with Douglas fir does not restore the rich and varied forest ecosystem that was destroyed. A farmer works his own land. Almost all of the remaining old growth is on public lands, and therefore belongs to the public. The timber industry's insistence on cutting public old growth forests is indeed similar to the buffalo hunters' slaughter of the free-roaming, publicly owned buffalo.

Grant Coomer, '68
Sea-Tac, Wash.

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