Document 51: An Environmentalist Criticizes Logging Practices, 1967

Brock Evans to Mike Quigley, 30 November 1967, box 45, Brock Evans Papers, accession 1776-5,
Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries.

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[typed on the stationery of the Sierra Club]                   

November 30, 1967

Mr. Mike Quigley
Spokane, Washington

Dear Mr. Quigley:

I was interested to read a letter in the November issue of Western Timber Industry from a person named Frank Passmore. He was replying to you, apparently on behalf of the timber industry. Although I have not seen the text of your remarks which brought forth his reply, I gather they were to the effect that the timber industry should concern itself more with public feeling about the destructive effects of logging. I thought you might like to know that many of us [in the Sierra Club] feel the same way as you apparently did, about what logging has done and is doing to our forests.

We have been after the industry for years, and also those public agencies such as the Forest Service which manage timber, to modify their timber cutting practices so as not to be so destructive. We have had some success with the Forest Service, but not enough; industry has not responded at all. Anywhere you drive through private timberland in Western Washington, you will still see immense clear-cuts scarring the hillsides, eroding into the streams, and generally blighting the landscape. And even though we have somewhat more control over the Forest Service, the whole history of the North Cascades in recent years has been one of logging sale after logging sale punched into areas of exceptionally high scenic and wilderness quality, which never should have been touched. The loggers like to say that they are replanting, but what they don't say is that the trees never grow back six feet thick and 200 feet high again. What they are planning is pulpwood saplings to be cropped every 40 or 60 years, all in areas where there will be constant logging in one place or another. They like to talk about "multiple use," but it so often comes out that this phrase really means "trees for the logger, rock and ice for everybody else."

Because of all our unfortunate experience with the timber industry in recent years, we have come to the conclusion that the only way the rest of the public is going to have forest land to enjoy for non-logging purposes, is either (A) reserve certain areas of high scenic or wilderness quality from any cutting at all, as in national parks, wilderness areas, and recreation areas; or (B) in areas where there is to be cutting, drastically change the cutting methods on all lands so that adequate screens are provided from the cutting units, the logging roads are not bulldozed right over the trails, and stream sides and lake sides are protected, too. These are the policies we have been advocating for years, but there needs to be more public knowledge of what is happening. The public also needs to know that it doesn't have to be this way—that we can have jobs and a healthy economy and yet a high quality environment. The only reason the industry doesn't follow these practices now is because they can make a little more money by not having to take precautions. No one is going to go out of business if they have to do what they should.

Mr. Passmore made the emotional statement to you that we are all going to go back to living in sod shanties unless the loggers can keep on insuring a "sustained yield." No one is going to go back to living in sod shanties, no mater what the loggers are required to do. We are growing more timber now than we cut, and new technological means already in existence are greatly increasing the yield on timberland now being cut.

Mr. Passmore also touted the alleged advantages of all those access roads that the loggers built, and that they play a great part in fire protection. He didn't mention the fact that those same roads are the most serious cause of erosion in our forests, and the silting up of the streams in them, too. Speaking of fire protection, it is true that the roads bring better access, but they also bring more people in to cause fires. He did not mention that the two largest fires in the state of Washington this last summer (Quinault and Evergreen Mountain) were in heavily logged areas, laced with logging roads. The last one was started during a logging operation.

Until the timber industry changes its bad habits, I think the proper phrase to use for what is happening to our forests, is the way you put it—"Destruction." . . . If I can ever be of further assistance, please let me know. We have quite a few members in Spokane who feel the same way you do. 

                             Very truly yours,

                             M. Brock Evans

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest