Reference editor Pete Aleshire’s feature on the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, I believe we the public should have done more to maintain the health of the forests, the other plant communities, soil and water quality, and our atmosphere. These renewable resources have been compromised by uncontrolled wildfires, forest and ecosystem neglect and general mismanagement of the national forests.
I am a forester (Colorado A&M College 1953 degree in forestry-range science). I was a Forest Service district ranger from 1960 to 1970 and then in private industry logging and lumber mill management from 1970 to 1996 retirement, continued as a contract-forester to today ... all my working life in the Rocky Mountains from southern Colorado to the Canadian border. I was many years in the Society of American Foresters and the Society of Range Management. I represented the Wyoming Timber Industry Association on the national “Non-point Source” forestry committee for the 1972 Federal Clean Water Act. I was an industry representative on the Region Two Forest Service timber sale C Clause committee and the national road construction standards committee in the 1970s. I think I have some sense of the last 60-year history of the national forests.
The Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama presidents (and the U.S. Congress from 1970 until today) have failed to provide laws and policies that would have allowed the U.S. Forest Service to properly manage the national forests, using full sustainable timber harvest to promote maximum long-term health of forests, wildlife habitats, soil and water quality and the atmosphere itself. Nor can the Forest Service adequately provide forest products and jobs. All these benefits having been mandated by the 1898 Organic Administrative Uses Act and the 1960 Multiple use — Sustained Yield Act.
The once-proud Forest Service has been all but totally destroyed. Now forest and ecosystem health continues to be compromised and the atmosphere itself is no longer able to function as God intended because burned and insect-killed old-growth forests cannot convert carbon dioxide and water and water into pure oxygen through photosynthesis.
The Obama administration thinks only in limited terms, managing only a small percentage of the multiple use forests, producing only a small percentage of our needed forest products long term, creating very few private industry jobs. Meanwhile, trade policies allow nearly one-half of our needed forest products to be imported from Canada although we possess the greatest conifer forests in the world. This leaves us with inadequate markets for forest products that could be produced here in the United States.
We should be treating a far higher portion of our national forests using full, sustainable timber harvesting. The sale of timber could finance much of the cost of management and contribute to public schools through the return of 25 percent of the gross payments by timber purchasers to the counties under existing laws. Sadly, we treat the forest using only Obama’s top-down restoration projects with “pork-laden” stimulus taxpayer dollars. We hand the money over to non-profit N.G.O.s, who collaborate with the Forest Service in coerced consensus where pretense trumps real accomplishment and unending gridlock prevails.
This is totally asinine in as much as the Forest Service could be managing the national forests on its own under the “best management practices” it had developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The national forests were managed from the end of World War II (1945) up through the 1960s under full sustainable yield of timber harvest. Old forests were made healthy by converting to younger well-spaced trees, wildlife flourished, over grazing was stopped, putrid rivers were cleaned up and the local forest-dependent communities prospered.
There were 30 or more large lumber mills in Arizona and New Mexico in the 1960s. There were that many in Colorado and Wyoming, and at least that many in Montana, all harvesting sustainable volumes of Forest Service timber. Now Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell hopes that a new lumber mill in Winslow can process small burned and green tree thinning profitable while leaving the larger trees uncut. This is not forestry!
The Apache foresters of Arizona know how to manage their reservation ponderosa pine. They have continuously harvested good quality green saw timber on a tree-selection basis taking small and large trees and leaving healthy small and large trees.
President Obama should learn from the Apache foresters (and state foresters, who by-the-way, also know how to manage forests for health and profit). The problem is that it is too late to save the mature and over-mature ponderosa pine on the national forests of Arizona, New Mexico and southern Colorado. And the same is true for the lodge pole pine and Engelmann spruce of northern Colorado, Wyoming and eastside Montana. These national forests have not benefited from maximum sustainable timber harvest since as far back as 1970. Sad for them, they have not experienced the power saw since 1970!
The Apache Indian people (and the state foresters) will not lose their forests. But the federal government’s national forests will not produce profitable forest products and prosperous forest-dependent communities (like Flagstaff, Freedonia, Williams, Prescott, Happy Jack, Payson, Sedona, Holbrook, Springerville, Eagar, Alpine, Cloudcroft, Chama) for 100 years. People will not like these forests during the next 100 years. Neither will the elk, goshawks and pine martens!
The Obama program is only a drop in the bucket of what we should have been doing when we still had lumber mills and a contract-logging industry.