Editor’s note: The following is an opinion piece submitted by NWAF! Coalition member, Robin Stanley.
I read with a great deal of interest the article in Evergreen magazine in which Jim Petersen interviews Mike Petersen from the Land Council on the Collaborative forest management model.
While I would expect the Lands Council to want as much wilderness as they can leverage, I am more than a little surprised that Mr. Vaagen, from the timber industry, would agree that turning a third of the Colville National Forest into wilderness management area is a good thing. In Mr. Petersen’s own words, the wilderness management allows is no motor access (which some think it is a great thing, but is very arguable when it comes to fire access) but the part that troubles me the most is that the management is left to “nature”. So in other words, don’t address the diseased trees, don’t create elk and wild life habitat, just let it nature turn it into a thicket, let it burn and then let the streams fill up with silt and mud slides, but at least man has not left a fingerprint on the land.
Mr. Vaagens position reminds me of the days when the Burnker Hill Mine and Smelter were closing. A miner told me he would rather see the Silver Valley turn into a ghost town rather than see proud miners trading the “diggers” for leather shorts with suspenders, a Bavarian cap, and accordion, standing on the corner selling souvenir trinkets to tourists. Wow! What a statement. But to a degree, I share his sentiment. I guess it is easier to be philosophical when you are not scrambling to put potatoes on your children’s dinner plates.
So has the timber industry been starved to such a degree that it is worth offering up a third of our forests as a sacrifice to get a third into management? Do true timber industry people really believe it is a good plan to stop managing one third of the forests? Maybe that is a plan we can expect Potlatch and Boise Cascade to begin to embrace in the near future. Whoopee!! Maybe I can be appointed to the Boise Cascade Collaborative. Yah right!!! Like any serious timber company or private land owner is ever going to adopt a collaborative process for managing their timber.
It appears the Colville Collaborative has agreed to divide their forest into three parts; a third for wilderness (which by the way, only Congress can authorize a real wilderness area), a part for recreation, and a part for timber management. So out of that forest only one third is actually managed for the sake of managing the timber growth. So in fact, the environmental groups, (say the Land Council) managed to leverage one third of that forest into a wilderness management plan, something they could never have management in a court. Wow!! What a victory for the environmental groups and it didn’t cost them a dime. And the timber industry is so starved, that they probably feel one third is better than no thirds, as has been the case in the past with all the law suits. Would any private timber company agree to only managing one third their land for timber harvest and put one third into wilderness? Laughable isn’t it. Yet that is what they are doing to “our” national forests.
Again, Wilderness areas are not managed. The management is left to nature. In other words, let the bugs and diseases have the trees “cuz that’s nature’s way”, and let ‘er burn, cuz that’s what nature does. Let nature fry the little critters and burn up their habitat and pollute the water. That’s all o.k. as long as nature does it and it is not touched by human hands, nor is the sounds of a motor vehicle heard in the area. And for them, the more wilderness, the better. God forbid the elderly, the handicapped, the young and anyone not healthy enough to hike, own a horse or cannot afford to pay for a horse, should ever enjoy the view of a wilderness area.
I am not opposed to all wilderness areas. But I believe we should be careful when designating wilderness areas so as to not deny the general public the opportunity to experience and enjoy our national forests. I believe the wildlife and water systems in our national forests need to be managed and not left to nature’s cruel and indiscriminate ways. Old growth trees need to be protected, endangered species need to be monitored, and forest fires need to be managed in all of our forests. Experts need to decide which fires should be left to burn and which fires should be controlled or even extinguished. Instead, wilderness areas are abandoned with no thought of any management of any kind. It’s totally nature’s to have her way.
In a recent interview with Jim Petersen from the Evergreen Magazine, Mike Petersen, from the Land Council, does an excellent job of talking about the need to manage the “timber harvest” one third of the forest. How can anyone argue with the points he makes. The following are some quotes from Mr. Petersen taken from the Evergreen Magazine interview.
Petersen: That’s correct. But restoring forests to their more natural range of variability isn’t just a matter of removing small trees. It’s more about bringing back tree species that have lost their places in the landscape as a result of the exclusion of fire, high-grading shade intolerant tree species, like western white pine and western larch and allowing shade tolerant tree species, like white fir, to take over landscapes that were more open a century ago.
(Some comments omitted)
Petersen: The concept of historic range is that the forest had a mix of young, medium and old growth stands. As natural processes, such as fire and insects occurred, older stands might die and be replaced with young forest. Because of past management, there is far less old growth than historically, and because of fire suppression there are also less young stands. The result is there are far more medium age stands, which creates problems for wildlife and changes fire behavior. Restoring a more historic forest composition is now a goal of the Forest Service, as well as our collaboration. How and where this restoration occurs should be driven by science.
Mr. Petersen presents a very compelling argument for forest management and the use of science. So if it is good for the one third, why isn’t the same argument good for the other two thirds? Why can’t the recreational area timber be managed as well instead of being left to the bugs, diseases and fire? Why should wilderness areas be abandoned?
While those supporting the collaborative model will defend the groups use of science and expert testimony to base their decisions on, two facts still remain. First, only projects that are not controversial can garner the support necessary to get consensus from the collaborative. Therefore, the Collaborative Model provides an inexpensive venue for those opposed to logging, to kill controversial projects in the early stages of the collaborative process. And if that doesn’t work for any reason, they can still take it to court just like in the old days.
So the environmental extremists still have the veto power in the court that they had before the Collaboratives were established. But the collaborative does provide the opportunity for the Forest Service and those objecting to a project to save money by filtering the objectionable cases out before they get to court. This is a winning scenario for those opposed to logging, but a loser for those of us who see managing our forests as a way to created healthier forests, better watershed, better wildlife habitat and reduction of catastrophic wildfire fuel.