New forest industry: restoration
Dear Editor:The Aspen Times continues the great tradition of investigative and factual reporting with its Feb. 7 article, “Forest Service sitting on a logjam.” The article served readers well by pointing out the important fact that the desires of the taxpaying citizens of our country for management of national forest lands has changed over recent decades. People now understand the incalculable value of these public forests for recreation, clean air and water, and even contributions to property values in the Rocky Mountains. It may be that our national forests are simply not the appropriate place for a private logging industry to operate.But the article also failed to capture two other important aspects of this issue. One is that the “analysis paralysis” myth of the Bush administration has been entirely debunked by both the government itself and academic researchers. The General Accounting Office (GAO) has told Congress that in 2001 there were 1,671 logging projects for fuel reduction and only 1 percent were appealed and none had been litigated. The GAO also reported in 2003 that 95 percent of projects it analyzed were ready for implementation within the standard 90-day review period. It is not conservationists that stall the projects, but the government’s bureaucracy and resistance to environmental laws that slow the flow of logs to mills. Another report from Northern Arizona University researchers found the appeals process has been used by a broad range of interests from grazing permittees, timber companies, and concerned local residents, not just by conservation groups alone.The other missed piece of information is that there is an entire forest restoration industry growing up around the need to restore ecological balance to our national forests. The Forest Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year after a century of logging and other destructive uses; the agency must embrace this next one as the “restoration century.” Many forest-based communities are collaborating with conservationists to build a sustainable restoration industry that is based not on extractive economics but the micro-economics of place and ecological limitations. These initiatives focus first on protecting communities from fire and then on carefully returning critical ecosystem processes to our remote, wild forests.Once natural processes such as fire and insects are safely reintroduced to these forests, diverse wildlife will return as well as ecological resiliency. There will be jobs and income associated with restoration contracts as well as prescribed wildfire management for decades to come.Bryan BirdForest Program CoordinatorForest GuardiansSanta Fe, N.M.
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