The Timber Debate Continues

The Timber Debate Continues

Dear Editor,

First of all, thank you for publishing an article on the northwestern timber debate that was, for the most part, a fair and accurate view of the issues. I was especially encouraged by your recognition that different forest types grow differently and “a simple ban on clearcutting does not always make sense.” We were concerned, though, by some of your recommendations both on policy and on what your readers can do:

On policy recommendation #2, that ecosystem management be imple­mented on all public lands: What is the practicality of applying ecosystem management (assuming we can define what that means) to only part of the ecosystem? Ecosystem management applied to all public lands would work just fine if the public land boundaries defined the ecosystem. Unfortunately, the reality is that within a given watershed (the smallest geographical definition of ecosystem I’ve heard that makes any sense) there could be literally dozens of landowners, some public, some private and most with different management goals for their land. This basic flaw in approach must be addressed before we can hope for ecosystem management to be a real solution.

On #5, to discourage the use of herbicides and fertilizer: Private lands are managed for maximum timber output, just as farmlands in the Midwest are managed for maximum crop output. Herbicides and fertilizers are a necessary tool in achieving this desired end. To take them away and continue demanding the amount of resources we use will require that a significantly larger land base be dedicated to timber production.

On #6, to support wood product certification: WWPA is the leader in the forest products industry in exploring the certification concept. However, demands for environmental sustainability should not be limited to wood products. We believe that if users of building products assess environmental impacts from a global, life-cycle perspective they will realize that wood is the most environmentally sound building material that exists.

On #7, to protect remaining old-growth forest: You are right, our children and grandchildren deserve to have huge acreages of undisturbed forest lands. This is the intent of the National Wilderness System, a system that currently contains some 90 million acres of undisturbed land in all land classifications from desert to temperate rain forest.

On #8, to ban the export of raw logs: The log export issue is a private property rights issue. A total ban on private log exports would set a terrible precedent on the infringement of those rights. I think most Americans are unwilling to give up their private property rights. In lieu of an outright ban, perhaps incentives should be created to keep resources in the U.S. This system works well in British Columbia.


What You Can Do #3, to use alternative building materials made from recycled paper, low-grade wood fiber, and recycled plastic: What are the total impacts of these alternative materials? What about the energy consumption, air and water emissions associated with the recycling process itself? Isn’t it better to use a totally renewable material, such as wood, rather than to use one made partially from recycled material and partially from non-renewable virgin materials? Our work with Scientific Certification Systems will begin to answer these questions and others.

On #6, to use salvaged lumber: A related suggestion might be to encourage architects and specifiers to come up with more creative uses of the knottier grades that will become a larger percentage of the wood that is available in lieu of the clear, vertical grain products that come from old growth.

Timm Locke

Product Publicity Manager

Western Wood Products Association

Dear Folks,

I enjoy your newsletter. The articles are informative and on target. I was disappointed with the Northwest Timber article in May/June ‘93. Although your article is probably more balanced than most, the thinking is still a long way from “environmentally sustainable.”

When you clear cut, where do all the animals go to live? To read your article, and others, one gets the impression that the only animals living in the forests are those on the endangered species list: the spotted owl and the half-dozen others mentioned.

Also missing is the concept that the earth is alive. We need to change the thinking from “maximum timber yield” or “multiple use management” to a real reverence for the earth as a spiritual being upon whose body we are privileged to reside.

In order for our activities on this planet to be sustainable we must treat her with respect. We need to ask her permission before cutting down a tree. Our relationship with Mother Earth must be a sacred relationship.

Ask some Native American Indian leaders to write some articles for you and offer your readers a sustainable point of view.


Michael Burtt

Published July 1, 1993

(1993, July 1). The Timber Debate Continues. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/op-ed/timber-debate-continues

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