To Clear-Cut or Not to Clear-Cut?

In the Opinion page article "Administration Forestry Policy: a Clear-Cut Disaster," July 23, the author advocates unrestricted use of selective cutting in our forests. That is a much surer way than clear-cutting to degrade our forests and reduce their productivity and biodiversity. The reason is that it ignores the silvical characteristics - the biology if you will - of the species.

On millions of acres of forest where selective logging has been used the productivity of the forest is reduced. The reason is that size is assumed to be the equivalent of age, and the largest trees are selected for cutting. The net effect of selection cutting is that the best trees are selected and the worst are left.

We have evidence that forests are resilient and can respond to perturbations: the presence in the flora of shade-intolerant species. The fact is that most forests, and the most desirable species for man's use, are tolerant to shade. They are maintained in a forest by major disturbances, like clear-cutting or fire or wind or insect epidemics. Clear-cutting is not all bad. Benjamin B. Stout, Albany, Ore.

Regarding the Opinion page article "Clear-Cutting Has a Place in the National Forests," July 23: A healthy forest is a complex web of millions of interdependent plant and animal lives that we haven't begun to understand.

Up to 60 percent of a healthy forest's soil consists of rotting wood that is creating fertility rather than being pulped or sawn for human artifacts. Natural disasters do not deprive forests of such soil enrichment clear-cuts do. Uninformed forest "management," private or public, driven by short-term profitability or political expediency, can only do damage.

We need to change the covenants governing the stewardship of our national forests. We also must preserve what little remains of old growth, to teach us what healthy forest ecosystems are like. Clear-cutting and planting only commercially desirable trees does not make healthy forests. Absent is any real understanding of forests by politicians, bureaucracies, and industry.

We all share in inheriting our national forests. We have subsidized the exploitation of our timber by private interests, thereby endangering the health of the biosphere. For the sake of future generations we must stop it. Kurt Volckmar, Garberville, Calif.

The author's despair over government management of our national forests and his assertion that private ownership will save our environment from political whim seems disingenuous. Certainly our democracy is clumsy and unwieldly at times. But the solution is greater participation by a better informed mass of citizens. Decisionmaking by the economic elite of large landholders and corporate merchants is no different from tyranny we fought against two centuries ago. Nancy Wygent, Philadelphia

As a forester for the past 15 years I have seen many changes in how forests are described. It strikes me that until we can come to some concensus on what an old-growth or ancient forest is, we cannot fully manage this type of forest (or for that matter any forest) and determine whether it is to be harvested.

Some form of consensus-building entity needs to be created. Perhaps from this a new "myth" will come into existence that will allow both timber harvesting and the growing of older forests. This idea of growing older forests is widely held by many practicing foresters. This approach, however, will need to consider economic realities and policies that have been in place for a long time. Todd A. Merritt, Rochester, Wash.

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