Saving the Owls, the Forests, and the Loggers

The larger view is missing from the article "What to Do About the Spotted Owl and Logging," Sept. 16, which portrays the controversy as one between local people and economies on one hand and spotted owls and environmentalists on the other.What is at stake is a complex ecosystem. In less than 100 years, our culture has clear-cut more than 90 percent of these ancient forests. Our "replacement" has been tree farms, which provide raw materials for industry, but are no replacement for many species of wildlife dependent on the complex web of life, growth, death, and decay represented in the dynamic ecosystem we are clear-cutting. The article says that "University of Washington researchers predicted severe social and political strain if courts and federal agencies sharply cut back logging to protect the spotted owl." But at current harvest rates, loggers will cut all remaining ancient forests in about a decade. Then "severe social and political strain" will have to be faced with no one - owl or environmentalist - to blame other than this generation's greedy race to cash in on one more ecological treasure. We should offer generous economic adjustment aid to effected workers and communities and protect this remnant of earth's natural majesty - before our greed adds one more shame to our children's dwindling natural inheritance. Don Arnosti, St. Paul, Minn.

The northern spotted owl is merely a convenient scapegoat for politicians and US Forest Service officials who refuse to admit that the real problem in the region's national forests is bad decisions and poor forest management. The owl, listed as a threatened species, is a barometer of the health of the ecosystem and that of the more than 150 species of wildlife which depend on ancient forests as their primary habitat. The northern spotted owl is not the problem, he is merely the messenger. The Forest Service and members of the Northwest's congressional delegation have ignored the Endangered Species Act and National Forest Management Act for years, and as a consequence the forests of the Northwest are now a shredded fragment of what they used to be. Less than 10 percent of the original ancient forests which once blanketed the West Coast from northern California to British Columbia still exist. Many generations of logging families in the Northwest have been promised an everlasting bounty of huge, old trees. Today, politicians still try to perpetuate that myth. Now the laws which were written to protect forests and wildlife are under siege. The Bush administration and others want the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to be excused from obeying the laws in order to continue very high levels of logging. But surely the solution is not to weaken environmental laws until we have neither forests nor jobs. Let's save the remaining remnants of ancient forests and help the affected loggers to start cutting smaller second growth trees that are plentiful in the region. That is what will happen in a few more years anyway - why not now? Lisa Glantz, Washington, National Audubon Society

The communities and families currently dependent on logging the last of our remaining old growth forests would be better off if we preserved these areas. If we chose to fully implement the Endangered Species Act and National Forest Management Act, these workers could be employed in doing the mandated work necessary to inventory, research, and monitor national forest species and ecosystems. They could be employed in activities designed to repair past destruction, such as tree planting, wildlife habitat improvement, and erosion control. They could be employed in activities designed to enhance recreational uses of the forests, such as trail building and camp ground improvement. Such jobs could be funded with recreational-use fees and with money saved by ending old-growth logging, which is a net loss for the government. Since such logging will end in a few years anyway when the forest is logged out, such employment would provide much greater stability for families and communities now dependent on old-growth logging. Elizabeth Hernandez, Las Cruces, N.M.

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