Regarding the article ``US Home Buyers Get Hit With `Tree Tax,' '' April 29: It is convenient for the housing industry to blame any cost increases on the spotted owl, but it is a bum rap. We were disappointed that the Monitor ran such an uncritical account of the industry's claims.
Current lumber prices, adjusted for inflation, are lower than they were in 1980. Also, demand for housing is a major factor in the price of lumber, and housing starts are now significantly higher than they were over the past three years. A February report by the Congressional Research Service documented that this year's increase in lumber prices was due primarily to demand for housing, seasonal factors, and, to a lesser extent, natural disasters such as earthquakes.
If home buyers are unhappy about the supply of lumber, they should contact the large timber companies, which are exporting 25 percent of the Pacific Northwest's output.
Also, the owl is but one citizen of the Northwest's ancient forests. Pacific salmon and more than 1,000 other species depend on this ecosystem, 90 percent of which has been liquidated. The ancient forests provide critical habitat for a $1 billion commercial fishing industry employing 60,000 workers.
People, too, depend on the health of these forests, which harbor the watersheds that provide most of the region's drinking water, serve as the linchpin of the tourism and recreation industry, and are fundamental to the high quality of life in the Northwest. G. Jon Roush, Washington President, The Wilderness Society
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