fwd: Rick Bass on logging roads

Kirk Johnson newkirk at olywa.net
Sun Jan 18 23:03:03 EST 1998

> January 16, 1998
> What Our National Forests Need
>      YAAK, Mont. -- We can talk money, or we can talk science, but either
> way, the timber frontier -- that part of it that involves the liquidation
> of the public lands -- is over, or should be over. I can think of no
> environmental issue that has outraged conservationists more than the
> continued Federal taxpayer subsidies for building roads -- temporary or
> otherwise -- into the last wild cores of our national forests. 
> These roads are used by international timber companies to take timber from
> the public lands, often by means of large clearcuts that leave nothing for
> the future. Then, traditionally, the companies leave town, taking their
> jobs with them. 
> Many of the roads built in the national forests can turn into rivers when
> it rains and also during the spring when it snows, transporting great gouts
> of sediment into the spawning beds of wild trout and salmon, and robbing
> the forest of moisture. The roads are prone to slumping and collapse,
> further wracking the ecosystem. They place huge monetary and administrative
> burdens on already strapped Federal agencies. There are already more than
> 380,000 miles of roads on the national forests - enough to circle the globe
> 14 times. 
> The Clinton Administration is currently considering a policy that would
> place a  moratorium on further entry into the nation's last roadless
> sanctuaries. These public lands were long overlooked by industry because
> they were too remote or too barren. 
> Protecting these wild cores will not make or break the domestic timber
> industry, but not protecting them will make and break wilderness. 
> Unfortunately, some environmentalists fear that, under pressure from the
> timber industry in recent weeks, the Administration may find the political
> price too high and waver on crucial parts of the plan. If true, the pattern
> seems to reflect the pattern of the fragmented landscape itself: what was
> initially a good, strong, healthy thing now might be carved up and
> deteriorate into something weak. 
> The Administration may exempt from protection the old-growth forests of the
> Pacific Northwest and the huge rain forest of Alaska's Tongass National
> Forest. And conservationists familiar with the Administration's past
> indecision fear that the timber industry is pressuring the Administration
> to agree to let "temporary" roads be built into the last roadless cores. 
> Moreover, the Administration's plan doesn't heed the call of many
> conservationists and scientists, who think it should protect roadless areas
> that are 1,000 acres and larger. The Administration's plan will apparently
> call for protection of areas that are 5,000 acres or larger. 
> Wavering is a bad idea because what kind of citizen could stand in a
> roadless area and be soothed by the seemingly endless sweep of forested
> blue ridges and yet know that this forest's protection had been bought by
> the continued liquidation of the Tongass and the Pacific Northwest? 
> Wavering is a bad idea because allowing for "temporary" roads in these
> roadless lands seems like being a little bit pregnant. Temporary roads
> alter the ecology of a roadless core and can be in place for an indefinite
> period of time -- up to 10 years, in some instances -- and necessitate the
> closing of other roads on the forest, as well as placing added expense on
> the Forest Service. 
> Wavering is a bad idea because merely protecting areas of 5,000 acres or
> more would simply create isolated pockets -- unconnected islands of
> ecological abandonment. Protecting the 1,000-acre areas, however, would
> have the effect of connecting many of those larger islands with thin,
> interlocking "fingers" -- stitching and clasping back together a tattered
> landscape.   
> For the last two years, Congress has been trying to address the problem. On
> three separate occasions, legislation in both the House and the Senate
> would have ended the practice of using taxpayer dollars for the building of
> roads into these last wildlands. Each time the legislation failed by one
> vote. 
> All the timber cut from the national forests represents only a small
> percentage of the nation's annual wood supply; some estimates place it at
> less than 5 percent. And the meager supply of timber in the roadless lands
> is some fraction vastly smaller than that. What kind of nation is so
> impoverished that it can't afford to protect the sanctuary of its last 1
> percent? 
> Mr. Clinton didn't bring us to the end of this road, the end of the
> frontier, but the final throes of American wilderness lie in his grasp. I
> hope he listens to the public. This is no time to get fancy. I hope he
> listens to the scientists. I have followed him and his Administration too
> long to hope that he listens to his heart -- the forest has been betrayed
> by him before. 
> Wallace Stegner wrote: "We need wilderness preserved -- as much of it as is
> still left, and as many kinds -- because it was the challenge against which
> our character as a people was formed. The reminder and the reassurance that
> it is still there is good for our spiritual health even if we never once in
> ten years set foot in it. It is good for us when we are young, because of
> the incomparable sanity it can bring briefly, as vacation and rest, into
> our insane lives. It is important to us when we are old simply because it
> is there -- important, that is, simply as an idea."  
> We are speaking about legacy. President Clinton can compromise with the
> multinational timber industry yet again, or he can leave the legacy of
> being the man who, finally, listened to the scientists, and the poets, and
> the public. 
> Rick Bass is the author, most recently, of "The Sky, the Stars, the
> Wilderness," a collection of novellas.

Perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell  -Edward Abbey

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