Foresters challenged to be more open to environmentalism

truffler1635 at truffler1635 at
Tue Sep 14 00:02:37 EST 1999

The following article is from The Oregonian, Sept. 13, 1999, p E5


The president of a national group of foresters opens the society's four-
day conference in Portland


	The president of the Society of American Foresters on Sunday
challenged his colleagues to take a more open look at environmentalism.
	James Coufal, in a speech that helped kicked off the society's four-
day conference in Portland, said that foresters need to "accept truths
wherever they arise" and "get beyond the common action of thinking that
knowledge and good science is a matter of reaffirming what we already
	Coufal's remarks were delivered to a professional society that, on
the eve of its 100th anniversary, is suffering somewhat from an identity
crisis. Management decisions once based on timber production are
increasingly supplanted by concerns about fisheries, wildlife and
recreation that the environmental movement has helped pushed to the
policy forefront.
	These changing forest policies have sharpened debate within the
society's more than 16,000 members drawn largely from the ranks of the
timber industry, academics and public agencies. And they've put some
foresters -- particularly those who help manage public lands -- into a
defensive crouch as they yield some of their decision-making powers to
other professionals.
	But on Sunday the foresters were urged to take risks.
	The conference's keynote speaker was Mae Jemison, a Dartmouth
professor and former space shuttle astronaut who urged foresters to
"find the child inside," liberate themselves from fear and "focus on
	Coufal, a retired forestry professor from New York State University,
followed Jemison onto the podium at the Portland Convention Center. And
he asked for people to consider the view of environmentalists, a group
that some foresters "see as enemies and some see as fellow citizens of a
democracy with differing viewpoints," Coufal said that
environmentalists' calls for preserving the diversity of forest species
and eliminating the use of toxic chemicals have broad appeal to the
public. And he suggested that foresters should "closely consider" the
environmentalist principal of acting cautiously to avoid unintended
consequences in a world of many unknowns and enormous complexity.
	Coufal leads an organization that was launched back in 1900 by
Gifford Pinchot and other foresters at a time of an earlier public
backlash against logging. Decades of intensive logging cleared most of
the accessible timber in the eastern and midwestern states and many
parts of the South, and some of the land was so denuded it wasn't even
fit for forestry. During the first four decades, little progress was
made in rebuilding the nation's timber supply. In 1945, the volume of
the nation's standing timber was 43 percent less than estimated in 1909,
according to V. Alaric Sample, who gave an afternoon talk on the
evolution of American forest policy.
	Today, there's much more progress to report, said Sample, president
of the Washington, D.C.-based Pinchot Institute for Conservation.
	Forest growth rates now generally exceed harvest levels in most
regions of the nation and there have been big advances in using waste
wood products and increasing the productivity of timber land. And during
the past five decades, there has been an increasing emphasis on new
protections for fish, wildlife and water quality.
	Society officials, in their public relations efforts have often
sought to emphasize this progress. And many foresters have felt that
effort needs to be intensified to try to gain more public support for a
wide range of management activities, particularly in forests suffering
from the effects of disease, insects and fire-suppression.
	But Coufal cautioned foresters against trying to push a narrow
agenda. He said that foresters should not appear as a "chosen people"
who assume the right to define the goals for the nation's forests."

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler

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