A MILLENNIAL CHALLENGE

wafcdc at americanlands.org wafcdc at americanlands.org
Mon Jan 3 11:42:38 EST 2000


From: "wafcdc at americanlands.org" <wafcdc at americanlands.org>

To: All Activists
From: Jim Jontz
Date: January 3, 2000

A MILLENNIAL CHALLENGE

Whatever else the Millennium has become, it is undisputably a marker in the
passage of time.  A thousand years is a blink of the eye in the evolution of
life, unnoticeable from a geologic perspective, but for an individual
organism (like a human) it is a very long period.  Our species is so
impressed with the passage of a thousand years that we have marked the
beginning of a new Millennium with observances combining celebration with
awe and perhaps even reverence.

As we reflect on the meaning of all this, perhaps it is worth remembering
that some of the living beings that we share this planet with were alive
when the last Millennium was observed -- and some alive now will see the
Year 3000 come and go, as well.  

We revere Ancient Forests because they provide irreplaceable ecosystem
services, because they are repositories of priceless biological diversity
(in the U.S., half of our endangered species are associated with forests),
and because they offer us opportunities for solitude and recreation.
However, we also value them because they are old.  Perhaps only a small
number of  trees other than bristlecone pines reach a millennial age, but I
remember the immense sense of loss people felt when it was reported during
the carnage of the Rescissions Act Logging Rider that a tree felled in the
Umpqua NF under the Rider had measured 1000 years in age.  Old growth
forests, indeed, are living systems that span the ages.

So what better occasion than the Millennium to resolve that we as humans
will show our respect for the longevity of the Earth's remaining old growth
forests by ending their liquidation? The issue would have been meaningless
to humans at Y1K; the Earth's forests were largely (though not completely)
intact.  And at the Y3K marker, the question will be irrelevant -- Ancient
Forests will either be protected or gone.  No, only those of us on duty at
the current Millennial marker have the opportunity (and responsibility) to
insure that Ancient Forests will endure.  

And what more important or appropriate way for us to observe the Millennium
than to act to protect these forests?  Now that we've gotten over partying
at Times Square and fended off the inconvenience of  malfunctioning ATM
machines and other social and commercial calamities threatened by the Y2K
computer bug, isn't it time to do something meaningful to mark the
Millennium?  Something, perhaps, that we would want future generations to
remember the Millennium by other than our computer fears?  

Yes, the Year 2000 should be the year that we in the U.S. make a commitment
that the logging of old growth forests within our nation's borders will end,
and that we initiate action to achieve this goal globally as soon within the
Millennium as possible. 

Within the U.S., the goal of ending the logging of old growth could be
accomplished swiftly and with almost unnoticeable economic impact.   It
happens that the two regional "ecosystem management" plans in the Northwest
where much of the remaining old growth remains on public lands are at
important decision points this year.  

The nation's major environmental groups recently wrote to the CEQ asking
that an option to end the logging of old growth under the Northwest Forest
Plan be included in an SEIS pending to address the "survey and manage"
issue.  As a result of the recent settlement in Judge Dwyer's court over the
government's failure to conduct the surveys of old growth dependent species
that the Northwest Forest Plan requires, the volume of old growth logging
under the Plan will be reduced this year.  What better time to make a
decision simply to end it, and instead fulfill the economic commitment of
the Northwest Forest Plan with landscape restoration jobs rather than
liquidating our forest heritage?

The Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Plan (ICBEMP) covers the
1/4 of the National Forest System in the Columbia Basin east of the
Cascades.  ICBEMP is the ecosystem management plan that everyone would like
to forget.  The Forest Service and BLM were given an extension of time to do
the job right after former CEQ Chair Katie McGinty was convinced the initial
EIS failed to include a decent alternative.  Hoping that the clock will run
out on the Clinton Administration, the agencies have failed again to produce
any options that would get beyond business as usual in the region (welfare
logging and grazing).  However, the Clinton Administration has expressed a
renewed commitment to finish ICBEMP under their watch.  They ought to
(finally) take control of the process and decree that protection of old
growth and fish will be accomplished by ICBEMP.  How could an ecosystem plan
for the Eastside that doesn't protect old growth be anything other than a
failure? 

There is of course old growth on National Forests outside the Pacific
Northwest, too, even small but valuable patches in several Eastern Forests.
We should protect it, too.  For starters, how about some direction under the
pending National Forest Management Act (NFMA) regulations insuring that
Forest Plan revisions will identify old growth as "unsuitable" for logging?
The Committee of Scientists emphasized "ecological sustainability" in the
report they wrote upon which the new regulations are written.  What is
sustainable about liquidating old growth forests?

Of course, there are some important old growth forests on non-federal lands
(regrettably, too much of it owned by Charles Hurwitz).  And beyond our
nation's borders, the bulk of the world's remaining Ancient Forests
(temperate, boreal, and tropical) are within the boundaries of Russia,
Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Chile, and of course our neighbor Canada. 

The last Millennium ended with a major environmental victory when the
Coastal Rainforest Coalition extracted a commitment from The Home Depot to
end their sourcing from old growth forests.  This decision by the world's
largest lumber retailer, preceded by commitments from a couple dozen
well-known companies such as Kinkos, Hallmark, and Misubishi Electric to end
their consumption of old growth, will have a significant impact on markets
for wood products.  Other "do it yourself" companies and wood using
businesses are also being pressured to end their old growth use.  The
campaigns that are targeting these consumers are of enormous importance.

The Home Depot decision should signal to the Clinton Administration, the
Congress, and other political leaders that the public no longer sees logging
of old growth as appropriate in a civilized society.   Home Depot did not
make their decision, of course, based on altruistic motives but rather on an
astute understanding of their customers. Most Americans do not want to walk
into their neighborhood Home Depot and worry about whether the products they
buy came from endangered old growth forests.  Home Depot  recognized that
the public no longer sees the logging of Ancient Forests as socially
acceptable, and just as important, that the logging of old growth forests is
not necessary for them to make a profit or meet their customers "needs." 

The slaughter of birds for plumage for ladies hats, the use of DDT, and
(most) commercial whaling  are environmental travesties that were stopped in
the last century because of public opinion; old growth logging should be the
first environmental tragedy ended in the new one.   The U.S. must take
decisive action now to end old growth logging on public lands at home, and
then exert leadership to address the issue internationally.   In part, this
is our responsibility because the U.S. is a major consumer of products from
old growth forests offshore, especially from Canada.  Half of the old growth
logged in British Columbia goes to U.S. markets.  It simply isn't
responsible to protect forests at home and then shift the destruction elsewhere.

At the recent World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial meeting in Seattle
the U.S. pushed not for global forest protection, but for a Global Free
Logging Agreement that would substantially increase logging in such
environmentally sensitive areas as primary forests in Indonesia and
Malaysia.   Thankfully, the Free Logging Agreement was turned aside when the
Ministerial collapsed.  Many made the argument then, which perhaps now our
government will consider, that our nation's global agenda ought to be saving
forests, not logging them.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) was
formed because the U.S. and other nations recognize that trade in endangered
species is wrong.  So, why not a Convention on International Trade in Old
Growth (CITOG), by which old growth forests globally can be protected?  At a
minimum, the U.S. should take the lead in sitting down with Canada, Chile,
and New Zealand where the world's other old growth temperate rainforests
remain, and take cooperative steps to protect this unique and endangered
ecosystem.

Great cathedrals at Chartres and elsewhere are considered today as among the
most notable of mankind's accomplishments of the past Millennium, testimony
to human spirituality, knowledge, and skill.  Perhaps instead of building
more spires into the sky in the new Millennium, however, we will recognize
that the accomplishment that might best reflect our sense of the greatness
of Creation would be to protect for all time the Ancient Forests that still
grace this planet Earth.


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Steve Holmer
Campaign Coordinator

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