Harvests of large timber are not sustainable

I am continually amazed by the lack of understanding on the part of public officials regarding timber harvests, and particularly the lack of understanding of that subject on the part of Congressman Greg Walden, Jackson County Commissioner C.W. Smith and Klamath County Commissioner John Elliot.

They exhibit ignorance by their statements in the Sunday, Jan. 18 Mail Tribune timber payment articles relating to timber harvests and forest environments. Use of the term "timber," in this context means, of course, large, commercially valuable timber, although not stated in so many words. Large, commercially valuable timber is also, by the way, relatively fire-resistant.

Walden stated, —¦management (meaning, management of our public, i.e., federal, forests) should be sustainable and environmentally sound." Walden simply does not understand that harvests of large, commercially valuable trees (private or public) are not "sustainable and environmentally sound." In fact, such harvests have never been sustainable and environmentally sound. They are nothing but destructive to the forest environment.

However, if by timber harvests he means the cutting out and removal of many of the currently non-commercially valuable smaller trees, in order to remove and clean the forests of excessive wildfire fuels, he should say so. But he doesn't say that; he leaves it up to the hearers and viewers of his words to interpret them, thus making them acceptable to anybody.

Walden also noted that "The timber industry remains an important part of the state's economy "¦" and that —¦ the state is the nation's top lumber producer. In fact, 190,000 jobs in Oregon are directly or indirectly related to the timber industry."

In response to those statements, a single statement and a couple of pertinent questions are appropriate. They are:

  • The timber industry should not remain an important part of the state's economy.
  • When is our human society ever going to extricate itself from the activity of environmental extraction?
  • And, are we ever going to stop from being the "great destroyer" — the "scourge" — of the Earth?

C. W. Smith referred to —¦ a balance with the varied interests over sustainable forestry (meaning, of course, timber harvest) programs."

I submit: The term "sustainable forestry" (once again, meaning, "sustainable large timber harvests") is an oxymoron. Those four words, taken together, are an oxymoron because "sustainable" and "large timber harvests" are mutually exclusive.

And every time the word "balance" is used, I am reminded of the old saying that balance is the chipping away of the best to suit the worst. Again, the cutting of large, commercially valuable trees is not sustainable forestry.

And Smith pointed out that, —¦ there is a monstrous disconnect between Congress, the environmental community, the private industry, the economy and our communities."

Boy, isn't that the truth. But that disconnect isn't going to be resolved by more large timber (i.e., "large tree") harvests.

And I wonder: Are the 500 square miles of dead and dying timber in Klamath and Lake counties (to which Klamath County Commissioner John Elliot referred, and which C. W. Smith mentioned and seemed to imply) actually caused by climate change? Whatever the reason for those dead and dying trees, would not the nutrients from that decaying wood (carbon) be better used by nature's soils instead of being consumed, and the carbon eventually being released anyway, by humanity? I wonder.

It seems as though, if anything is not used by humanity, people think it is wasted. I say, not so!

Fredric ("Fred") Fleetwood is 75 years old, a former student of forest management at the School of Forestry at Oregon State College from 1959 to 1963, a former forestry technician with the U.S. Forest Service during six summer seasons, and a former logger for 14 years.

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