More cooperation in the forests


The headline, even with a question mark, is provocative. Is it possible that the forest wars that have been waged for decades are over? Well, that remains to be seen, but the story from the Payson Roundup in Arizona raises some interesting issues.

The article describes a visit to Payson from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack designed to highlight “years of effort that have forged a consensus on the need to restore forest health by reinventing the timber industry to thin millions of acres in four national forests” in Arizona.

Timber communities, timber companies, local and federal officials and environmental groups came together in historic agreement.

From the Payson Roundup:

The so-called Four Forests initiative involved a years-long series of studies to forge an agreement on how much wood a refocused timber industry could take out of the region’s forests. In that vast area, tree densities have risen from perhaps 50 per acre to more than 1,000 per acre after a century of grazing, logging and fire suppression.

Now, with the remaining big trees beset by debilitating thickets of saplings and forest communities menaced by the threat of monster wildfires, the formerly warring factions have agreed on ground rules that could guarantee timber companies millions of trees annually if they can build mills and biofuel plants than can make money on little trees.

An analyst with the Center for Biological Diversity, the Arizona environmental group that has filed numerous lawsuits, said: “I’m hoping to look back on this day as the official end of the forest wars.”

Working together, rather than separately, is also the idea behind a plan announced this week by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the Cascade Land Conservancy. Their plan centers around this: “One of the best ways to attack the growing conversion of land is a simple one: Keep working land working. Keep the economic value in growing forests or farming. Give landowners an alternative to development.”

Is this kind of teamwork a signal of increased cooperation among forest stakeholders? Are the forest wars close to an end?