Restoring the legacy of our forests


Mike Dubrasich, an Oregon forester and head of the Western Institute for Study of the Environment, gave a speech recently about federal forest policy and posted the text of the speech online.

Dubrasich’s arguments resonate not just in Oregon but across the West. He says that federal officials have drastically underharvested federal forestland in Oregon, and that this has led to unhealthy and overstuffed forests that have been decimated by forest fires instead of harvested responsibly.

During the 1980’s the Feds cut around 4 billion board feet per year, still only half of their annual growth. But today they harvest only a token amount, 5 percent of growth – from 18 million acres of the most productive forest lands in the world!

Indeed the Feds burn up more timber (through wildfires) than they harvest, a lot more, from 10 to thirty times more, each year – over the last nine years an average of 300,000 acres and as much as 9 billion board feet annually.

Part of this lack of harvest is because of the spotted owl’s listing as an endangered species, as well as the failed Northwest Forest Plan as a whole, Dubrasich writes.

The plan to save the owls has not saved anything; not owls, not old-growth, not the economy. The cost for nothing? $100,000 per job per year times 40,000 jobs times 16 years = $64 billion. Another way to look at it is 4 billion board feet of harvest per year, worth 4 billion dollars, times 16 years equals $64 billion. That’s what Northwesterners have paid, for nothing. And the bills continue to mount.

According to Dubrasich, it’s time to restore Oregon’s forests to how they were hundreds, and even thousands, of years ago: forests of varying species, not just Douglas firs, and more “open and park-like,” with trees not all standing closely together.

An annual harvest of ten billion board feet from Federal forests in Oregon would mean ten billion dollars per year injected into Oregon’s economy for the next few decades. The reduction in damages from catastrophic forest fires would be an additional economic benefit worth billions of dollars per year.

It would take 100 years at that rate to restore those forests to historical biomass levels. If and when that occurs, the harvest rate might be reduced to growth only — about six billion board feet per year.