Turning back to our federal forests


It’s frustrating – especially with a new and flawed spotted owl plan under consideration — to think about the failed dreams and wasted potential of our forestland. So many lives and communities have been ruined by onerous harvest limitations that don’t have any connection to science or reality.

Hal Salwasser, the dean of the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, understands this. In an extensive piece in the Oregonian, he describes how federal forest policy has created forests that are failing on all levels: suspectible to forest fires and beetles and also of no economic or social value.

Instead, he says, it’s time to reclaim the federal forests as a source of community wealth and health by making more timber available for logging. We can do it, he says, by returning to areas where trees were logged in the 1960s to 1980s, were replanted and have grown to suitable size. That can be done without screwing up the environment, without cutting old growth and without grinding intrusive new roads into roadless areas, he says.

Salwasser cites a U.S. Bureau of Land Management harvest project in southwestern Oregon as “a good experiment” in balancing harvesting with environmental stewardship.

Using federal forests for responsible harvest again will make the forests and their surrounding communities healthier.

In Salwasser’s view, Oregon has hundreds of thousands of federal acres that can be part of a sustainable timber supply. Another harvest of replanted trees would avoid cutting old growth, building new logging roads or violating stream setbacks and habitat protection rules added in the intervening years.

Forest productivity and mill efficiency have increased so it takes fewer trees to meet the international demand for wood products, says Salwasser, who has been dean for a decade at OSU.

“That frees up the rest of the forest to do something else,” such as provide wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration and water filtration.