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Light Greens 


It always amazes me how the timber industry learns eco-speak, renames itself, showers in greenwash and tries to make a virtue of necessity (“The McKay Tract,” May 21). As I recall, the improvements (road decommissioning, sediment control, wildlife protections) that Green Diamond chief forester Greg Templeton credits to his employer (formerly Simpson Timber Company) had to be forced on them by legislation. The Forest Practice Act, Clean Water Act and other environmental regulations were not gifts from the timber industry. They were won at great cost by activists who sat in the courts, the roads and the trees to bring about change. They faced relentless, often ruthless, opposition. Some died trying.

Claiming Green Diamond’s practices are better than its predecessor’s (Louisiana-Pacific) isn’t necessarily saying much. L-P was infamous for stripping its lands and building a massive network of roads that clogged creeks with sediment.

Templeton defends even-aged forestry, a system based on maximizing short-term profits rather than ecologically sustainable principles. Cutting is based on investment cycles, because money grows faster in the financial market than in the forest (or used to!). Clearcutting and herbicides are essential tools of this regime. Harvesting ever younger trees on steeper slopes removes more from the forest than is replaced, quickly reducing soil productivity and degrading both habitat and product quality.

The McKay tract’s “miraculous recovery” from the ravages of logging shown on the Journal’s cover is indeed due to its fertility, the result of thousands of years of deposits into the soil bank. Even-age forestry’s rapid rotations deplete the balance of this precious account.

Uneven-age forestry doesn’t depend on clearcutting and toxics. Harvest rates are keyed to forest productivity. In a mature, healthy redwood forest, that rate has been found to be about two percent annually at maximum productivity. Sustainability, diverse habitat, clean streams, high quality products and stable employment are features associated with uneven-age management.

“Biologists,” says the article, “consider development a serious threat to the habitat within the McKay Tract and Ryan Creek watershed.” Yet Templeton is confident the area’s thriving populations of owls, salmon and wood rats won’t mind losing 1,000 or so acres of their homes for our homes in the future. He complains Earth First!ers “don’t mention the set-asides” G-D makes. When companies “donate” land, it’s usually because they’ve depleted (or plan to deplete) the tract and/or lumber prices are too low.

Allowing timberlands to “fall out of” TPZ (timber production zone) and “fall into” residential development zoning is an example of unsustainable management. The word “falling” masks the intention behind these moves. The phrase “light-touch forestry.” another popular euphemism among the newly green, is also misleading. Just how light can a D-8 caterpillar be?

Given the redwood forest’s overall condition, shouldn’t habitat restoration, endangered species’ recruitment and retention of older trees be a top priority? Refugia like the McKay tract may provide a crucial stabilizing buffer to climate change.

Finally, trees grow trees. If Green Diamond really wants to shine, they should let more of their second growth keep growing — into old growth. Then, if the four principles of good forestry (no cutting old growth, no clearcuts, no herbicides and no steep slopes) are observed, there’ll be no more need for treesitters. Earth First!

Naomi Wagner, Petrolia

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