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For every complex environmental problem there is a solution that is

 elegant, simple, and wrong




Does Zero-Cut make sense?

We agree; trees are awesome. They inspire some people so much, they go to great lengths to preserve even individual trees. One such idea is the idea to have no tree harvesting whatsoever--Zero-Cut.

Is Zero-Cut a reasonable goal?

For every complex environmental problem there is a solution that is elegant, simple, and wrong.

Wood is the most renewable and sustainable of building materials. According to a Harvard University report:

"Lumber is the least energy intensive construction material and its production releases significantly less carbon dioxide and toxic products than substitutes. In addition, wood is renewable and forest growth may contribute to carbon sequestration, thereby yielding even greater trade-offs."

Wood has the lowest impact on total energy use, greenhouse gasses, air and water pollution, solid waste, and ecological resource use. So why we are curtailing or halting forestry on State forests? Is it because a recently-harvested area looks bad for two or three years during replanting, or resprouts, as in the case of coast redwood on Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF), while it grows? Has our society become that needy of instant gratification? This is shortsighted environmental policy.

Some individuals and groups lead us to believe that old-growth stands are threatened and dwindling. At JDSF, the old-growth trees are already protected and conditions for wildlife habitat are created under the management plan. Why then do so many believe when people use wood, they cause the loss of forests and the wildlife? I believe it is to scare people and increase their coffers. Even though we Californians consume more wood per capita than any other region in the world, the truth is North America's forests are not disappearing. In fact, there is about the same amount of forest cover today as there was 100 years ago.

The results of our cupidity reaches worldwide. Due to our misguided efforts, virgin forests on other continents that should be left undisturbed are being damaged irreversibly through truly primitive logging practices. According to a United Nations report, for every 20 acres taken out of production in North America or Europe, one acre of forest that has never been harvested before in Asia, South America, Africa and Russia is removed from forest cover forever. To harvest these untouched forest areas, roads are constructed. The cleared land is then converted to agriculture and the wildlife is extirpated through habitat conversion and hunting.

I cannot agree with environmental policy that sets aside our productive second and third growth forests (already set aside for timber production) at the expense of the world’s truly pristine areas. California's demonstration state forests were acquired as cut-over lands, to reforest them, and to demonstrate economical forest management for the benefit of all. California’s demonstration state forests are examples of sustainable forestry. They have increased timber inventory.

Zero-Cut campaigns push consumers away from renewable forest products and toward nonrenewable, energy-intensive materials—such as steel, concrete, and plastic—that contribute greatly to greenhouse gases and global warming. How can that be a good thing?

 Suggesting that they should not be sustainably harvested is misguided at best--dangerous at worst.

Meanwhile, while we argue over nonsense, we ignore the concrete steps we can take to begin getting our environmental house in order:

  1. Decrease consumption of wood products and substitutes for paper and construction.

  2. Increase recycling rates.

  3. Pursue a balanced approach to forest conservation.

There you have it. Not rocket science. Not drilling for oil in sensitive wildlife areas. No, it's using timber that keeps CO2 bound in the finished lumber, new trees use sunlight and CO2  to produce more trees. Cool.

Further reading (Peer-Reviewed papers):

The United States (US) and other affluent countries consume vast quantities of global natural resources, but contribute proportionately less to the extraction of many raw materials. This imbalance is due, in part, to domestic policies intended to protect the environment.

  1. Harvard Study - The Illusion of Preservation (PDF)

  2. American Forest Policy-global ethical tradeoffs (PDF) by Donna L. Dekker-Robertson and William J. Libby

  3. Benefits of Hindsight: Reestablishing Fire on the Landscape



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