If you love and have visited our beautiful forests in the last few years, anywhere from Canada almost all the way to Mexico, you should have noticed that much of those forests have been decimated by a small beetle.
Most of the destruction has taken place in the states of Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and Idaho. The beetle has virtually killed all of the lodge pole pine trees over approximately eight inches in diameter. Due to bad policy by the agency that has been given responsibility for the care and management of most of our country's real estate, the National Forest Service, leaders have stood by with their collective hands in their pockets and watched this scene of destruction take place while claiming there was nothing they could do.
Indeed, with the policies that are currently in place, that is true. However, it does seem only too obvious that as the public forests are being destroyed, and the private, managed forests are healthy and flourishing, National Forest Service policies are questionable at best.
Let me present some surprising statistics that will help you understand the significance of what happens when decisions made in Washington D.C. are applied to all forests. First, there are approximately 193 million acres of public forest land, which is roughly half of all forest land in the United States.
From that public forest land an ever decreasing number of trees are harvested, due to more and more nation wide forest service regulations. The total amount of sellable wood coming from our public forests is less than 3 percent of the market demand. That means 97 percent of the trees harvested and wood supplied to build your homes, furniture, cabinets, make your paper, boxes, newsprint, fire wood, etc. comes from private land.
Indeed, government itself needs more wood to make the paper for it to operate on, than our national forests supply. This is primarily due to the demands from radical environmentalist insisting that we let "mother nature" take care of our forests without interference from man. Now you may say that is great, that is what should happen to keep our forests pristine.
However, as closed-minded environmentalists force bad policy upon us, i.e., the incident of the Northern Spotted Owl in 1990 which virtually wiped out our timber industry in the Northwest, including thousands and thousands of jobs, they, the environmentalists, are now being caught in their own traps Forest health has declined in the years since 1990 as timber management programs, including timber harvests, have taken a back seat to "protected," "wilderness" and other "non-vehicle" designations.
Second, the number of trees in our country today is at the very highest since those statistics have been recorded. Yes, though the screams of radical environmentalist protesting the "rape" of our national forests in a supposed effort to try and protect the "declining number of trees" in America are still heard all across this country, the total number of trees is on the increase, and we do grow more trees than we use.
Third, the United States has a positive wood trade balance. That is no thanks to the national forests, since none of the exported wood comes from the national forests.
Finally, and this fact should make the radical environmentalist cringe, as the heavily regulated forests have less and less trees harvested, more trees are dying from disease and from fires than ever before. Approximately, 9.5 million acres were burned by wild fires in our national forests in 2006. More than double as much wood is destroyed by fire in our national forests each year as is harvested.
Consequently, the amount of the budget the National Forest Service allocates to fighting fires has risen almost every year for the past two decades, while revenue from tree sales has decreased. In 2008, $4,876 billion, almost half of the total Forest Service budget, was spent on fighting fires. Additionally, smoke from those fires can and does have a significant negative impact on our air quality. Forest regeneration from proper tree harvests are more timely, and leave more healthy and more inhabitable tree stands for wildlife than forests burned by fires.
Stan Tixier, noted range management expert and past president of the Society for Range Management, put it best when he said, "Members of environmental groups are well-intended people who think their ideas are best for forest and rangeland health and the environment. Their organizations, however, using lawsuits and lobbying of legislators, are in reality causing harm to the land as well as to the economy of this nation. Their propaganda should be exposed as inaccurate so that the public may learn and understand the scientifically based facts.
Nearly everyone cares about assuring environmental quality. We want clean air and water, and healthy, productive forests and rangelands. But it is not an "either-or" situation. We can have proper and beneficial natural resources use and environmental quality."
Next time you visit the "West's" beautiful tree-covered forests, and you see that the formerly bright, beautiful evergreen trees are now dead and an ugly greyish/red color, stop and visualize the forest fires that are soon to take place, the amount of money the tax payers will spend fighting those fires, the pollution that will be caused, the animals that will be displaced, the amount of wood and also jobs that will be lost, and know that it is all thanks to extreme organizations like the Sierra Club, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Earth First and other similar-minded environmental groups.
Unfortunately, forest managers often don't have the choice to make the right decisions and are forced to implement policies that are only politically motivated. So, if you happen to know some of those environmentalists who have helped create this mess give them a big (tree) hug and let them know you appreciate all they are doing.
Source material is from the National Forest Service website, articles written by Stan Tixier, websites for several national wood product companies and the suthor's 40 years of work in the wood-working industry, including two terms as president of the local chapter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. Field lives in Fruit Heights.