Cutting down the forests to save the trees?


Mountain Forest in U.S. at Risk?

A few days ago it was my pleasure to visit the CAJAS Mountains in Ecuador. There the government has set aside a large area, with lakes, and limited access trails, so that people can enjoy the mountains, forests, and lakes, without destroying the ecology. I think of the beautiful lakes. I think of the trails in Ecuador, with messages like "Stop, listen, how many birds can you hear?" I think of a place that had no automobiles nearby, and a place where you could find a beautiful "room" made of forest trees to sit and find wonders of nature, and, if you were fortunate, to wonder upon deeper aspects of life with someone.

I think upon the contrasts of that place, with the government policy of the United States, and what is happening to the forests of the USA. High in the Sangre De Cristos Mountains I have a mountain cabin. In 1988, I selected a wooded lot, high in the mountains of New Mexico, adjoining the Pecos Wilderness, because it was remote, surrounded by forests, and had a view of the mountains.

Today, a visit to that cabin still brings me joy and pleasure. The smell of alpine evergreens is still there, and the view of the Sangrd De Cristos Mountains still pleasures the eye. But in the forests across the mountain road from my cabin, up the mountain, over 1100 trees have been cut.

Part of the forests near my cabin were cut down so that gravel could be mined to use on roads. But most of the trees were destroyed at the recommendation of the U.S.Forest Service, in accordance with the current policy of the U.S. Government. A policy that has been very profitable to the giant logging interests, who contributed large sums of money to the Bush presidential campaign. That policy states, that the national forests, should be the mining grounds to remove trees by the hundreds of thousands. Old growth natural forest cycles are to be destroyed. Woods and mountain sides are to be almost "bared" of trees. The logic is strange, as a local forest ranger told us: "If there are no trees, there can be no forest fires or tree diseases". As a result huge areas in New Mexico, Montana, Arizona, California, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon are being "deforested" and cleared, and forests are becoming cleared areas with only occasional trees.

Erosion is setting in. Grasses are taking the place of forests, benefiting large cattle ranches. And once beautiful thick virgin forests, filled with natures blend of old and new trees, hard and soft woods, are becoming sparsely wooded areas, reminiscent of city parks. It is a policy great for forestry industry, and great for business, but terrible for wildlife habitats, and for enjoyment of animals and humans alike.

Furthermore, unlike Ecuador, which restricts construction of new roads and highways through national forests, the Unites States Government, for the first time in 40 years is pressing to allow new roads, new development, even oil drilling and strip mining, in some of America's most protected and beautiful wilderness areas.

U.S. Presidents from Teddi Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Eisenhower, Truman, and Bill Clinton, all respected our natural treasures in our national forests. Today's "policy" climate in North America, is much different.

The United States could do well to study the progress and policies of Ecuador in this regard. Perhaps we need to send to Ecuador for environmental consultants to come to the United States, and tell us, how to manage our forests. Because somehow, the USA seems to have lost the way!