Deforestation of the Pacific Northwest


One of the most controversial areas associated with the global problem
of deforestation is the Pacific Northwest of the US. The problem can be broken
down into several issues that all tie in together. These include the near
extinction of the Northern Spotted Owl, the "business" aspect of logging versus
the environmental aspect, and the role of the government in this problem.
In 1973, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed. This enabled the
Dept. of Commerce and Dept. of the Interior to place species, either land or
marine, as either threatened or endangered. Under these terms species could no
longer be hunted, collected, injured or killed. The northern spotted owl falls
under the more serious condition of being endangered. Also, the bill forbids
federal agencies to fund or carry out any activity that would threaten the
species or its\' habitat. It is the latter part of the bill that causes the
controversy. Under the ESA, loggers should not be allowed to cut down the old-
growth of the forest. The old growth of a forest includes the largest and
oldest trees, living or dead. In the case of the North Coast forests, this
includes some thousand-year-old stands with heights above three-hundred feet and
diameters of more than ten feet.
In 1990, the number of spotted owls dropped to 2000 breeding pairs. The
preservation of any species contributes to the biodiversity of an area. In an
ecosystem, the absence of one species creates unfavorable conditions for the
others. The absence of the spotted owl could have a significant effect on the
North Coast forest ecosystem. In order to send the owl population in the right
direction, the major problem for their decline would have to be remedied loss
of habitat. This fact combined with the owls\' short life expectancy and late age
of breeding only exacerbates the problem. When loggers remove old growth the
owl loses habitat for its\' food, housing, as well as protection from predators.
Approximately ninety percent of the forests in the Pacific Northwest have
already been harvested. In order to protect the current owl population, the
remaining forests would have to be preserved, but this would have a serious
negative economical effect. Such a decision would effect jobs, regional economy,
as well as the lifestyle of loggers. With such a great effect, to stop the
cutting seems to be an exercise in futility. On the other hand, by continuing
the destruction of the owls\' habitat, the only suitable habitat that will remain
will be in the confines of a zoo. Seeing an animal in an artificial environment
can certainly not be compared to witnessing an animal in its\' natural
environment. In my opinion, there can be no price put on the existence of any
species on this planet, plant or animal. To think that money has become such an
influential part of our society that companies are willing to sacrifice a
species in order to make a profit. The northern spotted owl is only one of many
species that are on the verge of extinction do to deforestation. Another
important consideration in the deforestation of the Pacific North Coast is
logging as a business. The investors of a publicly owned company sole concern
is the growth of their stock, and this for lumber companies is accomplished by
harvesting trees in the most efficient and cost effective manner. Clear-cutting
old growth is the best way to accomplish this. This approach leads to quick
financial gain but is not best for the long-term or the trees. It is the
companies that use this process that is the most unfavorable to the forests and
contributes to deforestation the most. Another approach uses wise management
techniques to maximize the long-term profit of the forest. Guest speaker Jerry
Howe would fall into this category as a private land owner. As a land
"steward," he believes he can do what he wants with his land. The term
"steward" is used to mean that no one can truly "own" the land, it can only be
used or under the care of a person. He uses clear-cutting when it has the
smallest effect on the environment, he also uses strip cutting in which the
forest is cut in strips to provide a buffer zone and is more aesthetically
pleasing. His methods are better for the forest due to conservative forestry
practices that speed up the regeneration of the forest. This produces a more
sustainable yield than clear-cutting alone. While neither of these techniques is
good for the environment, using wise management practices can still produce a
large profit while conserving precious