We should not treat our public forests like some 780,000-acre automated teller machine (ATM). The state forests are an endowment that should be managed to preserve and enhance the principle while withdrawing only the interest on our investment.
Falling more trees seems an easy answer to the counties' financial woes ("Logging strategy cuts into coastal counties' revenue," The Daily Astorian, April 27), but one cannot measure the value of forest solely in board-feet. In truth, it is an unimaginative strategy more at home in the 20th century than the 21st. It is an answer born of an age when the planet's resources seemed inexhaustible, and the impacts of humankind seemed puny and inconsequential. An age when we were blissfully ignorant of the tremendous amount of work nature does on our behalf.
Now we understand that a healthy forest is a busy and necessary place that is working 24/7 to provide us benefits beyond timber, not the least of which are clean water and clean air. We understand that nature is a slow, but sublimely efficient manufacturer; profligate without polluting. Now too, we understand that our actions have profound impacts on our world and by extension the world we share with the estimated 10 to 50 million other species.
In 2001, after much debate and effort, we Oregonians agreed on the State Forest Management Plan. Chapter 3 is titled "Guiding Principles, Vision and Goals." The phrase, "greatest permanent value" is found in principle No. 1. But it goes on to say, "... by providing healthy, productive, and sustainable forest ecosystems that over time and across the landscape provide a full range of social, economic, and environmental benefits to the people of Oregon." Of the 14 guiding principles, just one has to do with generating income for counties. The plan is a contract with the citizens of Oregon to use science, innovation and best practices to achieve balance among many lofty ambitions. Now science is saying that to achieve the balance committed to in the plan, we must take fewer trees and grow more older ones. Some would have us rewrite the contract so that it guarantees the "greatest permanent revenue."
In 2004, the Oregon Society of American Foresters opposed Measure 34, (the 50-50 Plan) saying, "The current plan was developed publicly over several years by state forestry professionals using substantial input from many agencies, conservationists, academics, county officials, recreation groups and other interests. The plan identifies a variety of management methods to meet diverse needs, including the goal of a healthy forest environment today and for future generations. Ballot Measure 34 replaces this thoughtful, broadly based plan with the views of narrow interests." They argued to stick with the plan. We should still heed their advice.