“It’s not opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress” – John Muir
Something I can’t help but notice on this bicycling route through Washington and Oregon are the logging trucks and clear cut areas. On one 8-mile stretch of road we were passed by over 20 trucks hauling logs with bark flying out as they roar down the road. Not only do most of the roads along the western side of Olympic National Forest have small shoulders, they are also windy with low visibility. As a cyclist, you usually hear what’s coming before you see it.This naturally made me curious, how much is being logged and where is it all going?
Washington is the second largest source of wood production in the United States. According to the Forest Service, the largest cause of old growth forest depletion in the PNW is due to European settlement, construction of roads, trains, power lines, and of course agriculture. Most of the privately owned old growth lands have been clear cut, meaning most old growth land is federally owned. Many of the towns we pass through were built upon the logging industry and are proud of their history. Logging has continued to decrease over the last few decades as once thought unlimited renewable resources dwindle. Some towns have survived the changes of time and others haven’t, often poverty stricken and resentful of restrictions. The trees have been used for various things, from airplane frames to paper playing a major role in the economy. A small percentage of trees are even being shipped to Asia. Clear cutting is considered one of the best practices in Western Oregon because Douglas Fir need lots of sun. (check out resources page for references)
Forests that have been cut are more susceptible to fires and disease. Large trees that would have been able to withstand the hot blaze have been cut. We now know that fires are healthy for the forest, but because we have supressed naturally occurring fires for years, we have actually increased our potential for more destruction. These burn areas are then more susceptible to landslides. One of the talking points for logging companies is that these clear cut sections mimic natural fire patterns and do not in fact deplete soil composition.
This issue is big. Massive! We need wood and certain products made from trees. The answer isn’t shut down all logging or just log areas where the majority of humans can’t see it. Briefly reflect on all the paper products you have used today. Reflect on the amount of paper products lining the walls of businesses across America, across the world.
Are there more sustainable alternatives to clear cutting?
Or, are we practicing the best forestry methods and our over consumption of wood and paper products is the issue?