We read with great interest and some concern a recent guest column by John Osborn of the Inland Empire Public Lands Council. We would like to present another view.
Today’s Forest Service employees are committed to the goal of healthy forests.
We suspect that we share that goal with John Osborn, although we may not agree about how we reach it.
We believe that Forest Service employees truly care about the land as we do all those activities that care for the land.
At the same time, we care about people and the communities in which we live and work. We seek to allow the land to be carefully used to meet the needs of people and communities only where that can be accomplished while maintaining and improving the health and productivity of the land for future generations of all of our children and grandchildren.
This careful balance of protection, improvement and use of our national forests is a daunting task that needs the active participation of those who also care about the national forests, our fellow citizens.
While Forest Service employees often feel misunderstood and even targeted in contentious debates, we try to do our best in following the many laws that affect National Forest Management. A maze of planning, analysis and documentation must be followed. Only then are projects implemented - not only timber but also wildlife, fisheries, recreation, archaeology and many other beneficial projects. Each of these is founded in law, funded by Congress and implemented by Forest Service employees with the highest sense of public service.
The Forest Service operates under the most protective set of environmental guidelines in the world. Timber sales in our national forests today are an important tool in maintaining and restoring the health of the land and ecosystems that function on the land. The Forest Service and other federal public land managers are at the forefront of environmentally sensitive timber harvesting practices.
As a management tool, timber sales are necessary in many cases to thin overstocked forests to improve ecosystem health, reduce fuels and fire hazard near communities, and to improve fish and wildlife habitat. At the same time, sales have the added benefit of providing wood products and jobs for people. Without careful and considered management, our forests would deteriorate due to insects and disease. Catastrophic fire would devastate the land as well as the people living on the land. Floods would be even more devastating, and fish and wildlife values would be threatened.
Following are some additional facts that highlight the nature of national forest timber harvests today:
National forests are growing timber volume at more than five times the harvest rate.
Nationally, only 26 percent of the land base of the national forests is available for timber harvest. Logging is prohibited on the remaining acres to provide for recreational uses, fish and wildlife habitat, scenic views, wilderness and other values.
Commercial timber harvest is implemented only after careful analysis of the potential impact on all forest and water resources, extensive public involvement, and assurance of compliance with environmental laws.
The scientific basis for today’s management of national forests is unprecedented, and this is reflected in changes in the way commercial timber sales are being implemented. Although clearcutting was used in many areas in the past, thinning and partial removal sales now represent over 95 percent of the harvest.
Although some new road construction is needed to provide access for forest stand treatments, most of the so-called road construction Osborn identified is actually work on existing roads - work that serves to improve environmental problems such as poor drainage.
The Forest Service today is sincerely working to bring communities of interests together to define policies and practices needed for healthy, sustainable forests using the best scientific knowledge and best management practices.
As national forest supervisors, we want to work collaboratively with others. The message we want the public to hear is to stay involved, share your concerns with us so we can improve, and work with us toward responsible stewardship of our national forests.
The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = David J. Wright, Robert L. Vaught and James L. Caswell Special to the Spokesman-Review