Bush's forest initiative spells disaster

Published: Saturday, January 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 31, 2004 at 10:48 p.m.
The Thursday, Dec. 23 edition of The Gainesville Sun featured a Washington Post article titled "Bush issues management forest rules." Since this article clearly avoided elucidating the ramifications to American economy and ecology, someone reading it from an uninformed position might come away with the notion that, overall, the plan is in the best interest of the people.
The facts reveal a far different situation: 192 million acres of forests managed within the National Forest System are at risk of irrevocable damage through Bush's forest initiative. Here's why.
Let's put the services provided by 192 million acres of forest into perspective. Our national forests, because they are forests, cleanse, free of charge, billions of gallons of water which are consumed by hundreds of thousands of rural and urban communities. The Bush administration's forest "management" scheme will cause millions of Americans to drink and bathe in contaminated water or to pay dearly for expensive water treatment systems because the natural filtration provided by our national forests will be lost.
One acre of healthy (diverse) forest generates enough oxygen each day for 18 people - that's enough oxygen for nearly 3.5 billion people. Our national forests remove millions of tons of air pollutants, such as those causing cancer, birth defects, Parkinson's disease and respiratory diseases. Millions of tons of dust and other particulates are removed from the air by our national forests that would otherwise reach rural and urban areas, increasing the near-epidemic proportions of allergies caused by these pollutants.
Timber harvesting in our nation's forests has exceeded rates at which truly healthy, multiple-use forests can be sustained. At this time, a substantial portion of our tax dollars are maintaining public forests for private timber harvest, while - with our tax dollars again - subsidizing the timber industry.
With the Bush initiative, corporate access to public lands will double and even triple timber harvests. In the short-term (less than five years), this will increase the availability of domestic timber products. However, this boon will be followed by an unprecedented long-term dearth in domestic timber resources and will facilitate an extended recession in this segment of our economy. Remember that once cut, trees require at least 20 years to reach harvestable size under the best conditions. The U.S. domestic timber business is one of the few potentially sustainable industries remaining in our country.
Under the Bush forest initiative, the timber industry and every consumer in America who depends on building materials and wood fiber will become more dependent than ever on Asian logging corporations.
This foolish, shortsighted initiative will also increase our dependency on foreign oil by increasing the need for natural fiber product substitutes that are made from plastics (plastics are made from oil), further jeopardizing our economy and our national security.
This administration is borrowing one billion dollars a day to pay for tax cuts and the unnecessary war in Iraq, which is adding to the largest budget deficit in the history of civilization and to an unprecedented net loss in jobs. We can ill afford to lose yet another source of sustainable income and jobs, as well the gifts of clean water and air that our national forests provide.
If you use paper, work for a timber company, prefer clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, you should be concerned about this very dangerous plan and work to nullify it.
Ron Chandler is an environmental consultant who lives in Gainesville.

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