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Forestry in Crisis.

Forestry in Crisis, ky Steve Tompkins, Christopher Helms, c/o David and Charles, Inc, North Poinfret, VT 05053 1990). Maps, photographs, graphs, 192 pp. Softcover, $29.95.

Everybody knows that when King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215 A.D. a merry old British squirrel could, if it wanted, travel the length and breadth of England without touching the ground. The English, however, never had a real affection for forests. Living in a cloudy northern land, they preferred the light and warmth of open spaces. They did not protest much when the Romans cut enormous areas for iron and glass making or when the forests were cut again during the industrial revolution. Read English legend and poetry, and you soon recognize that Sherwood Forest's Robin Hood and his bandits were the mildest of horrors in the dark woods.

As an American, I have a hard time judging how much of this book's attack on tree farming comes from the old Anglo-Saxon fear of forests and how much is a well-founded attack on misplaced monoculture forestry. Whatever itS roots and validity, it makes interesting reading for Americans because it stands many of our own comfortable notions on their heads.

Americans, of course, have debated monoculture planting, but this book even argues the value of any forest planting in some locations.

For some 70 years the United Kingdom's Forestry Commission has encouraged and subsidized conifer plantations. Most of them are on hill lands, which in the United Kingdom means land over 800 feet above sea level, especially the Scottish highlands and the mountains of Wales. Almost 70 percent of the trees planted are American imports-Sitka spruce. To Tompkins and many British conservationists and sportsmen, tree farming is a curse on the land for reasons Americans will find surprising.

According to Tompkins, the conifer needles scrub pollutants from the air, then rain comes to wash them into streams and lakes. And finally, the conifers "have an acidifying effect on the soil on which they grow. "

Finally, as far as Steve Tompkins is concerned, the plantations are ugly and inhospitable to walkers and sportsmen. Inside the gloom live fewer wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs. The young plantings are virtually impenetrable.

This will be a strange book for Americans, but much of it applies to tree farming here. just as many things American emigrate to japan, British culture has always been one of our constant imports. We will hear these arguments soon with a Yankee accent.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Forests
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:American Forests
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1990
Previous Article:Needed: Rx for historic trees.
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