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An easy way out.

The 1989 RPA Assessment, prepared by the U.S. Forest Service, predicts that domestic demand for wood products will increase by 50 percent and world demand will double over the next five decades. The Forest Service predicts that during this same period, demand for amenity resources such as recreation, wildlife, and water will experience similar increases.

Unfortunately, the Recommended 1990 RPA Program falls far short of adequately addressing the findings in the RPA Assessment. Rather than approaching complex global environmental and resource-allocation issues head-on, the Forest Service chose the easy, noncontroversial course by mainly focusing on the current domestic situation.

The easy course drastically changes the role of the Forest Service. The RPA Program would minimize the traditional role of providing timber as one of many multiple uses and give greater emphasis to amenity resources. Responsibility for meeting the growing demand for timber and other commodities for consumers would be shifted to private lands and other countries.

Simply stated, the 1990 RPA Program is a Forest Service plan to shift the burden of environmental concerns, responsibilities, and problems from national forests to other landowners and other nations.

The theme of the Recommended 1990 RPA Program, "Rounding Out Multiple Use," is readily embraceable by both politicians and the public. Unfortunately, however, serious environmental, social, and economic implications are given short shrift.

Some of the more significant shortcomings of the 1990 RPA Program include the failure to adequately consider or discuss: 1) global economic and environmental crises; 2) domestic economic impacts; 3) individual private landowner priorities and objectives; and 4) present and future forest-management regulation of private land.

Perhaps the greatest challenges facing us in the coming decades are global in nature, such as energy shortages, potential climate change, and endemic poverty that fosters ecological disasters such as tropical deforestation. In 1987 the World Commission on Environment and Development of the United Nations General Assembly published the book, Our Common Future. The authors correctly conclude that ". . . the various global 'crises' that have seized public concern, particularly over the past decade ... are not separate crises: an environmental crisis, a development crisis, an energy crisis. They are all one. " [emphasis added]

The authors call for a concerted, worldwide effort to achieve "sustainable development"-a holistic approach to resolving global issues. Yet, the 1990 RPA Program sidesteps this sage advice by unnecessarily restricting production of wood products in the U.S. As a result, over the next several decades, imports 6f wood products by the U.S. will increase significantly. Increased imports will aggravate an already troublesome trade imbalance with its consequences of lower domestic employment and reduced tax revenues. Moreover, these wood imports will come from countries that have less environmentally sensitive forest practices than the U.S. Some of these imports will be derived from tropical countries which actively practice deforestation.

As Professor Jim Bowyer of the University of Minnesota points out, "If we choose not to consider realistically the need for [alternative] materials, then our efforts to create a pristine U.S. environment will be done at the expense of the global environment." And this approach, according to Bowyer, is irresponsible.

In addition, constraints on wood production promote the use of less environmentally sensitive materials that require more energy and add carbon to our atmosphere. Unfortunately, beyond a cursory review of the global climate change issue, the 1990 RPA Program fails to allude to this global challenge. Ironically, the RPA overlooks the positive contribution of forest products in helping to solve potential climate change on a worldwide scale.

The 1990 RPA Program in large part justifies reductions of commodity production on national forests by promoting nonindustrial private forestland (NIPF) as the panacea to our future timber-supply requirements. According to the 1990 RPA Program, NIPF annual harvests will have to increase by more than 90 percent in order to meet domestic demand. This means that in the year 2040 every landowner of the more than 260 million acres of NIPF will have to be harvesting almost as much per acre per year as the forest-products industry does on its lands today. Or put another way, in the year 2040 an acre of NIPF will produce 50 percent more wood than one of the 59 million acres of national forests under "intensive" timber management.

Paramount in the agency's justification for reducing timber production on national forests is the ability of NIPF to significantly increase production of timber. There is no doubt that the productivity of the nation's NIPF can be increased. The 1990 RPA Program, however, does not undertake a thorough review of factors that restrict production of timber on private land. Ignored or only superficially discussed are factors such as individual landowner objectives and federal and state laws and regulations.

Landowner objectives are changing. Much of the change is brought on by new and more urban-oriented landowners. Recent studies indicate that newer forest landowners are interested in the land primarily for aesthetics, recreation, and wildlife, and are often opposed to timber harvesting. Consider also the continuing fragmentation of forestland. Smaller or fragmented ownerships make intensive forest management less practical.

The effects of federal and state environmental laws and regulations on private land productivity have the potential to dwarf the impact of landowner objectives and demographics. At the federal level, landowners are faced with such issues as expanding wetlands regulations under the Clean Water Act and protecting the ever-increasing list of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. This November, voters in California will undoubtedly approve a private-land-use initiative resulting in a significant reduction in the nation's softwood timber supply. Furthermore, many other states have or are considering more stringent regulation of private forestlands.

The long-term strategic plan in the Recommended 1990 RPA Program, if implemented, will contribute little to resolving global economic and environmental crises. Failure to achieve the resource-production goals identified in the program will exacerbate environmental, social, and economic problems on the domestic front.

Real and immediate obstacles to resource-production goals were not identified in the RPA program. Withdrawals from the private and public commercial forestland base for single use-as for the northern spotted owl -would idle a substantial share of the nation's forest-products industry.

A more holistic view of the nation's forest resources is necessary if the RPA Program is to become a useful guide for national natural-resource policy. Broadly categorizing certain forest ownerships for the production of specific resources must be avoided. Rather, all lands should be evaluated for their practical potential to produce a mix of commodity goods and amenity resources.

Finally, any proposed long-term strategic plan for the nation's forest resources must be sensitive to global issues. Therefore, the Forest Service must comprehensively describe the impact of the RPA Program on the global environment.


* The Forest Service's "New Perspectives" program, initiated about a year ago, has generated a great deal of interest, as well as considerable confusion. By design, the program has not been clearly defined. It is still in its formative stages, and the agency prefers to define it with the help of a broad "community of interests. "

When the agency first announced New Perspectives, it was generally recognized as a research and development effort linked closely to the "New Forestry" principles proposed by Dr. Jerry Franklin for the management of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest (see "Toward a New Forestry, " AMERICAN FORESTS, November/December 1989). These principles emphasize underlying ecological values. They suggest that forest management should attempt to mimic natural processes through such means as maintaining biological legacies and structural characteristics of old-growth forests.

The scope of New Perspectives has broadened substatitially since then. It is currently described as "a program to enhance awareness, understanding, and commitment to managing the national forests and grasslands for their full array of values and benefits, especially their ecological sustainability and long-term productivity. " It is based on the belief that it is possible to have both a healthy environment and provide for sustainable production of natural resources. It represents the agency's effort to develop and demonstrate new ways to apply ecological principles through its traditional multiple-use, sustained-yield mandate.

That effort has spread beyond the Pacific Northwest. In New England, the Lake States, Southwest, and Appalachian Highlands, managers and scientists are working to restore healthy, diverse, and productive forests and rangelands where decades of use have left poor ecological conditions.

The New Perspectives Core Team, led by Hal Salwasser, is directing the effort, The core team will champion New Perspectives activities in four major areas: Science and Technology; Communication, Education, and Training; Conservation; Land and Resource Management. This outreach will show how national forest plans reflect New Perspectives principles and how the plans are being implemented on the ground. Projects are already being implemented on the Willamette and the Siskiyou forests in Oregon; the El Dorado and Tahoe in California; the Bridger-Teton and Medicine Bow in Wyoming; the Hoosier in Indiana; the Nez Perce in Idaho; the Ottawa in Michigan; the Lolo in Montana; the Green Mountain in New Hampshire; and the Carson in New Mexico. (See "Rules of Thumb.")


* FOLLOW NATURE'S LEAD-Mimic the natural disturbance patterns and recovery strategies in your area.

* THINK BIG-Manage for landscape diversity as well as within-stand diversity.

* DON'T THROW OUT ANY OF THE PIECES-Maintain a diverse mix of genes, species, biological communities, and regional ecosystems.

* SIDE WITH THE UNDERDOGS-Prioritize in favor of the species, communities, or processes that are endangered or otherwise warrant special attention, such as the spotted owl, significant old-growth and riparian areas.

* TRY A DIFFERENT TOOL-Diversify silvicultural approaches. Reduce emphasis on clearcuts.

* NO FOREST SHOULD BE AN ISLAND-Minimize fragmentation of continuous forest. 1. Cut adjacent to existing clearcuts. 2. Nibble away at the edge of a stand instead of creating a new hole.

* ENCOURAGE FREE TRAVEL-Create a web of connected habitats. Leave broad travel connectors for plants and animals, especially along strams and ridges.

* LEAVE BIOLOGICAL LEGACIES-Select what you leave behind as carefully as what you take out; specifically, standing live and dead trees and fallen logs.

* BE A CRITICAL THINKER-Use only the scientific findings that make sense for your region and social setting.
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Title Annotation:1990 RPA: New Era for the Nation's Forests?; includes related information on Forest Service's "New Perspective" program for managing old-growth forests
Author:Heissenbuttel, John
Publication:American Forests
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Previous Article:Charting the waters.
Next Article:The ornery Osage orange.

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