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Forest management: false information, distortion chop away at clearcutting facts.

Forest Management

Probably the single most controversial and divisive issue that the Forest Service has had to deal with is the forest management practice of clearcutting. It has been the subject of much concern and attention by the media, conservation and environmental organizations, members of Congress, state legislators, county and school officials, and the general public.

The Forest Service has approached this emotional and important issue with openness, sensitivity and responsibility. We have attempted to respond to the public while meeting our congressionally established mission to provide wood and forest products, fresh and abundant water, wildlife and fish, diverse recreation and livestock grazing. Unfortunately, due to the controversial and volatile nature of the issue, it is often subject to distortion and false information.

Good News, Bad News

Recent feature articles on the Ouachita and the issues surrounding the release of the Amended Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, including the issue of clearcutting, were treated with overall fairness and accuracy by the Arkansas Times, Arkansas Democrat, Hot Springs Sentinel-Record, Mena Star, the Southwest Times Record and other local community newspapers. This was the result of the reporters' firsthand knowledge of the forest gathered by visiting forest sites and discussing public concerns with the Forest Service personnel in the field.

Many letters and columns written by others, though, have reflected a limited knowledge of the Forest Service mission, its methods of operation, and factual knowledge about the environment and natural resources on the Ouachita National Forest.

Some of the data cited by individuals appears to be referenced from documents from various national environmental organizations. These are not accurate sources of information on the status of what is happening on the Ouachita National Forest.

The Forest Service has been part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture since 1905. One of the main missions of the agency is to care for and manage the 191 million acres of the national forests using sound scientific forest and natural resource land management practices. As mentioned before, one of the principal uses of the national forests is to provide the nation with a wide diversity of forest and wood products. Such is the case of the Ouachita National Forest of Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Clearcutting Facts

The 1.6 million-acre Ouachita National Forest is a major provider of pine and hardwood forest products. The local forest industries are largely dependent upon a continuous and plentiful supply of quality wood products. The recently approved Forest Plan points out that clearcutting is NOT the predominant harvest method. In fact, clearcutting is only one of many forest management tools used to maintain a healthy growing forest while providing a variety of goods and services to the people. Annually less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the ONF is harvested with an evenaged management method that includes clearcutting, while 15,000 acres are managed with uneven-aged management using selection harvest methods.

The Plan, which is limited to the next 6-10 year period, limits clearcutting to 5,300 acres annually, with seedtree and shelterwood methods set at 2,700 acres annually and the uneven-age selection methods at 15,000 acres annually.

Further, the Quachita does not lose money on timber sales! The truth is that we had a net gain of $826,953 in our timber sale program in fiscal year 1989. The ONF annually generates more than $3 million in revenues for the Arkansas and Oklahoma counties as well as returning $12.3 million to the U.S. Treasury.

At times, individuals have accused us of violating Federal laws in our timber management practices. These are false statements.

The forest management priorities on the Quachita National Forest have taken a dramatic shift in the last two years. We are moving away from a predominant timber emphasis toward the amenity values of recreation, tourism, water quality and wildlife. The Quachita is becoming recognized as a national leader in innovation and change that has been brought about with a highly visible, open and responsive public involvement process. Our success is out there for all to see.
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Article Details
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Author:Curran, Mike
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:column
Date:Jul 16, 1990
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