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Old-growth movers & shakers.

The stakes are high. The more information becomes available about old-growth ecosystems, species that live in old-growth, and possible ways of managing the forest, the higher the stakes get. The economy up the ante with every pitch and surge it takes. Here's what's left at the heart of this debate: between 2 and 4.5 million acres of old-growth, by some estimates roughly 30,000 timber-related jobs, and, at minimum, 2,022 pairs of spotted owls in the Pacific Northwest. Private industry depends on federally owned timber. The owl depends on the old-growth. And the fate of the old-growth depends to a substantial degree on the decisionmakers interviewed here.

The movers and shakers in this debate represent a wide range of perspectives: industry, government agencies, environmentalists, scientists, economists, and congressmen. Their turf is not always clearly defined. Some of them know exactly who their enemies are; others feel the time has come for collaboration and creativity. Some were looking out their windows at old-growth as they spoke with AMERICAN FORESTS; others were in Washington or in research labs in state capitals. They speak in almost different languages about the old-growth issue. Representatives of industry use words like "harvest" and "manage" and "sustained yield." They refer to "old-growth" or "first-generation, second-generation growth," in "board-feet" rather than acreage. Environmentalists use terms like "ancient forest," which is logged," not "harvested."

Players disagree on questions as fundamental as: What's left? They disagree over whether the issues of owl and old-growth should be addressed simultaneously. They disagree over whether scientific questions and socioeconomic policy questions should be addressed in the same forum. They disagree over the practice of New Forestry as a solution. They disagree over the legislation. But they all agree that the Pacific Northwest will never be the same again, and that this is a pivotal, critical point in history


Jack Thomas is the Chief Research Wildlife Biologist for the U.S. Forest Service, and is based in La Grande, Oregon. He is also the author of the Interagency Scientific Committee (ISC) Report. In the summer of 1989, two agencies, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and two departments, Agriculture and Interior, put together a task force to design a scientifically credible strategy to protect the spotted owl. The interagency committee came up with Habitat Conservation Areas (HCAS) totaling 6.3 million acres on Forest Service and BLM lands. This number became the platform for subsequent discussions and decisions regarding the owl.

On June 22,1990, the owl was listed as threatened. The Forest Service announced that it would use the Thomas report as a guide in future management of the owl. Since that time, several reports and plans for the owl and the old-growth have been drawn up by various agencies, primarily to determine just how much acreage the owl needs. These include the Cy Jamison Plan from the BLM and the Critical Habitat Plan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Secretary of Interior Manuel Lujan Jr. has recently put together a team of 16 economists and scientists-the recovery team-to review all of these findings. Their recovery plan is due on January 1, 1992.

The Thomas report has received considerable publicity. A scientist first and last, Thomas is obviously tired of the limelight, and he had to be ferreted out of his lab in La Grande. "Andy Warhol said that everyone gets 15 minutes of fame," he said. "Well, 15 minutes is too much."

Thomas believes that it is critical to separate the scientific issues from the social issues: "Otherwise, it's like saying the doctor should first consider the patient's pocketbook. This is a war between professional gladiators. The issues have been so dramatically convoluted that they are grinding to a halt. My committee's role was to put together the best scientific material. It's up to elected officials to do the rest. We want our information to be used, but they didn't teach us how to do that in graduate school."


Larry Tuttle is the director of the Oregon office of the Wilderness Society, which has played a key role in obtaining and publishing much of the data that informs the old-growth debate. The society's 1988 status report on old-growth, written in collaboration with scientists from the Forest Service, the BLM, and other federal agencies, relied on aerial mapping to help define existing areas of old-growth. The report identified two million acres of ecologically significant old-growth remaining, 800,000 acres of which are currently protected. In 1991 the Forest Service published a report that they had spent millions of dollars indicating that 4.3 million acres of old-growth remain.

In his work, Tuttle relies a great deal on collaboration with the federal agencies, and he is reluctant to blame any one group for the failure to reach a solution: "There is a lot of sincerity within the federal agencies, particularly among the biologists and scientists. But the upper management has been a little too deliberate in its approach, rather than simply setting aside land to protect endangered species. Lack of action by the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife in not establishing critical habitats means that we have to sue those agencies, and that's a blunt instrument."


As vice president for the Northwest Forestry Association, Chris West is one of the most articulate and forceful voices for the timber industry. The association is a group of 90 forest-products manufacturers from Oregon and Washington. Seventy percent of the mills in those two states depend on public timber for their raw-material supply. They buy from the Forest Service, the BLM, and what West calls "the mom-and-pop tree farmers." The landowners, larger companies like Weyerhaeuser, have a different relationship with the federal agencies. Although they buy timber from the Forest Service and the BLM, they are not as dependent on those agencies for their timber supply. According to West, there are 8.4 million acres of old-growth left, 4.7 million of which is already protected. The debate is over the 3 million acres of old-growth scheduled for harvest in the next 50 to 60 years. He believes that each piece of legislation since the 1976 National Forest Management Act has dealt another blow to the industry, "decreasing the land base on which these communities depend."

West continues, We're told that the industry is made up of a bunch of inefficient dinosaurs. Then we're told that we're eliminating jobs by modernizing mills. For every 2 to 10 percent of workers replaced by upgrades in technology, there are jobs added on the service side. But if there's no land base, there's no logs and no jobs. What we have here is a bureaucracy guided by public policy concerns, and not by the market. And we have an oligopoly--the government."


"New Forestry ought to be the philosophy for forest management everywhere," says Jerry Franklin, creator of this latest management method. Franklin is the Bloedel Professor of Ecosystem Analysis at the University of Washington and Chief Plant Ecologist at the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station. He grew up in Washington, where his father worked in the papermill of Crown Zellerbach.

His New Forestry is a method of resource management that leaves intact the characteristics of the ecosystem, and Franklin is not bashful about its merits. "It is a responsible and holistic view of the forest that sacrifices no one resource to another. The main criticism is that it does not maximize short-term returns on investment or wood-fiber production."

Some people believe that New Forestry provides a possible compromise between environmentalists and the timber industry: The overall yield would be reduced, but the ecosystem would be preserved. Critics on both sides claim that New Forestry has not yet been tested; industry questions the reduced yield on an ever-shrinking land base, and environmentalists worry that New Forestry will become an excuse for logging larger areas to compensate for that reduced yield.

In response to the criticism that New Forestry has never been tested, Franklin points out that we have never, historically, launched into forestry practices after testing-that it has always been a learning process. "What we do know is that what we're doing now is failing," says Franklin. "The industry has been managing lands to maximize profit. This is not ideal for the wood resources or the human resources. Cutting down old-growth is not the only source of employment up here."


Andy Kerr, vice president of the 5,000-member Oregon Natural Resources Council (a prominent state association of conservation groups), is, to put it mildly, an outspoken environmentalist. When asked what's at stake, Kerr says that we are looking at only 10 percent of the original ancient forest. In his eyes, even the term old-growth can be called industry jargon, " particularly in this youth-worshipping society" And getting the multimillionaires in industry to care about big trees is, says Kerr, "like expecting the Mississippi delegation to care about segregation."

Kerr believes that economic and environmental issues should be left to their respective experts. "Look, I grew up in a mill town in Oregon," he says. "I could have gotten myself a pickup and gone into the woods. But my job as an environmentalist is to speak for species that can't speak." He says the system will provide for those workers affected by legislation like Jim Jontz's new Ancient Forest Protection Act, which calls for a moratorium on all logging of old-growth and includes no provisions for displaced workers. As for New Forestry, Kerr calls it "a kinder, gentler rape."

He adds, "It took the industry only one generation to go through the forest in Maine, but it's taken us three generations here in the Pacific Northwest."

Referring to the lawsuits regularly brought to stop timber sales, he says, "Today we're moving, they're shaking." The logging industry Kerr sees in a state of transition, characterized by what he calls the four stages of denial: anger, bargaining, grieving, and acceptance."


As Deputy Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment, John Beuter helps oversee the division that manages the U.S. Forest Service and the Soil Conservation Service. Beuter's background includes having been a research forester for the Forest Service, a professor and then associate dean at the Oregon State University College of Forestry, and most recently a principal in the forestry consulting firm of Mason, Bruce and Girard in Portland.

While with the Forest Service in 1976, his name became a household word in Northwest timber circles when he authored the Beuter Report, which predicted a timber shortage on private lands and increased pressure on public lands. His prediction has most certainly come true.

Beuter arrived in Washington last January. Since then, most of the pressure he feels comes from the Bush Administration. "The 1"resident has stressed the need for a balance between environmental concerns and socioeconomic concerns," he says. "Congress feels that it is being expected to carry this issue and that the Administration should be more active."

The legislation introduced thus far, according to Beuter, intermingles the owl and old-growth issues to a fault. Old-growth setasides rarely appear in forest plans. "It's easy to set aside land," says Beuter, "but much harder to minimize the disruption those set-asides cause to forest use and to communities."


"Several years ago," says the founder of the American Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (AFSEEE), "workers like me felt that if they spoke out they'd get fired, and this is still true in some places." Jeff Debonis himself was a Forest Service employee for 12 ears until he resigned in February, 1990.

His organization, begun in 1989, has become a very successful effort to give a voice to those employees who don't always agree with Forest Service planning and policies. They can join AFSEEE anonymously, and membership has grown from 200 to 2,000 in just two years.

"We felt that the Forest Service was too acquiescent to commodity interests," says Debonis. "The point was to force the Forest Service to adopt environmentally sensitive forest-management practices, through internal pressure and through influence in Congress. We provide a structure, an alternative to the professional societies."

The reaction to whistleblowers within the Forest Service can be transfer to another location or isolation in the work-place. Seasonal workers are more likely to lose their jobs altogether. There's a great deal of solidarity among the lower-echelon employees," says Debonis. "It's the upper management we have problems with."


A good part of John Butruille's job, as the regional forester in charge of 19 national forests in Oregon and Washington, is overseeing timber-sales programs. A forest plan is issued every 10 years, a process that includes an Environmental Impact Statement or all environmental assessment. Roads are delineated, timber is marked, an auction is held, and a contract is drawn up.

"There is so much overlap and coordination in the forest-planning process," says Butruille, "that it is impossible to separate the owl and old-growth issues. Back in 1981 the Forest Service chose the owl as the indicator species for the health of the forest. Draft plans showed that our indicator species wasn't doing so well. The debate has become more strident now because some people are trying to prove that the owl can live in younger stands. Well, they might be able to live there, but that doesn't mean they'd be able to reproduce. The fact is, the owl prefers the characteristics of older growth." Which, in Butruille's view, is good enough reason not to compromise when it comes to preserving what's left of an endangered species.


As state director for the BLM in Ore on, Dean Bibles manages about 2.5 million acres. That land includes 400,000 acres of old-growth (trees over 200 years old); 145,000 of these acres are permanently set aside, with no roading or development allowed. The BLM has assured the public that 450 pairs of owls will remain on BLM land; 695 additional individuals have been banded. The agency's Environmental Impact Statement is due in September of 1992 and will incorporate the recommendations of the spotted-owl recovery team.

"I don't see how you can put science in one corner and economic issues in another," says Bibles. "We should bring our technological skills to bear in all areas. In this nation, we have the skills and the technology to manage lands in a very responsible manner. If we create a situation in which our demand is being filled by other countries that don't have these skills, then we're not being responsible citizens on a global scale." In other words, Bibles is a staunch foe of legislation that would force the timber industry to import its raw materials from other nations.


Since January 1989, 48 mills have closed in Oregon and Washington, 5,500 workers have been laid off, and there is a considerable debate over what caused these layoffs. Robert Lee, a professor in the College of Forest Resources at the University of Washington, studies the effects of these changes on communities in the Pacific Northwest.

Says Lee: "This crisis is totally unlike the agricultural crisis, the steelworkers crisis, or the oil crisis because it is not driven by an economic cycle. Federal assets are being shifted from one pocket into another. It's as if the government employed tenant farmers and then took the land away The result is a great deal of mental and financial stress [for the timber workers]. These people can't just change locations, so they stay where they are in poverty.

"This is not the free-enterprise system. The loggers and millworkers believed that the government would always provide them with wood on a sustained-yield basis. We now have a laissez-faire policy in this country, a kind of social Darwinism-individuals are responsible for their own fate. The same reasoning is often applied to homelessness."


Considered the No. 1 environmental lobbyist on old-growth issues in Washington, DC, Brock Evans is the Vice President for National Issues at the Audubon Society Audubon has been working with the Forest Service to identify old-growth through aerial mapping. "The Forest Service is fundamentally a logging agency that wants to cut down trees," says Evans, "and we believe they are in the hands of the timber industry. it is up to Congress to save the old-growth, because the federal agencies are certainly not going to do it."


Ward Armstrong is president of the Oregon Forest Industry Council, made up primarily of private landowners. Although private owners purchase timber from the Forest Service and the BLM, they don't, according to Armstrong, tend to buy old-growth. It is up to individual states to regulate the management of privately held old-growth, which Armstrong defines as anything over 150 years old. Ancient forest, a term he does not often use, is anything over 500 years old. "Foresters don't use those emotional terms like ancient and virgin," he tells me. "Old-growth describes the characteristics of a particular ecosystem, but environmentalists won't stand still long enough for us to define the resources we want to protect."

The tenor of the debate has forced many of these movers and shakers into pigeonholes they would rather not occupy. "I hiked in old-growth as a child," says Armstrong. "Most of the folks in industry have also. We know the vastness of the resource. We know we can manage it. Still," he adds almost wistfully, "it is an amazing resource, and it is emotional to see it harvested."

Beyond all the emotion, and all the politicking, one question remains: Can the Jack Ward Thomases, Andy Kerrs, and Chris Wests create a solution that acknowledges the interdependence of the species they represent--the loggers, the owls, and the old growth? As Thomas puts it: "There isn't much choice. We've come to the most critical moment in conservation in the last half of the 20th century."
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Title Annotation:forest policy decision-makers
Author:Reynolds, Susan
Publication:American Forests
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:Suffering the enviro-doc.
Next Article:Greening the Land.

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