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Paying the price for old-growth.

"There's a heap o' hurt out here," scowls Len Hunter, who has spent much of the past 31 years planning timber sales on Washington's Olympic National Forest, just inland from the Pacific Coast. Some 72,000 of the forest's 112,000 acres have been clearcut over the years, and Hunter's job looks mighty thin. Logging of old-growth timber on his Hood Canal Ranger District has slowed to a creep.

The hurt Hunter refers to might be the precariousness of his own job with the U.S. Forest Service, but more likely he has in mind the future of the loggers. Their jobs are disappearing, and it's not only because of the dwindling timber supply but also because of increasing automation in local sawmills.

There's also a third reason: a controversial series of federal decrees that restrict logging in order to save the habitat of the northern spotted owl (see "The Bird of Contention" on page 28). The spotted owl, it turns out is far more than a rare bird of prey protected by federal listing as a threatened species.

To environmentalists, the owls are symbols, means to the end of stopping or drastically reducing old-growth logging. The owls are an "indicator species" that, according to environmental organizations, signal the disappearance of an entire ecosystem. Right behind the owls are a host of other indicator species ranging from pileated woodpeckers to Olympic salamanders, any one of which could do the same job.

But if you're a logger whose job is on the line, the northern spotted owl is another kind of symbol. The media publishes job-loss figures, and dead spotted owls are found nailed up in public places, presumably in protest against the latest logging restrictions. Spotted-owl-related job losses alone could run to 50,000, according to Cintrafor, the University of Washington's forestry information center.

Tempers are running plenty high, and the U.S. Forest Service is taking most of the heat-from both loggers and environmentalists. In self-defense, the agency claims its logging volume is mandated by Congress, and it reminds the public that 25 percent of last year's receipts from local old-growth timber sales--million-$179 went to 58 Oregon and Washington counties for funding roads and public schools.

Meanwhile, huge expanses of old-growth timber, together with their associated ecosystems, have aid dearly as forests are drastically altered through harvest. The old-growth's would-be saviors-a legion of skilled and focused environmentalists representing the Wilderness Society, Audubon, Sierra Club, Save-the-redwoods League, and dozens of smaller organizations-claim that over-logging has been an ecological disaster (see "Old-growth Movers "Shakers" on page 61). They want it stopped-on federal and private timberlands alike.

AMERICAN FORESTS invites you to visit one of these intensely controversial areas-washington's Olympic Peninsula (Len Hunter's neck of the woods)-for an on-scene inspection of the western old-growth arena. We'll look at it from four perspectives: the aesthetic, the historical, the current controversy, and a potential resolution. As we move to each of these frames of reference, we'll be following the tendrils of a politically polarized conflict in which the personal, financial, and ecological stakes are immense.

In the end we will find one ray of light: Through teamwork, compromise, and reasonableness, the old-growth conundrum can be mitigated. Solutions can be crafted.

How should you feel about the old-growth issue? That's your business. Our aim is to illuminate a diversity of view-points so you can do your own thinking.

Easy answers? Inexpensive ones? Sorry. We've waited too long.


Plop. Plop-plop. Plop.

If ever I should lose my sight (heaven forbid), I believe I would put on my L.L. Bean rain parka and ask someone to lead me into a Pacific Northwest old-growth rainforest, where I would stop blindly but unerringly under my tree of choice-one of the huge Sitka spruces that grow in many of these forests.

Sitka spruces, I have discovered, have their own distinctive "drip code": sparse, widely spaced mega-drops that let go only after the immense tree-maybe 175 feet high-has drunk its fill and dislodged its excess water off the ends of 20- and 30-foot-long branches.

On this occasion I'm here in the Olympic rainforest on a pilgrimage of sorts-a fact-finding and contemplative trip to the very core of a controversy that is shaking an aroused national public. Inside the visitor center at Olympic National Park, plastic letters on a daily notice board confirm the obvious: "Weather today, showers. Tomorrow, showers. Extended outlook, showers. Total rainfall for '90: 176 inches. "

Rain, a temperate Japanese current, and the mighty creative intelligence of the Deity, have combined on the 6,500square-mile Olympic Peninsula to fashion the largest single old-growth sanctum in the Pacific Northwest.

The Olympic Peninsula's quietly awesome cathedral forests of Sitka spruce, western hemlock, Dougla]s-fir, and western redcedar are commanding monuments to the grace and solidity of advanced age. Some are perhaps 600 years old.

Small openings in the canopy offer their own excitement. Whole understory communities-sword ferns, sphagnum moss, salmonberry, salal, spike moss, huckleberry, Oregon grape, and young conifers-cover every square foot of ground.

The old-growth forest is both diverse and regenerating. Supine and moss-covered, a marvelous old "nurse" log, probably downed by ferocious winds, sprouts from its trunk dozens of fledgling hemlocks that shoot up arrow-straight.

In their genetic imperative to survive, the young hemlocks will tap the nurse log's nutrients, and the strongest few will send their roots outward to find soil, eventually forming flaring "buttress" roots that will anchor them against winter winds.

Part of the decaying log lies in a crystalline stream that originates in glaciers far upland. Here the story is that of a fallen log filtering water, helping control floods, creating sheltered places for nurturing salmon and steelhead fry, and contributing nutrients that drift off to the Pacific miles away.

In the rainforest among the silent, dripping trees, we connect with structural immensity, with form, grace, survival, and biological diversity. We connect with time itself as we grasp our oneness with the earth's living continuum that we so busily ignore everywhere else we go.

The old-growth rainforest is certainly not a phenomenon limited to the Olympic Peninsula. In the western U.S. the old-growth forests extend roughly from northern California with its massive redwoods through Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia into southeast Alaska.

Dry up the rain a bit as you move inland, and you have old-growth sanctums that are nearly as captivating as the Olympic-places like Sequoia and Yosemite national parks in California and Rainier National Park in Washington.

You can find pockets of old growth in little-known places throughout the Pacific Northwest and in a number of Forest Service-protected wildernesses, streamsides, and recreation areas. In dry inland California and Oregon, you can find splendid stands of "yellow bellies," drought-resistant ponderosa pines standing in pungent sage or in wiry red manzanita brush.

Nobody argues about saving the old-growth already protected in preserves. The question is, what about the rest?

Herein you have a central biologic-aesthetic-economic conflict that comes wrapped in a package plainly labeled: Beware of sweeping claims, easy-answer proposals, fast fixes.

But first, a bit of background.


After a day in the rain, an evening on the stormy Washington coast in a little cabin with a fireplace and a hot shower is just the ticket. It's also a chance to mull over how we got into the old-growth quagmire.

On the raucous Pacific Coast, the Olympic rainforest interfaces abruptly with the reality of wholesale logging. Some 25 miles inland is Quinault Lake, cradled in a four-mile-long hollow and owned by an Indian tribe of the same name. At the southeastern shore of the lake is an awesome sight: the national cochampion Sitka spruce, listed on the American Forestry Association's register of champion trees. Survivor of intensive logging, the spruce's raked top and storm-lashed branches reveal the weather's brutality.

The spruce is also an eyeglass of sorts. Fanning out in all directions are reminders of the diverse, often conflicting demands that the American public has placed on its forest resources. Immediately north is Olympic National Park, where the emphasis is on hands-off, leave-alone forest management. Southeastward are the lands of the Olympic National Forest, dedicated primarily to high-volume logging in old-growth stands.

Timber production (many call it overproduction) is hardly new. Logging of old-growth on the private forest-lands of the Pacific Northwest began in the late 19th century in the lowlands and picked up steam as the 1920s approached. During World War I the Army recruited 7,000 men, called them the Spruce Production Division, and set them to hand-felling some 300 million board-feet of Sitka spruce, the nation's strongest and finest construction softwood, for the war effort.

The division's prodigious efforts were but a speck in the tableau of the Pacific Northwest's raucous logging history. Early photographer extraordinaire Darius Kinsey shows a logger in 1906 lying all but lost in the notch cut of a 12-foot-wide cedar. Another of Kinsey's photos shows a home inside an immense hollowed-out cedar stump.

Kinsey also pictures a Sitka spruce that produced an astounding 56,650 board-feet of lumber. As if to remind us that the export of logs from the Pacific Northwest is nothing new, he shows us dockside windjammers and steamers destined for California, the East Coast, and foreign ports.

But more than lumber moved in the old-growth forests. Men's hearts stirred as they conquered the frontier. Their lifestyle was part raw muscle behind an axe or a handsaw, part bravado in a dangerous business, part frontiersman in a wet, howling land (see "When the Bullwhacker Reigned Supreme" on page 33).

The rate of cutting climbed through the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, and by the early 1980s the old-growth on private forests was virtually gone. Industry was increasingly turning to the national forests for the timber to supply the mills until their replanted, second-growth timber is large enough to harvest.

Meanwhile, federal scientists began warning the public that logging of old growth could not continue at such an accelerated rate without seriously damaging the environment. Soils scientists cautioned against road building on steep slopes, fisheries biologists told of salmon streams silting up, and wildlife biologists sounded the alarm on habitat destruction. Heeding the scientists, environmentalists-often supported by major national publications and TV networks-began pushing for and winning injunctions to halt timber sales.

Today, with one chainsaw operator replacing a whole crew of hand cutters, with Kenworth and Peterbilt logging trucks booming down western freeways at 60 miles per hour, with laser-guided saws turning out lumber in mills operated by as few as 12 workers, there's seemingly no limit to how fast our old-growth forests can be transformed into lumber. The only question is the supply.

As for demand, make no mistake. You and I hungrily consume the lumber and paper, as did our predecessors. And in so doing, WE created the old-growth debacle.


As it drizzles outside, the Forest Service's Pete Erben, recreation assistant on the Quinault Ranger District and history buff, is talking about old-time splash dams, which are plankand-timber structures that were erected across rivers and streams to create impoundments for storing logs. Hundreds were built all over the states of Oregon and Washington.

"Loggers dragged huge quantities of logs into the impoundments, then pulled the spillway planks so the logs poured through," Erben explains.

Alas, many a farmer's field was flooded, many an injunction issued as salmon and steel,head suffered. There you have one small, early example of how old-growth forestry practices can ripple for miles, even as they do today.

Another occurs as I listen. Pete's boss, ranger Tom Beddow, receives a complaint from a cabin owner on the lake. A towering old-growth Douglas-fir snag is threatening the cabin, and the owner wants it removed. Should Tom comply? Should he remove 1711 old-growth trees that threaten cabins? Which comes first old growth or people?

Back in Olympic National Park, naturalist Mike burling wonders whether his agency should press for the removal of a dam that blocks salmon. Or should the Elwha dam be allowed to remain, producing needed power for the local pulp mill? Which comes first -wildlife or people?

And what about Linda, a young waitress in Shelton, Washington? She cuts a fast path at the Orient Express restaurant, even after working a full day shift elsewhere in town. Her husband was laid off from a Simpson Timber mill line after 15 years, as spotted-owl and other restrictions kicked in, and he just recently got back on the night shift. He feels lucky. Last year more than 50 sawmills closed.

The questions-the issues-are intensely controversial. Late last year a paper in Portland, The Oregonian , published a major series on the crisis. The stories highlighted layoffs, social stress, and crime in timber areas, allegedly near-ruined fishing, "fractured" ecosystems, and a host of other logging-related ills.

Part of the series was rebutted by the Northwest Forest Resource Council in an 88-page critique. Example:

Oregonian: "The years in which five billion board-feet of old-growth were hauled from the national forests of Oregon and Washington are over . . . "

NFRC: "The new plans have the biological potential to sell five billion board-feet in a year without violating any existing law . . . "

Oregoinan: "Many mill owners say their companies are on the verge of going broke . . . "

NFRC: "The forest-products sector is still the largest in [Oregon's] economy. In fact, 38 percent of Oregon's private basic employment is generated by this sector."

You ask around, trying to find just how much old-growth remains in the Pacific Northwest, and find smoky numbers:

* "Approximately 3.8 million acres [of ancient forest] remain on the 12 national forests," according to the Wilderness Society, which has conducted a major mapping study to pinpoint the remaining stands (see "How Much Old-growth Is Left?" on page 46).

* About 4.2 million acres of "permanently preserved old-growth" remains in Oregon and Washington, representing the equivalent of a "two-mile-wide stretch of old trees reaching from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine," claims the Oregon Forest Industries Council, pointing to preserved stands in our national parks and Forest Service wilderness areas.

* "There are 6.2 million acres of old-growth in our national forests in the Pacific Northwest," says the industry-backed Evergreen Foundation, citing the Forest Service's original figures.

* About 8.2 million acres remain, of which 4.7 million are preserved, unavailable for timber harvest, claims the Northwest Forest Resource Council, adding, "It is clear there is no shortage of old-growth."

In addition to these wildly conflicting numbers, the issue brings its human conflicts as well:

* Thirty-five hundred loggers and their families rumble into Kelso, Washington, for a mega-rally against the "greenies. "

* Environmentalists repeatedly threaten to block logging by MacMillan Bloedel, Canada's largest forest producer, in British Columbia.

* Earth First! followers camp high in the branches of redwoods in a statement of fervor, by contrast placing the National Audubon Society and Wilderness Society into a more moderate middle ground than they formerly enjoyed.

And human-animal conflicts:

* An annual Concert in the Forest, sponsored by two preservationist groups, is moved when a spotted-owl pair is found perched a half mile away on Oregon's Willamette National Forest.

Meanwhile, a Weyerhaeuser nationwide image study reports that three out of five government officials and members of the public favor more regulations to protect the environment from forest-products companies--even if people lose their jobs.

And so it goes.

And then there's the Forest Service, whose traditional-and continuing--emphasis has been to "get out the cut." Caught in the middle of the old-growth struggle, the agency quietly suffers the identity crisis of its 86-year-old life-ground up as it were in forest plans, environmental impact statements, public hearings, injunctions, lawsuits, appeals, spotted-owl protection provisions, revised plans, and so on ad infinitum.

Meanwhile, pressure from within the agency mounts: Jeff Debonis and his Association of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics builds a new kind of internal heat for curtailing old-growth logging while there's still some left on our national forests (see "Old-growth Movers & Shakers" on page 61).

Just to add a little zest, you have a corporate takeover of California's Pacific Lumber, the largest owner of old-growth redwood. The company has nearly doubled its formerly sustainable harvest to defray the debt it acquired in a hostile takeover.

A bit much? I quite agree. It's time to get back to the forest for some of the good news.


The skies are lead-gray this morning, matching the weathered, barkless, split-crown mass of the "world's largest western redcedar," whose 178-foot head brushes the morning scud. Estimated age: 1,000 years.

Utterly devoid of contemporary company, the redcedar sits forlornly in a decidedly junior plantation' of Douglas-fir and western hemlock planted 15 years ago by the Washington State department of Natural Resources (DNR), in the far northwestern corner of the Olympic Peninsula.

Nearby is an ambitious project of the DNR to establish a 264,000-acre Olympic Experimental State Forest. State Public Lands Commissioner Brian Boyle calls it a "proving ground for the most promising new technology, ideas, and theories."

Translated, that means research at the experimental forest will delve into management procedures suggested by New Forestry guru Jerry Franklin and others (see "Will New Forestry' Save Old Forests?" on page 49 and "OldGrowth Movers and Shakers" on page 61). It is hoped the research will also accommodate the needs of the spotted owl as outlined in the plan drafted by Jack Ward Thomas, and it will take a hard look at the way nature put forests together in the first place.

"We're not managing for spiritual essence," explains Sue Trettevik, DNR public information officer. "But we are managing for the long-term benefit of these lands. There's a growing recognition that the health of the ecosystem is what we really need.

A look around with Trettevik brings some surprises. Southwest of Forks, we encounter a refreshing variation from the clean-shave clearcutting so common in the Pacific Northwest. Under the DNR's new "stewardship forestry" guidelines, numerous conifers of varying heights have been left to provide habitat for plants and animals. Snags have been left for cavity-dwelling birds. A heavy mat of slash remains to preserve forest biomass.

The DNR plans to establish a 213-acre conservation area containing trees more than 500 years old. The site will be protected for future generations.

Down the coast is further encouragement. On Willapa Bay in the southwestern corner of Washington, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has allied itself with Weverhaeuser and the local chapter of the Audubon Society to return a 5,000-acre island to its natural state.

Long Island, parts of which have forests that have been essentially undisturbed for possibly 4,000 years, has a magnificent stand of 700- to 1,000-year-old western redcedars-their crowns wind-torn into candelabra profiles. Here, in an imaginative and major old-growth accord, is a federal agency, a major forest-products producer, and an environmental organization working in concert.

On Oregon's Siskiyou National Forest, an even bigger cooperative project involves a decidedly gentle touch. In a 23,000-acre watershed known as Shasta Costa, the Forest Service is working mightily in a "defining hour" to bring about a development plan that considers the needs of environmentalists, loggers, and middle-grounders. Participants include the Public Forest Foundation, Audubon Society, and other groups. But the sledding has been tough as special-interest groups have had to learn both give and take.

Elsewhere on the Forest Service scene, exciting proactive moves are afoot to put aside old-growth timber. A recent survey made by the Forest Service for AMERICAN FORESTS set phones ringing as agency people from the Shasta-trinity, Winema, Siskiyou, Willamette, Gifford Pinchot, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Baker-snoqualmie national forests called to report new old-growth setasides.

Driven more by enthusiasm than by decree in a time of changing attitudes, and following a 1989 national policy announced by Forest Service Chief Dale Robertson to consider old-growth for its own intrinsic values, forest staffers are setting up old-growth recreation areas, nature trails, living museums, handicapped-visitor interpretive areas, research setasides.

Their cooperators, refreshingly, are Adopt-a-forest workers from Audubon, Nature Conservancy members, college volunteers, timber companies, and a host of other entities. And though most of the areas are still small (thus reducing biodiversity) and near roads, the efforts are exciting.

In Alaska, a million acres of land (much of it old-growth) on the Tongass National Forest have been preserved as a result of the new Tongass Timber Reform Law, which came about largely as the result of intense environmentalist pressure. And farther north on the Chugach National Forest, there's a plan afoot to designate much of the Prince William Sound area as a recreation and fisheries-and-wildlife resource.

What's more, the Oregon region of the Bureau of Land Management, which also has been in environmentalists' crosshairs, claims that nearly a quarter of its timberlands, or 420,000 acres (much of it in old-growth), are being held as is.

Back on the Olympic National Forest, the Quinault district's Kevin Wolfe, a resources planner, has just returned from a day-long New Perspectives conference he helped organize. Talking with Wolfe, you can't help sensing his enthusiasm for doing things differently. Up on the slopes, the situation rankly doesn't took quite as bad as the environmentalists see it. For mile upon mile with Kevin Wolfe, and later with Len Hunter and Dick Carlson over on the Hood Canal Ranger District, I drive through sturdy younger stands of replanted timber on lower reaches logged only several decades ago.

I see new thinning projects to create open spaces much as nature might. There are "leave trees" and snags, part of the New Perspectives management to protect cavity nesters. I see multiple-species replantings along "natural" lines and undisturbed old-growth stands along rivers, in recreation areas, and occasional setasides. They're part of a reported 267,000 acres of remaining old-growth on the Olympic.

I catch sight of a young scientist, Lisa Lewis, whose assignment is to plan for full soil recovery on thousands of acres of the higher logged slopes, where roadside erosion has taken its toll. She uses computers, aerial photos, and boot leather as she directs the building of soil-retention structures and replanting of ground cover to help the heavily clear-cut uplands to recover.

As the brakes are being applied to the overcutting of our old-growth forests, encouraging breezes are blowing along the entire old-growth battle line. Progress is being made even as the Pacific Northwest ventures into new ground; a balance of biologic (as in spotted owl), economic (as in jobs for forest workers), and aesthetic needs (as in raindrops on one's parka).

For each, the price will be high indeed.

But it's probably worth it.


Although Forest Service lands are the major battlegrounds in the old-growth war, the nation's tree farms are playing an important role in reducing the pressure on our national forests. Tree farms supply a tremendous amount of timber, much of it now ill second- and third-growth.

The 400,000-acre Clemons Tree Farm, operated by Weyerhauser in southwestern Washington, is one small part of the 93-million-acre American Tree Farm System, lands managed primarily for economic reasons.

Despite claims that tree-farm logging seriously harms wildlife, Weyerhaeuser's John Todd, a timber manager and wildlife biologist, produces all interesting document. It's a rundown of 230 species of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mamals observed in mostly second- and third-grozi,the timberlands in this area. Included ill that document, interestingly, are spotted owls, which are supposed to reside only in old-growth forests.

"A lot of people don't realize," lie says, that our second-growth forests have a tremendous variety of wildlife species. -HERBERT E. MCLEAN


Last May an auctioneer's chant sounded the end of one lifetime and perhaps the beginning of another for the machinery in Boliemia, Inc.'s sawmill and plywood plant at Culp Creek, Oregon. Since 1931 the mill's singing saws had sliced big cants from giant Douglas-fir logs, in the process supporting families in the remote community on the western slope of the Cascade Range. Bohemia closed the Culp Creek operation in September 1990, putting 365 employees out of work.

More than 100 prospective buyers attended the mill's last rites. They were there to cannibalize the facility for machines that could be reincarnated in other timbered settings. The sad occasion was only one of the many sylvan "garage sales" held in recent months in Oregon, Washington, and California.

Currently all of Bohemia's 11 mills and plants, plus 80,000 acres of forest-land, are for sale. The company was founded in 1916,

Another notable closing was Weyerhaeuser Company's lune 28 shutdown of its large old-growth sawmill at Springfield, Oregon. Officials cited as reasons the high cost of logs because of dwindling timber sales on federal lands and the high cost of modernizing the mill to cut smaller logs. About 270 employees were laid off. The company owns 17 other mills in the U.S. and nine in Canada.- ARNST


The U S. is both the world's leading producer and leading consumer of forest products. It is also the world's No. I importer of forest products and is second only to Canada as an exporter, accounting for about 20 percent of the imports and more than 10 percent of the exports. The following statistics put some flesh on those bare-bones statements:

* Projections by the Western Wood Products Association indicate that U. S. softwood lumber consumption will total 43,245 million board-feet for 1991, down from 45,159 million in 1990. Total U.S. production from five U.S. regions will be some 31,545 million bf, down from 35,956 million in 1990. The balance of the projected supply-11,700 million bf, 27 percent of the total consumption-will come from imports, mostly from British Columbia.

Significantly, about 31 percent of the projected U.S. consumption for 1991 will be used for residential construction and 33 percent for repair and remodeling.

* Log exports from Pacific Coast ports totaled 3,681 billion board-feet for 1990, down 15 percent from 1989. Of that total, 71 percent went to Japan, the rest to South Korea, China, and Canada.

* Softwood lumber exports for 1990 were 2.970 billion board-feet, down from 1989's 3.318 billion bf. Japan took 38.5 percent of the 1990 total. Substantial declines occurred in shipments to Japan and Australia. 1990 lumber exports by species included: Douglas-fir, 27.5 percent; southern pine, 12.6 percent; ponderosa and other pines, 17.1 percent; hemlock-fir, 18.5 percent. -- AL ARNST
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Title Annotation:includes related articles; forest policy
Author:McLean, Herbert E.
Publication:American Forests
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:Old growth, owls, & timber towns.
Next Article:The bird of contention.

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