Lifestyles Left and Right

Who Did You Say Made Trees?

Bad news for the Tree Worshippers: A coalition of timber companies has petitioned Interior Secretary Gale Norton to require the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to conduct a review of the effects of the Spotted Owl program.

3.10.02

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Remember the Spotted Owl? A few years ago it was the subject of great alarm by the tree-worshipping community. They claimed it could only survive in "old growth" forests; that it would go the way of the dodo bird if logging weren't stopped in such forests.

At the time I was puzzled. A forested rural retreat on the Northern California coast has been in my wife's family for nearly eight decades. For several years a family of Spotted Owls has happily nested and billed-and-Who'd there, living a few hundred yards from the house in distinctly second-growth Douglas fir trees.

No matter, the tree-worshippers managed to get the Spotted Owl added to the Endangered Species list. Following this the United States Forest Service decreed the Northwest Forest Plan. Under its terms millions of acres were set aside for the owl, thus cutting timber sales -- and ending thousands of jobs -- in the Pacific Northwest.

Old growth redwoods got special treatment from the tree-worshippers. Conjuring visions of a planet devoid of redwood trees, they clamored for protection of all remaining "old growth" redwoods. Much negotiating ensued between their forces, the Forest Service and the lumber companies. Protection of the nesting grounds of the Marbled Murrelet was thrown in by the TWs as a bargaining chip.

Their cause was helped, albeit unintentionally, by the other side. Several years ago venerable Pacific Lumber Company, long admired for its judicious and slow harvest of redwoods, was taken over in a leveraged buyout by a Texas company, Maxxam. As a result, Pacific was burdened by so much debt that its new owners greatly accelerated the redwood harvest in order to generate cash. Maxxam's greed handed the tree-worshippers an issue. They said Maxxam proved the need to immediately put aside all the "old growth" trees. They won. Not only that, they began to clamor for buffer zones of trees to surround the "old growth" ones. After that would come buffers for the buffers and so on, until not a tree would be left anywhere for logging.

Along the way, a monkey wrench was thrown into this well-oiled campaign machinery. Carefully studying the nesting habits of the Spotted Owl over several years, a team of scientists found that the owls did very well in second-growth (that is, managed) forests along the coast, although inland owls did need more old-growth trees. The original claim by the tree worshippers had been based entirely on the latter fact, as if it were universally true. The one-size-fits-all approach prevailed.

Now the timber companies are asking the federal government to play fair. A coalition of them has petitioned Interior Secretary Gale Norton to require the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to conduct a review of the effects of the Spotted Owl program. The coalition says the USF&WS was to have done this seven years ago. (The USF&WS is the same agency that ordered counseling as punishment for several of its "scientists" after they had slipped fraudulent lynx fur samples into a study to determine if the lynx should have a larger protected area.)

About the petition, the chairman of the American Forest Resource Council, Bruce Taylor, Sr., said, "We just want the law to be followed just like others want the law to be followed. It's only reasonable that it [the Spotted Owl matter] should be reviewed." Good luck, Mr. Taylor. The tree worshippers want the law to be followed in one direction only: ending all logging everywhere.

The more radical tree worshippers have taken to driving spikes into trees and pouring sugar into lumber company vehicle tanks to sabotage legal logging practices (and maybe kill some lumberjacks in the process). Two years ago, one dreamy young woman climbed high into a redwood tree and lived there on a platform for months to "save" it.

These massive efforts to use the Endangered Species Act and to set aside larger and larger buffer zones of trees mask the underlying motive of the so-called "environmental" movement, to wit: stopping industrial society in its tracks.

If you have flown over the Pacific Northwest you have seen mile upon mile of forests broken only occasionally by what looks like a small patch of plowed ground. These patches mark sections in which trees have been harvested (and almost always replanted). Up close they are not pretty, but nearly all are far from highways and, in any case, represent a resource going through part of the cycle of harvest and renewal.

But to hear the tree worshippers tell it, cut one more tree and there goes the neighborhood. The cut trees will build more houses, encourage more suburban growth, sell more SUVs, guzzle more gas, consume more fattening foods and so forth. You get the idea.

Those who call for reason to prevail, with "balance" between no-logging and careful harvesting, are usually dismissed by the TWs as wolves in sheep's clothing. As for the tree worshippers, their motto seems to be, "Mankind is but a passing disaster on this planet."

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