Wallace Stegner, in his column "Land of Many Uses and Abuses" (Opinion, Nov. 20), is parroting misstatements, half-truths, and lies while overlooking the massive and gross waste of forest resources and potential caused by the selfish efforts of the environmental conspiracy being implemented by the Wilderness Society, Audubon Society, and Sierra Club.
The environmental emperors have no clothes, but they will never entertain the thought that there is any evil other than those who seek a balanced and rational forest management program, to the detriment of their goal of locking up the entire forest for a very few.
The national forests in California, as in most of the nation, permit timber harvesting on less than 30% of the forest areas. And much of that area is severely reduced in timber production because it might be visible from a wild river, wilderness, or forest road, because it is being reserved for owls, woodpeckers, falcons, or other birds, deer, bears, or salamanders.
The national forests do, in fact, draw more recreation visitors than the national parks. And 90% of the recreation occurs within one-half mile of one of those roads that Stegner finds so objectionable. To create more wilderness (we already have 4 million acres in California plus 6 or 8 million more in parks, wildlife refuges, and other single uses) merely creates more areas where most people cannot go.
Wilderness use is declining in real numbers and in users per acre.
Currently, the leading "environmental" groups have embarked on a concerted program to frustrate the salvage of burned timber from the 1987 fires. On the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, 46% of the salvage efforts were appealed in efforts to delay the salvage until the timber had rotted. The fact that the salvage would have paid for reforestation is ignored.
On the South Fork of the Trinity River, 4,400 acres were badly burned. Based on the Wilderness Society pledge in February, 1988, to appeal all such salvages, the Forest Service spent an extra six months preparing a 233-page environmental impact statement.
A year after the fire, the EIS was completed. It found that 3,010 acres could be economically salvaged--and reforested--with no environmental damage.
In a burn area adjacent to the South Fork (the Marble sale), which also burned in 1987 and which was sold in the spring of 1988, bidders paid $171 per thousand board feet for the privilege of cutting the dead timber. A portion of the receipts would be used for reforesting the area.
But the 19.1 million board feet of South Fork timber brought only $88 when bid in September because of the rot, staining, and insect damage which had already occurred. (The uncertainty of whether any harvest would ever take place probably further depressed the bid values.)
With comparable timber, comparable log haul, and comparable operating conditions, it appears that more than $3 million would have been paid for the 19 million board feet of dead timber if salvaged promptly in the spring of 1988. Loss to date--$1.56 million.
The environmentalists have no concern for the thousands of Northern California jobs dependent upon timber production. They refuse to even consider that the areas are regenerated, and that the volume of timber, and number of trees increases every year despite the regulated harvest.
If successful, their programs will drive out a basic U.S. industry (the Wilderness Society wants to reduce national forest timber production by 50%.) To import the wood products from other nations--where our concern for the environment is not necessarily evident--will only further impact our negative trade balance and create additional costs for consumers.
Our national forests were created to provide timber for future generations and to protect watersheds. Stegner's philosophy would deny the former entirely and serve the latter only through locked gates and "keep-out" signs. Let's hope that George Bush, and his appointees don't succumb to the same balderdash that Stegner is dishing out.
Although Stegner and the Wilderness Society and others have usurped the title "environmentalist" for themselves, their programs are selfish, destructive, and contrived to distort facts beyond any recognition in order to achieve their goals of denying most Americans the forests and the uses for which they were created.
Executive Secretary, Shasta
Alliance for Resources and Environment