Active management is key to forest health

by Ashley Bach


Active forest management isn’t just about providing much-needed jobs to rural communities – it’s about keeping forests healthy. This is particularly relevant as Washington’s forests continue to be overcrowded and fire- and insect-prone because of a lack of management that has lasted too many years. 

Two recent opinion pieces, in the Seattle news site Crosscut and in the Eugene Register-Guard, illustrate the importance of the timber industry’s continuing role in maintaining healthy forests.

Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center (and former employee at the Washington Department of Natural Resources) writes in Crosscut that active management must be prioritized, especially as Washington voters this fall decide who to choose as their next Commissioner of Public Lands.

The next commissioner will face important environmental problems, including reducing destructive forest fires, cutting carbon emissions and protecting wildlife habitat. The good news is that there is bipartisan and scientific consensus on how to achieve those goals.

For example, reducing the risk of forest fire requires active forestry to change dead, dry forests into forests that are healthy and resistant to catastrophic fire. This policy is not controversial among scientists and has bipartisan support.

…There is a choice facing the next lands commissioner. Some argue we should shut down all sustainable timber harvests and return them to nature. That, however, ignores the science of forestry and wildlife habitat and abdicates the responsibility we have to restore unhealthy forests. Shutting down harvests and allowing forest habitat to degrade and burn would be like allowing toxic wastes in the Duwamish to simply be cleaned by the tides. Ignoring the problem is irresponsible.

Instead, we can follow the model supported by Gov. Gregoire’s Climate Advisory Team and the University of Washington. We can use the approach that successfully restored hundreds of miles of salmon habitat. And we can use that revenue to help fill the massive gap in school funding and create jobs in rural areas that have lost family-wage, manufacturing jobs.

After so many years of the timber wars, there is now a strong consensus that science-based sustainable timber harvesting protects the economic and environmental values we cherish.

Travis Joseph, CEO of the American Forest Resource Council in Portland, writes in the Register-Guard that active forest management, environmental protection and good forest health all go hand in hand. 

Like all Oregonians, we love nature and our state’s incredible beauty. That’s why we — foresters, loggers, mill workers — got jobs that keep us outside as much as possible.

It is true that we advocate for science-based, active management of our public forests. We are not ashamed of that. We believe that our land should not be locked up or untouchable, but a working landscape that is accessible to everyone and that provides what we need now and in the future. We want to leave the forest a better place than we found it, and maintain its health and beauty for all who wish to enjoy it.

Forests are not a zero sum game. We can protect sensitive places, drinking water and wildlife while also practicing good management. In fact, good forest management is exactly what is needed to protect our forests and communities from devastating wildfires, disease and insect infestations, drought and the impacts of climate change.


[This post originally appeared at WFPA.org.]