- A walk in a thin sliver of Douglas fir old growth in the Willamette
National Forest of central Oregon in the great Pacific north-west
of America set me to enquire about its protection.
As the owner of a small piece of our own heritage - 8 ha
(20 acres) of rather special ancient semi-natural woodland in
north Wales - I well know the value which we have only recently
come to attach to such treasures.
therefore, set out, during a prolonged visit to the northwest
coast this summer, to find out what is happening.
This, I found was no simple task.
Forestry and money are so tightly intertwined in America
that the true situation is, to us, very complex.
Native old growth forest, that is to say forest which
existed when the first European arrived in the sixteenth century,
is hard to find as a newcomer like myself.
Much of it has been logged, often long ago, significantly
disrupting the forest ecosystem (for example, the great and justly
revered redwoods of northern California.)
Therefore, to find a small piece with an apparently intact
forest ecosystem came as a pleasant surprise.
A visit to the office of the government forestry Service
was pleasantly reassuring. Great
colored forest plan maps, along the lines of our own, are available
for inspection. A beleaguered
forester explained to me that the status of this plan rested within
his own organization; beleaguered because, like our farmers, they
do not enjoy public support.
The survival of my small piece of old growth forest, therefore,
rested on good intentions rather than government commitment.
Nearby is a great area of burnt forest,
rumored to have been torched by a lumber company eager for the
timber salvage which this would present.
The complexities of this provide many ways around obstacles
Another large area in the same forest,
containing old growth habitat for the protected spotted owl, is
classified for 'Intensive Timber Management' (i.e. clearfell.) Although there are some areas designated for
alternative silvicultural systems, clearcut timber sales abound
and are certain to further divide public and forester confidence.
The stunning thing is that it costs
the American taxpayer dearly to continue the logging of government
forests; the network of roads built at the taxpayer' expense far
exceeds the income from timber sales.
The public perceives this forest as belonging to the people
of America, not the giant corporate logging operations, and is demanding
an end to all logging on public land. Add to this complexity the
large areas of forest held by the corporate lumber concerns and
the small-scale private owners, all of whom operate outside the
government forestry structure, and a picture emerges which is deeply
troubling for the future of the great native forests of the Pacific
A five-month stay visiting these forests
convinces me that future generations will condemn the throwing
away of family silver as gross irresponsible negligence in caring
for the forest.
Iliff Simey, email@example.com
is the text of a letter that appeared in the January 2000 issue
of the Quarterly Journal of Forestry, the Official publication
of the Royal Forestry Society of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Reprinted here with permission of the author.