Does environmental protection really cause timber workers to lose their jobs? An article by University of Wisconsin sociologist Bill Freudenburg says no. His peer-reviewed study tracks employment numbers through three flashpoints of the modern environmental movement: 1964, when the Wilderness Act became law; the advent of Earth Day in 1970; and the northern spotted owl controversy of the early "90s. His conclusion: Employment increased during this time, all supposedly rough years for those in logging. Freudenburg also finds that from 1947 to 1964, a time unencumbered by environmental regulations, the timber industry lost jobs. Freudenburg explains that most of the old-growth forests had been logged at an unsustainable rate, causing many mills to shut down before federal regulations came into play. "If there is a real connection between environmental protection and job loss, it doesn't come from too much protection today," he writes. "It comes from not having had enough environmental protection in earlier decades."
"Forty Years of Spotted Owls' was
published in the February/March 1998 issue of Sociological
Perspectives. Copies are $20 from JAI Press, Inc., P.O. Box 811,
100 Prospect St., Stamford, CT 06904.