We've done it wrong for a long time

  Dear HCN,

I am concerned about the call to logging put forward in Frank Carroll's essay, "Los Alamos is burning" (HCN, 5/22/00: Los Alamos is burning), and I am concerned about the "BLM ... planting millions of acres in non-native crested wheatgrass." I am a biologist who used to work for the BLM in eastern Oregon. Our forests changed because of years of fire suppression. Western ecosystems sometimes burned "catastrophically' - and one of the reasons that some trees survived fires was because larger trees have thicker bark. In many instances, larger trees that are more able to survive a fire were or have been logged. Over the years foresters invented creative reasons that the trees needed to be cut. For example, I have seen 500-year-old Shasta red fir trees salvaged because some of the trees in the forests had the wrong kind of mushrooms on their bark. The foresters honestly felt they were doing the ecosystem a favor.

In some instances, logging may help restore ecosystems, but conservationists have a difficult time trusting foresters because the timber industry has a long, poor track record of destroying ecosystems.

I have the same kind of distrust when BLM range managers speak of planting millions of acres of non-native crested wheatgrass for the benefit of the ecosystem. The range manager that I worked with at the BLM would agree that the BLM has a long history of placing cattle before ecosystem health. The timber industry also has a long history of placing wood-fiber production before ecosystem health. However, I have worked with several range conservationists and foresters at the BLM with good ideas for improving ecosystems. These scientists know that much of the distrust of foresters comes from years of mismanagement. Trust will take years to develop and will also require a serious change in priorities.

Carl Reese Knowles
McKinleyville, California