Soon, we'll be deafened by the whining of corporate loggers bemoaning federal Judge Carl Muecke's recent order halting logging until the Forest Service develops an overall plan in Arizona and New Mexico to save the Mexican spotted owl (HCN, 9/4/95).
Why sacrifice the jobs for a little bird, they insist indignantly. First of all, the corporate loggers have mostly themselves to blame. They went on a logging binge in the 1980s, building up mill payrolls, clear-cutting vast swathes, mechanizing logging jobs, and high-grading the last of the big trees at a pace they couldn't possibly sustain. Naturally enough, they ran out of big trees and employment dropped.
But set that issue aside. Won't the judge's order devastate rural economies? Hardly. The U.S. Department of Commerce counted 309 logging jobs and about 1,000 sawmill jobs in Arizona in 1993; there are fewer now. Granted, the loss of those jobs can have an impact on a small town. But it's a drop in the bucket compared to the jobs provided by tourism, hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities - which are all a lot more fun in an old-growth forest than on tree-farm forest. A state Department of Economic Security report released this week says the state economy will create 160,000 new jobs in the next two years.
So what's all this fuss about 1,300 jobs scattered throughout the state? We'd be better off using the millions of dollars we use to subsidize below-cost timber sales to hire those people to protect the forest.