A coalition of four conservation organizations launched an ad campaign a few weeks in Oregon ago that aims to demonize the logging practice known as clearcutting.
The billboards, airport ads and a new website they created show graphic images of forest areas in the Northwest where the timber has been harvested in clearcuts, essentially “units” of up to a couple hundred acres where most (or all) of the trees are felled, cut into lengths, hauled up the hillsides and trucked off to a sawmill or pulp paper plant.
The now-barren area is then replanted with two- to three-year-old seedlings that in five to 10 years have regenerated the beginnings of a healthy new timber stand, but that part of the reforestation cycle is never mentioned, of course.
There are two vital reasons to care about an activist campaign only tangentially related to livestock production: For one, the strategy of condemning policies and practices in place on publicly owned forestland is eerily similar to the vitriol directed against the leasing of grazing permits to ranchers raising cattle on federally owned rangelands. In both cases, a policies based on sound science that have been in place for decades are attacked on the grounds that they runs counter to acceptable environmental best practices.
Historically, clearcutting was done fairly extensively on both on private timber stands and on public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management—up until the 1980s, that is, when stricter “multiple use” federal regulations were put into place that effectively curtailed widespread logging on public lands and sank the Northwest lumber industry into a tailspin from which it’s never recovered.
Even way back when, however, to keep timber harvesting on a 40- to 50-year cycle, nearly all of the public and private acreage that was clearcut was quickly and thoroughly replanted.
I know—I personally planted more than 200,000 trees myself, back in a previous lifetime when I spent nearly a decade working year-round in forestry.
Painting a grim picture
You have to give eco-activists, in this case the Center for Biological Diversity, which is leading the coalition in Oregon, credit for a well-chosen target. By focusing on the “horrors” of logging, specifically the imagery of clearcut hillsides devoid of trees, they can deploy imagery that is disturbing to large numbers of the public, since most people know nothing about timber harvesting.