COMMENTARY: It’s time to judge forest policy by its result, not by its intent- Rural Americans suffer while the Northwest Forest Plan fails to save owls
Thanks to Bob Zybach for this one.. an op-ed in the Register Guard here.
COMMENTARY: It’s time to judge forest policy by its result, not by its intent
Rural Americans suffer while the Northwest Forest Plan fails to save owls
Published: (Sunday, May 27, 2012 04:25AM) Midnight, May 27
By Rob DeHarpport
For The Register-Guard
Failed federal policies implemented by unelected agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management during the past 30 to 40 years remind me of a quote from the late economist Milton Friedman: “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”
The Northwest Forest Plan enacted by President Clinton in 1994 may have had good intentions, but it has failed catastrophically.
According to Forest Service records, the volume of timber harvested on Forest Service lands declined from a peak in 1987 of 12.7 billion board feet to 4.8 billion board feet in 1994. That harvest further declined to 2.4 billion board feet in 2011. When the Northwest Forest Plan was adopted in 1994, harvest levels already had dropped by nearly two-thirds — and today are merely 19 percent of the peak harvest level of 1987.
Pacific Northwest forests in the spotted owl zone grow anywhere from 500 to 1,000 board feet per acre per year. The Northwest Forest Plan encompasses 23 million acres. Growth on those acres has been at least 16 billion board feet per year. During the past 18 years, the annual harvest has been only 3 percent of growth.
The resulting build-up of biomass in Northwest forests has led to catastrophic fires burning millions of acres. Spotted owl populations have crashed by 60 percent or more. The Northwest Forest Plan has failed to save owls and instead has caused the incineration of their habitat.
The Pacific Northwest is the premier timber-growing region in the world. Yet today, America is importing 40 percent of its softwoods from Canada.
Does this make any sense? We are in a prolonged period of high unemployment in America — and especially in Oregon, Washington and Northern California. Poverty in rural areas of the Northwest continues to fester.
More than 25 percent of rural Oregon families are on food stamps.
In Oakridge, 80 percent of our public school students qualify for free lunches based on family income.
The Oakridge School District now enrolls slightly more than 500 students, down from a high of nearly 1,200 just 30 years ago.
At least 44 businesses from the Oakridge-Westfir area have closed their doors since the late 1970s.
CEO Peter Pope of the shuttered Pope & Talbot mill in Oakridge said, “The spotted owl issue destroyed any chance to keep the Oakridge mill going.” Pope explained that a failed effort to save the species was the “death blow” to Oakridge.
These failed policies continue today. President Clinton promised that, “We must never forget the human element and local economies.” Guess what? Rural timber towns and their residents have been forgotten.
Local Forest Service officials are held hostage by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., and the policies they have created. Increased local control and stewardship is the logical answer, yet this solution is unattainable in the current top-down bureaucratic structure.