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E-M:/ Long awaited response to Michigan DNR.
Enviro-Mich message from Murphwild1@aol.com
The December 1996 Michigan Natural Resources Magazine's lead article,
Michigan's Forests, More Than Just Trees, presents a misleading picture for
the condition of our state and national forests. The article brings into focus
just how eagerly the timber, pulp, and paper industries are setting their
sights on our natural heritage.
Dr. Gerald Thiede, head of the state's Forest Management Division, and others
cited in the article are paving the way for complete industrial control of our
public lands. Turning our natural heritage into a giant working industrial
forest is both alarming and ill conceived.
Our state forests offer no less than our national forests when it comes to
recreation and wildlife. Biodiversity or preserving the evolutionary processes
that are under attack from heavy logging are given no priority. Those running
the system (not the many good and decent field staff) are merely figure heads,
and in most cases active business partners of those industries seeking to
exploit our resources with intensive management and lock up our Natural
Heritage for their own world economy vision. Our forests are being cut at the
expense of all the life they sustain and the recreation they provide.
Don Ingle, author of the article, likens the early raids on our forests a
century ago to "hungry locusts, an army of loggers sweeping over the forested
landscape of the north, cutting away the vast stands of pine and hardwoods and
leaving in their wake a denuded landscape of stumps and blow sand."
Having stood in many clearcuts filled with only stumps, mangled slash debris,
and witness to countless instances of soil erosion and sedimentation into
rivers and streams, I find it hard to follow the articles attempt to prove
how much better our modern foresters are managing our forests.
Nothing in Ingle's article indicates that a view has changed at all from those
early days a century ago. I credit them with their skill at leading
unsuspecting people to believe otherwise.
Ingle writes that the early philosophy of lumberman was, "Cut and get out
before the taxes eat you up." Fortunately for the industry CEO's of Mead and
Champion International, they no longer pay any significant taxes and are
subsidized on federal land through tax-payer funded FS road building.
Deforesters philosophy now is cut quick before the American public, wilderness
advocates and environmentalists make us comply with the law, and before they
succeed in ending our massive corporate welfare handouts.
A little more than one dollar an acre is paid by corporations who's lands are
enrolled in the Commercial Forest Act (CFA .) If not enrolled in CFA lands, Ad
valorum rates are used which range from 5-8 dollars an acre. Dr. Theide seems
to place some special importance on the fact that the public has use of those
corporate CFA lands, as if to justify giving industry cart blanche is a
privilege of ours.
I can not verify the early attitudes of the lumberman, but I can accurately
discern the prevailing policies of the DNR, FS, and logging industry today.
The timber, pulp and paper industries get the best of our public lands for
nearly free, huge tax breaks on their own lands, while the FS builds roads
with our tax dollars on federal lands. They are so used to "feeding at the
trough" of public dollars, subsidies, and tax breaks, they believe they are
granting us special privileges for recreation and, say, the study of
endangered species on OUR public land. Any one who is worried about our
forests being locked up?--look at who is currently working the system. Our
public lands are less and less under our control. This shares a very
disturbing similarity to the political structure of the former Soviet Union.
Robin Bertsch, DNR Forest Development Executive, believes Michigan will be on
the right track if it chooses to manage our forests with a "global economy
vision." To validate this emerging goal of gaining absolute control of our
public lands for their global vision, they have been tauting recent Forest
Service Inventories. This inventory claims there is more timber grown than
harvested every year. The inventories state that 53 percent of our state is
covered by forest land, and of that, 19.3 million acres are classified as
commercial timberland, and that the forest base continues to grow every year.
Policy Science is Bunk!
On federal lands, the FS hires biologists to do the Environmental Impact
Statements and Environmental Analysis. They hire their own experts for a
guaranteed rubber stamp of approval. On state land there are no substantial
Threatened and Endangered Species studies done. Biologists on state land are
often not allowed to do endangered species survey work because their incomes
and wages are largely paid through funds from the Deer Range Improvement
Program. This program embraces a policy of clearcutting forests for deer food.
The artificially inflated deer herd numbers result in cycles of starvation and
severe overgrazing of forests. In Menominee County, deer herds are so high
that hardwoods do not grow back due to heavy deer grazing. White cedar,
hemlock, and Canadian yew are components of old growth forests that simply do
not grow back where deer overgraze, or where cuts have occurred. The DNR and
the FS presume to think that all of Michigan's residents are content with tree
farms of aspen, grouse and white-tailed deer.
It is important to know that when foresters and public officials from the DNR
and FS talk about science, it is the science of agricultural tree-farming. It
is the science of growing trees as efficiently as corn or wheat or soybean.
Tree species such as hemlock, white cedar, eastern white pine and yellow birch
are tragically missing because industrial forest science has been unable to
successfully regenerate those species. These species take at least 100-150
years to begin maturing into forests that provide habitat for many forest
species dependent on old growth. This is too long for our Industrial tree
farmers. The "science" applied and used by the FS, DNR and industry is only
effective for growing tree crops. On many of the Commercial Forest Act (CFA)
lands owned by corporations, the jack pine, red pine plantations, and aspen
monocultures are slow to regenerate. These farms neither look like forests or
provide the habitat needed for many forest species. I have seen many of the
tree farms on Mead lands in Marquette county. They resemble Christmas tree
farms at best, and at worst look so denuded that they evoke sympathy, sadness
and disgust. A forest mosaic of natural succession has been eliminated.
Herbicides, used to kill competing vegetation that would invade the tree
plantation, are heavily applied.
Conservation Biology has not been conducted on most public and CFA lands. The
Forest Service and DNR have failed miserably to incorporate the principles of
conservation biology in forest management. For many animal and plant species
like the goshawk, red-shouldered hawk, lynx, cerulean warbler, botryiccium,
hemlock, white cedar, and eastern white pine, it is a bleak future indeed.
There is a large and growing body of scientific (again, not forestry science)
evidence that show many species of plants and animals are heavily dependent on
original, mature, primary, and ancient forests. As Mr. Ingles article goes on
about the virtues of an industrial forest landscape, we hear next to nothing
about sincere efforts or plans to protect forests that provide the habitat for
species that are already imperiled or those that are threatened. Endangered
species are viewed by the current forest managers and industry as mere
nuisances. At best their habitat is just "something to cut around and up to."
Michigan Sierra Club has been urging foresters to establish an old growth
management plan to protect the many sensitive and rare species in the Huron
Manistee National Forest for some time. While it is true that in some
instances there are programs to protect or restore endangered plants or
animals, they have only come about due to citizen activists or wilderness
protection groups that have built community support to enforce environmental
laws. These instances are the exception not the rule.
An old growth forest plan actually being implemented does not fit well into
the plans of those currently mismanaging our public lands for their World
Economy Vision. It would mean that agencies would have to use credible science
and bring representation of all ecosystems into a management plan transcending
the sectors and quadrants of county, state and federal boundaries. The land
and vision are waiting to be implemented, but the leadership is tragically
In Ingles article, Robin Bertsch takes opportunity to discuss the virtues of
professional resource managers by claiming that "it would be better to meet
growing global consumptive demands from a more developed nation such as the
U.S who has the trained professional stewards who will avoid potential
problems such as deforestation and environmental degradation."
What he hasn't told you; Nearly one-half million acres are annually clearcut
on national forests. Tree farms now replace native forests on tens-of-millions
of acres of public lands. He hasn't explained how the cumulative effect of
years and years of logging will eventually replace all of our natural forests
with plantations unable to provide habitat for many species, and how logging
and road building are changing the hydrology of whole ecosystems, etc...
In May 1996, 30+ acres of a slope toppled over into the bed of Michigan's
Yellow Dog River in Marquette County. The river bed shifted over 200 feet from
its original position. The slope has been selectively cut for hardwoods on an
intensive rotation cycle for years. To suggest that these problems are not
faced by our "resource managers" is in part true. They either refuse to face
them or they are just plain misleading us.
Mr. Bertsch has gone so far to state, "In the Lake States, Wisconsin,
Minnesota and Michigan, forests now are relatively undermanaged." He professes
"at a minimum we could increase the annual forest growth in Michigan by at
least 50 percent over current levels." And for Forest Chief Thiede, "this
does not have to come at a cost to traditional values such as wildlife or
other recreational or aesthetic values." His answer, more cutting! Yes, he
claims many aspen stands are getting too old and diseased--a forest health
problem. This, our "modern resource managers" claim is a burgeoning problem.
The FS, timber industry, and various congresspeople including Rep Bart Stupak
(MI-D), have discovered that a phony "forest health crisis" provide a brash
and politically expedient opportunity to log and road much of our remaining
wildlands and native forests.
Mr. Theide's answer reflects the most threatening aspect of rationalization
for the forest health crisis--new industries that utilize these dead and dying
trees for particle board, paper products, pulp and chopsticks. Dead and dying
trees have been part of the natural forest mosaic for eons providing habitat
for plants and animals and nutrients for soil cycling.
Mr. Theide absurdly claims "our aspen needs to be harvested by clearcuts in
time to allow sunlight to reach the ground and allow new growth to begin from
the root system." So the answer to nearly everything our resource managers
face is to cut, whether it is for endangered species or making room for
I say we need to remove from office and agency those who would turn our
forests and Natural Heritage into biological deserts, take away all the money
of ours they squander, and start all over from the roots up. With public
support, credible science and scientists from the public sector, citizen
oversight, common sense and honor, we can protect what is ours.
We need more men and women who will prioritize the protection of life, not
investments for corporations, their shareholders, Forest Service Budgets and a
new world order at the expense of a shrinking natural world and all that life
has to offer.
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