[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]

Re: E-M:/ Deforestation, Dioxin, and No Commercial Logging!-Reply

Enviro-Mich message from "Rachel Martin" <rmartin@envirolink.org>

Hello all,

I generally stay out of discussions on this list, but I have felt compelled by the banter going on here to put in my two cents.

Firstly, I do not see any figure in Murray's post that are outrageous.  Mr. Merkel, which fantastical figures are you referring to?  To the figure that 90% of Northwoods timber goes to paper production?  If you have a different figure, I would love to hear what it is.

There are a few "myths" that have been repeated in these posts that I have heard over and over.  The first is that an end to commercial logging on PUBLIC lands would lead to an unfair pressure on private lands and third-world countries.  While this may sound like a reasonable argument, and, of course who wants to feel responsible for the terrible deforestation in other countries, the situation is really much more complicated.

First of all, as David Orr touched upon, paper is too cheap.  Logging on public lands, particularly federal lands (National Forests, BLM lands) is heavily tax-payer subsidized.  In addition, often times, the way that timber sales are designed discourages the smaller operators to have access to the subsidies.  And so we see the largest corporations dominating the public land gravy train.  This all leads to the dumping of cheap wood products, which makes it far more difficult for small woodlot owners and others who want to "do the right thing" to compete, leading to the liquidation of timber on private, particularly small private, holdings.  I guess you could draw an analogy to Wal-Mart destroying Main Street.  (Not to mention wetlands, woodlands, and farmlands!)  In addition, I am personally not against logging.  I'm supportive of truly sustainable logging on private lands.  But I do not believe that logging on our public lands is compatible with all the other uses and values (I include inherent values here as well)

Secondly, unfortunately we cannot be, not should we be, the keepers of the world.  Destroying our own forests simply is not going to keep the exploitation of Third World countries from occurring.  Reducing our consumption, setting a good example, and working with these countries to share what we've learned can help the situation.  It constantly amazes me to hear people bemoaning the loss of rainforests in Chile while we continue to mow down OUR rainforests, and convert our public lands to tree farms.  We have no right to point fingers at other countries until we practice what we preach, so to say.

And then there's the "toilet paper argument."  (I wish I had a nickel for every time I've heard this one!)  Despite Dave Merkel's dire predictions that we will no longer have any toilet paper if we stop logging public lands or practice truly sustainable forestry, this is just simply not the case.  Hell, we EXPORT vast quantities of raw (or mostly-raw) logs and pulp. There's no shortage here!  And, if you want to talk about the jobs issue, guess why you're losing 'em?  It's not the tree-hugging radical anti-logger preservationist forest fairies.  Value added jobs are drifting down the coasts to Mexico and other points south, across the seas to Japan, or are being eaten by the hydro feller-bunchers, chip mills, fiberboard plants, and other job and earth destroying machinery.   It only take about eight people (including management) to run a chip mill and two people can clearcut 100 acres in less than a day.  That's what we're dealing with here.

And I would agree with Dave Merkel that some alternatives to wood products are worse, such as plastics.  Others, like straw bale and the fiber alternatives that Murray lists, hold a lot of promise.  A question that I would have for Mr. Merkel is, where do you get the assertion that alternative fibers are not viable because they don't produce enough fiber per acre compared to wood?  I guess that if you take a myopic view, if you mow down an acre of kenaf you're not going to get as much fiber as if you mow down an acre of ancient redwood.  Or big pines and hemlocks, or a red pine plantation, or even not-even-mature sugar maples.  But next year on that same acre if you went the kenaf route you'd have another crop of kenaf.  If you went any of the other routes, you'd have some twigs, and maybe some grass.  Indeed looking long-term, an acre of hemp will yield ten times the amount of fiber than an acre of trees.

Even better, why not use agricultural wastes that are burned or landfilled each year?

Better than any of this, why not have people pay the real price for paper, create incentives for consumption reduction, stop destructful subsidies like those for logging on public lands, for landfills, etc.?

One more point I;d like to address is this old growth as wasteland issue.  This is absurd.  Before people came and logged the forests here, I am quite certain that there were deer and grouse. And a lot more--moose, elk, wolf, cougar.  The question I pose is how on earth did these creatures survive before chainsaws?  How could the forests (the dead, dying, decadent forests) have survived without our help??!!  The fact is that they did.  True, there weren't quite as many deer, but then I would adamantly state that that's a good thing.  Today our forests are losing hemlock and cedar at an alarming rate, as a result, in part, of the cycle of clearcutting and deer overpopulation (not to mention that these species do not reproduce well in a clearcut).  This wise use anthrocentric view that we must actively manage forests lest they self-destruct is scientifically unfounded, absurd, and logically skewed.

Yes, trees are renewable.  But forests are not.  True, the forest we have in Michigan now is vastly different than the forest that was here a century ago, but with each cut it's harder to go back.  Because the forests have been altered does not mean we should throw up our hands and say "it's too late."  Our public lands provide a great opportunity for forest recovery.  Our public lands are the best places to start the work toward a functional ecosystem.   We need to look at the forests, not just the trees.  

For a Wild Michigan!

*********** REPLY SEPARATOR ***********

On 6/29/99, at 7:38 AM, DAVE MERKEL wrote: 

>Enviro-Mich message from "DAVE MERKEL" <48MERDAV@menasha.com>
>Well the "enemy" has been monitoring these communications for some time (I am the director of technical and environmental departments for a paper company in Michigan, and I take my environmental responsibilities very seriously). I appreciate much of the work I see going on out there to help our environment. You may not be able to handle this thought, but some of that work is being done in the front line trenches of industry by people who are trying to make a difference from the inside out.  I think your hearts are in the right place, and I agree that more work is needed. Improving our environment can only be a good and right thing to do. Perhaps it is the least we can do. When I read the posting (reprinted below at bottom) however I had to draw the line and speak out. I am now on my bully pulpit.
>The frank fact is that the statistics quoted by Murray on "Deforestation" are pure and simple fantasy. Let me elaborate. I invite anyone to do the math (ecological mass balance) and find that if what Murray said were true, our country would be a barren wasteland now, not in the future, but immediately. The demand for paper products (our country is hungry for them, from packaging, to writing papers - I agree Murray that we should criminilize the ridiculous junk mailings) could never be met. Also, if most of the paper produced came from trees and then went into a landfill, production would cease for over 50% of the paper production in our country immediately. The next time you went to get toilet paper, buy a TV (shipped in a recyclable box), blow your nose or start a wood campfire for your kids you would not be able to get what you wanted anywhere. In some segments of the paper industry (specifically packaging, my part of the industry) - the average, yes average recycling of pap!
>er produced is 70%. The only reason it is not higher is because that last thirty percent has wax, plastics and  other coatings on it which make it impossible to recycle. Our industry has major research going on now to figure out how to recycle that last thirty percent. Murray, your numbers are a phantasmagorical nightmare. I thank God you are wrong.
>Writing paper, furniture, plywood for homes, paperboard for your cars dash, playing cards, photographic paper, not to mention 10,000 other types of wood products come to us as a renewable blessing from trees. Now think hard about this - for example, one major alternative for paper materials are plastics, synthetics, etc. most of which come from oil (a decidedly limited and certainly not renewable resource). What do you think happens during that plastic manufacturing process? What are the byproducts of their manufacture? More energy and chemicals use. Wether it be steel, plastics, or anything else that is "mined" only trees are our renewable and truly recyclable resource. They get their energy from the sun (free and zero pollution), they consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen for animals to breath, emit water vapor to absorb heat from the sun, shelter us and other animals, and are magnificently beautiful, and at the peak of their life cycle (contrary to many peoples beliefs,!
> trees do not live  forever) can produce the many beautiful things such as furniture etc. When the product is done, the carbon returns to the carbon cycle (if it is done right - I too have concerns over carbon wasting rather than returning it to the forest beds). Plastic either sits in landfills for a 1000 years, or beside the road, or requires massive input of energy to revitalize it into another product. Plastic also has a life - a number of times it can be recycled - but when it's life is over, it cannot be returned to the earth as paper and paper byproducts can. Plastics are a net carbon sink. I bet you don't hear the truth about that out there from the plastics pushers do you?
>With regards to alternatives to wood, I agree there are some viable ones out there. We have done local studies on Kenaf for example, and if there were an available source in the north, we would be experimenting with it in our process. The facts are however that per acre, Kenaf and bagasse and other alternatives do not produce nearly the usable mass per acre as trees ( in present form), and would not be able to even remotely fiber our nation, especially if those harvestable cellulose alternatives were to replace farmland (already disappearing). In addition, some products can be made from the alternative cellulose sources, and many cannot. Like all things, the physical makeup and natural characteristics of the alternative fiber source is important to making the final products. If it works it does, if it does not, it doesn't. That cannot be forced by wishing it so.
>Now, before anyone gets all upset, I, nor my company, believes that all trees should be cut down because they are recyclable and renewable (really all of us, since I assume none of you live in bark huts, eating berries, drinking rain water and riding your own small generator bike to power up and  log on to EnviroMich) We do not have a right to deforest the world, nor could it be done in our nation today if our legal process works right. Nor do I believe that old growth forests should all be cut down to prevent loss of the wood mass when it dies. My training is actually in biology (B.S. Biology 1985 Indiana University), and I know plenty about diversity, and the effects logging can have. If these old growth areas are managed correctly (basically left alone), and the other areas are replanted or regenerated, and allowed to go through full life cycles, then a sustainable forest-industry linkage is very doable. If you want to get scared, look at many of the foreign third world nat!
>ions, where environmental agendas are absolutely last in line after a population that wants to grow and modernize. Someday they, like us, will see what that cost them, but only after they are living comfortably. 
>One of the things people in this state fail to realize is that 50 - 100 years ago, this state had mostly been logged off. We built cities, and cradles to hold our babies, and burnt wood to keep from freezing to death, and cleared to make cropland to feed hungry mouths. Wether you agree or disagree that it should have happened is 100% immaterial. It may be tragic, but the fact is it happened, and now we have to go on. Many of the forests that you see today in Michigan, are either regeneration of hardwoods (most hardwood species in Michigan regenerate after cutting on their own), or plantings of softwoods. I have seen pictures of the Kellog Forest for example showing that 100 years ago that area was a barren wasteland being farmed into a dust bowl, with mud runoff choking the waters in that area. Today that area has been reforested and is gorgeous. Michigan is a much better place to live today than just a lifetime ago. Contrary to Murrays numbers, there are 30% more trees being !
>planted each year in this country than are being cut down. The statistics are true for Michigan as well. Contact your forest service if you don't believe it. The paper industry would be slitting it's own throat if that were not the case. If, and the big question is if, a company and the citizens that consume products, are good stewards, are environmentally conscious, and do the right thing, and control or modify our appetites, we will all enjoy the majesty of forest lands forever. 
>I know there are bad players out there, and they need to be brought to justice, but it is untrue that all industry are evil empire building cultists bent on raping and destroying a planet at all costs. After all, who is employed at companies? Who lives in the houses all over our country? Who consumes products in our world? Who works for EPA and MDEQ? Who posts on Enviro-Mich from their plastic computers powered by electricity? People of course. We all do. It is simply too easy to sit back and make someone nameless and faceless out there the enemy. Once they are depersonalized, it's easy to degrade them, to take away their dignity, to make money on them from the uninformed and unenlightened. I for one am not going to let that happen to me. Our country has pushed to have laws enacted that makes doing the right thing an incentive and a requirement. I think most people given the right information and backed by the right laws will make the right choices - gosh even corporate CEO's.!
> I personally am proud of the work I have done at my company in the last 10 years. It is a better place environmentally by far today than it was before I came, and if I hire in good people, and we are smart, it will be even better when I am gone.
>I invite your questions and comments.
>David Merkel
>Technical Manager
>Paperboard Division
>Menasha Corporation
>~please note this is my own opinion, and does not necessarily represent the ideas and opinions of Menasha Corporation (I have to write that!)~
>>>> <Murphwild1@aol.com> 06/20/99 09:30pm >>>
>Enviro-Mich message from Murphwild1@aol.com
>Notice (below) the increase of cosponsors of the NFPRA and especially the 
>political support of U.S. Representatives from Michigan, Wisconsin and 
>Ninety percent, yes 90%, of our public forests logged in the Northwoods go 
>for paper products. The majority of these paper products end up in landfills. 
>Species are being driven to extinction, and human quality of life degraded 
>for junk mail, cardboard, and squeaky white chlorine bleached corporate 
>letterhead, while the following non-wood fiber alternatives exist:
>In Production:
>bagasse (sugarcane residue)
>cereal straw (wheat, rye, rice residues)
>cotton linters/rags (crop residue)
>flax (crop residue)
>hemp (annual crop)
>kenaf (annual crop)
>In Development:
>corn stover (corn residue)
>elephant grass (perennial crop)
>red fescue (perennial crop)
>spartina (perennial crop)
>switchgrass (perennial crop)
>vetiver (perennial crop)
>Current paper manufacturing processes in the Northwoods of Michigan, 
>Wisconsin and Minnesota produce emmissions and effluent from pulp mills both 
>locally and globally. These mills are currently not required to do 
>Environmental Impact Statements for the areas in which they are deforesting 
>(sourcing areas) and converting to plantations.
>The use of chlorine to bleach pulp has been particularly indicted for its 
>production of dioxin, an organochlorine, as a byproduct. Transported largely 
>through the atmoshpere, dioxin, has in the last few decades become globally 
>ubiquitous and increasingly concentrated in the food chain. 
>In vertebrates, dioxion functions as an endocrine disrupter, playing havoc 
>with the reproductive systems of species ranging from alligators to eagles to 
>humans. The connection between deforestation and toxics is clear. You dont 
>have one without the other.
>Recently, Heartland Fibers, a Minnesota based pulp manufacturer, just 
>recieved the necessary investment capital to begin construction of a 140,000 
>ton/year corn stalk-based, chlorine-free pulp mill in Nebraska. It is a start.
>Is the destruction of our last remaining native and recovering forests in 
>Michigan worth a few more years of fiber? 
>For more information contact:
>Murray Dailey
>Northwoods Wilderness Recovery
> Co-Sponsors of H.R. 1396, the National Forest Protection and
>     Restoration Act as of June 11, 1999:
>     1) Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)
>     2) Jim Leach (R-IA)
>     3) Gary Ackerman (D-NY)
>     4) Robert Andrews (D-NJ)
>     5) Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
>     6) Thomas Barrett (D-WI)
>     7) David Bonior (D-MI)
>     8) George Brown Jr. (D-CA)
>     9) Michael Capuano (D-MA)
>     10) Bill Clay (D-MO)
>     11) John Conyers (D-MI)
>     12) Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
>     13) Julian Dixon (D-CA)
>     14) Bob Filner (D-CA)
>     15) Michael Forbes (R-NY)
>     16) Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN)
>     17) Barney Frank (D-MA)
>     18) Bob Franks (R-NJ)
>     19) Luis Guiterrez (D-IL)
>     20) Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
>     21) Rush Holt (D-NJ)
>     22) Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)
>     23) Jerry Kleczka (D-WI)
>     24) Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
>     25) Tom Lantos (D-CA)
>     26) John B. Larson (D-CT)
>     27) Barbara Lee (D-CA)
>     28) John Lewis (D-GA)
>     29) Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
>     30) Bill Luther (D-MN)
>     31) Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
>     32) Edward Markey (D-MA)
>     33) Matthew Martinez (D-CA)
>     34) Jim McDermott (D-WA)
>     35) James McGovern (D-MA)
>     36) Marty Meehan (D-MA)
>     37) Carrie Meek (D-FL)
>     38) Gregory Meeks (D-NY)
>     39) Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
>     40) Major Owens (D-NY)
>     41) William Pascrell (D-NJ)
>     42) Donald Payne (D-NJ)
>     43) Lynn Rivers (D-MI)
>     44) Bobby Rush (D-IL)
>     45) Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
>     46) Jose Serrano (D-NY)
>     47) Pete Stark (D-CA)
>     48) Edolphus Towns (D-NY)
>     49) Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH)
>     50) Maxine Waters (D-CA)
>     51) Mel Watt (D-NC)
>     52) Henry Waxman (D-CA)
>     53) Robert Wexler (D-FL)
>     54) Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)
>     55) Martin Meehan (D-MA)
>     56) Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)
>     57) Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY)
>     58) Eliot Engel (D-CA)
>     59) Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
>ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
>and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.   Archives at
>Postings to:  enviro-mich@great-lakes.net      For info, send email to
>majordomo@great-lakes.net  with a one-line message body of  "info enviro-mich"
>ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
>and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.   Archives at
>Postings to:  enviro-mich@great-lakes.net      For info, send email to
>majordomo@great-lakes.net  with a one-line message body of  "info enviro-mich"

ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.   Archives at

Postings to:  enviro-mich@great-lakes.net      For info, send email to
majordomo@great-lakes.net  with a one-line message body of  "info enviro-mich"