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SnowOwl August 2004


Clear Cutting:
The removal of the entire standing crop of trees. In practice, may refer to exploitation that leaves much not saleable material standing (e.g. a commercial clear-cutting).

Clear-cut in the Mattole- MAXXAM's property.


Myth: Logging our watersheds is only done to improve water quality.

Truth: Logging increases erosion, run-off and silt in our reservoirs which inevitably degrades water quality. Logging is done because the bureaucrats in charge of it want to keep their jobs.

Freshwater Creek
Devastation site just 20 feet away from "Jerry" - the tree Remedy sat in for 361 days.
Photo courtesy of SACRED.

Myth: Logging reduces fire hazard.

Truth: Logging leaves cut-over areas with slash open to the direct sun which dry out and increase fire hazard.

Myth: Old growth rainforests are full of sick, diseased and decadent trees. A young forest is more healthy.

Truth: Old growth rainforests are healthy ecosystems which have evolved over thousands of years to be more resistant to insects and disease. They are naturally regenerating, with trees of all different ages. Decaying wood retains water and supports new life. The needles of big, old trees filter water and their roots hold soils in place. A young even-aged forest which follows clear-cutting is much more prone to fire, insects, disease and erosion.


Photograph from Olympic National Forest, 1997
Mary Pax Lenney, Center for Remote Sensing, Boston University.
Myth: Salvage logging is needed after forest fires to aid ecosystem recovery.

Truth: No, it is not. In fact, salvage, and the road building, cat skidding, and log removal it involves increase erosion, reduce habitat for wildlife, and fragment what wild lands we have left. In fact, fire suppression (bulldozed fire lanes and backburns) in combination with salvage are the greatest threat to North Americas remaining wilderness. Forest fires are a natural part of our ecosystem and contribute to the health of our forests. Fires should be suppressed only in tourist and rural interface areas.


Myth: Logging is needed to create jobs and save the economy.

Truth: Sustainable logging is required to truly create the economy that provides jobs long-term. Studies in the Pacific Northwest have shown that, acre-for-acre, ancient forest systems provide more economic benefit and jobs left standing than cut down.


Myth: Timber is needed to build homes

Truth: More timber is most emphatically not needed to build homes. Homes can be built from many renewable materials which are available at a lower cost, with desirable building attributes and with less fire hazard.

A clear-cut area on Routes 6 and 15 toward Rockwood, Maine
Photo: Marny Ashburne
Throughout the entire region, forests were cleared at a rate of about 0.54 percent of the total area per year. To put that in perspective, natural disturbance in Northern Forest ecosystems creates large openings at a rate of much less than 0.25 percent per year.

Clearing rates were highest in Maine because of:

A higher concentration of industrial landowners (who were the most likely to make widespread use of clear-cutting).

Extensive salvage harvesting during a severe spruce budworm epidemic, which killed large areas of spruce-fir forest between the early 1970s and the mid 1980s.

The more gentle topography, which allows more extensive use of mechanized harvesting equipment.


There continues today to be a concern about forest management practices on both federally held and private and industrial lands. To many recreational users of national forests and to conservationists, the U.S. Forest Service has been more interested in timber sales than in managing the forestland for wildlife habitat and human recreation.

Some Texas environmental organizations have been concerned over the Forest Service practice of clear-cuttingthe felling of all trees in a designated area in one operation. This practice converts the native mixed forests to single-species, even-age timber crops and has a number of negative consequences.*

Clear-cutting often results in:

(1) the elimination of the native forest ecosystem, causing vastly reduced habitat for wildlife;
(2) increased erosion, with attendant stream silting and nutrient loss from the soil;
(3) impairment of recreational values because of loss of wildlife viewing and other experiences associated with forests; and
(4) susceptibility of the forest to insect damage, diseases, acid rain, and blown-down trees.*

An alternative to clear-cutting is a process called selection management. Under selection management, individual trees are marked and cut, creating small clearings that allow for regeneration through natural reseeding from remaining trees.

Authorities believe that shifting from even-age management to selection management would yield enormous benefits to wildlife and to the productivity of forestland.














8 2 1 16 0 10 1 52
US 37 55 27 25 130 256 301 169 1000

An Aerial View of the North Side Headwaters Grove - An Elk River Timber clearcut bordering Headwaters Grove on the north side, showing the stark contrast between old growth redwood and cutover industrial forestland.
Clear cutting forests is the most economical way to harvest trees. Unfortunately, it looks unsightly, and may have other environmental consequences - for example, there may be damage to salmon bearing streams. Critics of clear cutting have called for selective harvesting where trees are selected for harvest but the surrounding forest remains basically intact.

1. In a review of existing clear cut and selectively cut areas, it was found that streams in clear cut areas produced less salmon, on average, than streams in selectively cut areas. Critics of this report noted that this was based on observational data. Briefly, why is this a problem?

Solution The basic problem is ``No causation without manipulation''. Because this is an observational study, it may happen that clear cut or selectively cut status may be confounded with another another variable which really influences salmon production. For example, selective harvesting may be more suitable for gently sloped areas where salmon prefer to spawn, while clear cutting may be more suitable for very steep areas where salmon seldom spawn. Because we didn't randomize, we don't know that other factors such as the above are roughly equal in both groups.}
The Jordan Creek Landslides: These disastrous slides, originating on Pacific Lumber clearcuts, buried a mile of productive salmon habitat under a torrent of debris 15 feet deep and up to 250 feet wide.
Logging companies say the milling of Tennessee's forests is good for the economy and the environment.
by Glynn R. Wilson

They had waited for weeks to fly north for an update on the status of the massive clear-cutting taking place in a six-county area just north of Knoxville.

Cruising through the sky at about 1,500 feet, 140 mph, the scene changed at the approach to Campbell County. Lush Appalachian central highlands forest gave way to huge swaths of desert tan clear-cuts, some smoking from the fires of burning tree tops dead on the ground. This is what Davenport and Myczack came to see.

At the Campbell County Airport, the plane takes on another passenger, Doug Murray, who set up an environmental group called "The Center" three years ago. In the air again, his long dark hair flailing in the breeze, Murray points to the cause of the deforestation and the current object of local environmentalists' fears: a wood chip mill.

"The native hardwood forests are being stripped for the domestic and Asian pulp mills and, in some cases, converted to pine plantations," Murray says, opening the Cessna window to take pictures from high above the mill. "They say the forests are in terrible shape and need to be cut down for their own health and benefit. We don't buy it. This is deforestation on a massive scale, clearly unsustainable. It needs to be stopped, and only the people of Tennessee can stop it." Doug Murray

From 1890 to 1940, logging companies cut all but the most remote and steep slopes in the South to provide raw materials for houses and factories in a growing industrialized country. Eventually, the demand for wood slackened as steel became the construction material of choice for the military and other industries. By then, though, the notion of an old growth forest in the South existed mainly as a fading memory. The record of that devastation is available on yellowing black and white film in archives and books. In those days, two-man teams cut trees from sun up to sun down with giant cross saws. Horses and mules drug the trees on cables to sprawling train tracks, which whisked the timber away.

This time around, the efficiency of the machinery for felling trees is unparalleled, like something out of an Edward Abbey novel. Mammoth bulldozers drag whole trees on cables up the steepest of mountain slopes. It's called cable logging, and you have to see it to believe it. On one hand, logging methods today are technological, industrial marvels--highly productive and cheap. For instance, Champion's investment in East Tennessee land and the chip mill totals $13 million, and it takes only four to six men to run it. Much of the logging itself is hired out to local contractors who must submit competitive bids. Champion employs a grand total of 12 people in Tennessee, about one per $1.1 million investment.

While the wood products market is a bit volatile and prices vary, estimates place the average value of a saw timber tree at $400. But when taken for chips, the smaller, lower quality trees go for about $4, from land where property taxes average only $1.50 to $2 an acre. It's quick and easy to turn a forest into chips. The size of the log doesn't matter, and the transportation method is cheap. All of it amounts to what environmentalists are calling "a quiet rape" of the Southeastern environment.

The company has an air pollution permit to chip 256 tons per hour, 10 hours a day, for a yearly production of 400,000 tons of chips from 450,000 tons of trees. At that level, Murray estimates Champion will consume 10,000 acres a year--too much, he says, to allow for real reforestation.

"When you're re-cutting every 30 or 40 years, you're never going to get the benefits of a regenerated forest," Murray says. "You're not going to be producing any saw logs. You're talking small, immature trees. So talking about gaining quality forest is a moot point. It's all going to go for pulp forests" in perpetuity, or until the soil crashes. Doug Muray

The devastated Lawrence Creek watershed, on PL/MAXXAM land between Headwaters Grove and All Species Grove.
Clear Cut in Hiawatha, Fall 2002
I really debated this photo, not only in taking it, but in putting it on here. This is a section of Hiawatha that was clear cut, I am assuming for selective logging or forestry management. Regardless, it was a really disturbing site. It felt like the land was scarred and that an crucial part of the forest was missing. It might have been less disturbing had they actually taken all the trees instead of leaving skeletal remains.

The green on the ground in the photo is ferns. They were the only ones in all of Hiawatha that had not started to turn yellow/brown. I'm surprised they could survive in full sun, since ferns are definitely deep shade plants.

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