SAVING THE FORESTS
Last week Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J. introduced the Save
America's Forests Act, a bill that would protect 17 million acres
of "core forest areas" nationwide. His bill continues
an honorable environmental tradition established by the senator's
predecessor, Bill Bradley.
The legislation would ban logging on 13 million acres of the
nation's irreplaceable old-growth forests in the Northwest, as
well as on 4 million additional acres in specially designated
areas across the nation. Logging and road construction would be
forbidden in roadless areas 5,000 acres of larger in the West
and 1,500 acres or larger in the more congested East.
It's remarkable that the nation still has that much old-growth
forest left to protect after well over a century of government
subsidies for ruthless logging practices on federal lands. The
American Forest and Paper Association, however, seems troubled
that vast areas remain still in their virgin condition. "Without
utilizing forest management techniques-such as clearcutting-that
mimic natural forest processes, diverse landscapes and resulting
wildlife habitats could not be naturally maintained," thundered
an AFandPA press release. We can only say that anyone capable
of maintaining a straight face while equating clearcutting with
"natural forest processes" will always be able to make
a good living as a lobbyist.
Sen. Torricelli's bill wouldn't ban logging on federal lands,
but it would end the cut-and-run practices that the timber industry,
with taxpayer subsidies, has long enjoyed there. The legislation
would forbid clearcutting, establish special protections for stream
and river corridors and create a panel of scientists to guide
federal forest management practices.
Private citizens and determined environmental organizations have
long made effective use of their right to sue in civil court to
enforce the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts when government won't.
The Torricelli legislation would give citizens the same right
to go to court to enforce federal forest protection law, a prospect
that timber companies dread. Commendably, it would set a high
priority on protecting native plants and animals where population
are healthy, and restoring biodiversity in areas that have been
disrupted. At this late hour in the twentieth century it's clear
that the best use of federal forest lands is the preservation
of our native biological heritage.
As vast as these federal lands are, 80% of the nation's timber
supply still comes from private forest acreage. Sen. Torricelli's
legislation would free the national forests from plundering by
parochial special interests, but it wouldn't deprive the country
of lumber or paper.
It would be wonderful if every American, at least once, could
walk through the cathedral grandeur of an ancient forest. If Sen.
Torricelli's bill becomes law, as it should, every American for
all time to come will have that opportunity.