THE NEW YORK
TIMES, SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 1993
From Hicksville and Its Trees,
A Leader in Forest Preservation
Long Islanders are enamored of the ocean and beaches, but Carl
Ross of Hicksville has always loved trees. So much so that he
has lobbied Congress for three years for legislation to protect
ancient forests on Federal land.
Mr. Ross has helped shape a legislative proposal to ban clear
cutting in all national forests, the Forest Biodiversity and
Clear Cutting Prohibition bill. It "is the most important
forest legislation in history, bar none," he said.
Besides prohibiting clear cutting on all forested Federal lands
including wildlife refuges and military bases, the bill would
also prevent the construction of logging roads in the 60 million
acres of roadless areas. Of primary importance to Mr. Ross the
law would require the revegetation of logged areas.
|'Natural bio-diversity is important
above all else,' a bill says.
"For the first time, " he said, "the law is declaring
that natural biodiversity is important above all else. The Forest
Service will be required to restore all the original native
plants and animals that originally existed on that site before
human intervention. That sounds complicated. But once scientists
identify keystone species other native bird species will return,
and plants will colonize. It reminds me of my seventh-grade
biology teacher, Mrs. Schweitzer, who said "we have to
relearn the lessons of nature."
Mr. Ross, 40, is a co-director of Save America's
Forests in Washington. He founded the group in May 1990 with Mark
Winstein, a lighting consultant from Missouri, and Chris Van Daalen,
a student from Oregon.
"I knew we needed to have a stronger voice here on the part
of the national forests," Mr. Ross said. "Public lands
all over the country, especially the Northwest, are being cut at
an alarming rate. Only 5 percent of old-growth forests are left.
At this point the forests are being logged to the point of extinction,
and in some cases were talking about trees that were standing before
From the Suburbs to the Woods
The North Fork Environmental Council, the Huntington Audubon Society
and the Nassau-Suffolk Neighborhood Network are in the 300-member
coalition of Save America's Forests.
"I'm a typical average baby boomer who grew up in the post-World
War II suburbs," Mr. Ross said. "I roamed in the nearby
woods. I climbed trees, fished and camped. As a kid you get a sense
of nature's being endless and vast. But as I grew up I saw one by
one the fields I'd known disappear."
Earth Day in 1970 was a turning point, he said, adding: "I
joined up with a group of students from a high school environmental
club, and we published a newspaper advocating that the Shattuck
estate in Plainview be preserved. And eventually Nassau County acquired
Mr. Ross studied ecology, economy and politics at Columbia University,
traveled to Indian reservations, worked on East End farms and helped
his father, an artist, design bird models. In 1989 he began working
with the South Shore chapter of the Audubon Society.
'So Simple' to Become Involved
"Carl is very soft-spoken, but very driven, " Annie McIntyre
of the chapter said, recalling slide shows that he organized and
petitions that he collected. "If it weren't for the forests
Carl would be dedicated to fixing something in this nonperfect world."
When he began lobbying three years ago, Mr. Ross recalled, he and
Mr. Winstein testified before a Senate committee and took along
posters of satellite photographs of clear-cut forests. "Even
the senators who consistently opposed forest-protection legislation
looked at them and gasped," Mr. Ross said. "Unfortunately
it didn't change their vote. Congress is a very interesting institution.
They're a bunch of guys who bring home the money for pork barreling.
They make up their own rules.
"Clinton has a lot of environmentalists in his Administration.
But even he has run into roadblocks. As part of his budget he proposed
to end some timber sales that were losing hundreds of millions of
dollars. Several senators told him if he included these money-saving
items they wouldn't vote for his budget."
Mr. Ross has mixed feelings about Congress. "Everyone comes
to Washington to get what they want," he said. "If we
demand that our representatives truly represent us, they'll do the
things we want. They're playing with our money. I talk to school
and civic groups all the time, and I tell them, 'It's so simple.'
To that end S.A.F. has published a citizens' action guide and facts
network. We want people to get involved."
Responding to critics who call environmentalists "tree huggers,"
he said: "Trees provide oxygen and clean water. We can't live
without them. Every human being, whether he or she hugs or kisses
a tree, needs trees."
Mr. Ross said the 90 million acres of Federal forests should be
saved not only for their beauty and ecosystems, but also for economic
reasons. "Every year the American taxpayer is paying to have
our forests looted," Mr. Ross said. "The U.S. Forest Service
loses about $1 billion a year because they build the roads for timber
companies, then sell trees for a lot less than it costs to cut them.
When an area is clear cut - the practice of cutting all or most
trees in one area - the Forest Service then plants rows of single
species of trees. Unfortunately most of the seedlings die, and those
that live can't support the previous variety of animal and plant
Long Islanders may feel far removed from forest issues, but "40
to 50 percent of Long Island's garbage," Mr. Ross said, "is
forest material ' cardboard, paper, wood - that was used just once
and thrown away."
"The garbage crises is the forest crises," he added.
The director of the North Fork Environmental Council, Sherry Johnson,
sees a parallel between the forest movement and the controversy
over the pine barrens of Long Island. "Powerful vested interests
say we can't afford to protect nature because people need to work,"
Ms. Johnson said. "But their actions, be it overdevelopment
or clear cutting, have already undercut the economy and cost desperate
workers their jobs. Unfortunately, in both cases, environmentalists
have been made the scapegoat."
"It was not the Northern spotted owl that's been putting loggers
out of work," Mr. Ross said. "It's the timber companies
that clear cut one area, then move on to other forested regions,
and then to another and another. It's the huge overseas exports
of raw unprocessed logs - 60 percent of all logs go to Japan. A
lot of mills have gone bankrupt because so many logs aren't milled
in this country."
Dangers of Single-Industry Areas
Mr. Ross and his staff helped write legislation, the Community Economic
Transition Program, which is not part of the Forest Biodiversity
measure, to help workers and communities who depend on federally
subsidized logging. The bill intends to help the switch to a continuous
sustainable economy. It would create economic incentives for recycling
and manufacturing secondary forest products and includes plans for
selecting just weak or dead trees for cutting and restoring forests.
"A one-industry town," Mr. Ross said, "is bad for
David Boren, Democrat of Oklahoma, is planning to introduce the
forest bill in the Senate, and Mr. Ross worked closely with his
staff while the bill was being written. Mr. Ross said his staff
also drafted separate legislation to insure compensation for timber
workers and their communities.
Mr. Ross now spends most of his time in the capital. " I do
miss Long Island," Mr. Ross said. He called Washington "culture-clash
"It can be a bizarre place, especially now that it's crawling
with celebrities," he said. "Returning from a lobbying
meeting one day I saw Robert Redford coming out of the House Cannon
office building." Mr. Ross and his staff are also working with
recycling groups, and he said he hoped that eventually large areas
of the country would be restored to their natural states. "We
probably won't live to see what were fighting for accomplished,"
Mr. Ross said, but "we're dancing with the giants and doing