Updated: Apr 29, 2020
I don’t know about you, but as soon as I start to talk about cutting down trees… I often receive wide-eyed, doe-eyed looks like I just said I killed Bambi’s mother
(which by the way… as a hunter, and venison lover, I totally would have done that too, but that’s beside the point…)
What is it about the concept of cutting down trees, harvesting, logging, however you want to label it, that makes many folks gasp in disbelief?
Well, there are probably several factors to blame: the “Kroger” syndrome (where people believe their food magically arrives at the grocery store vs being grown on a farm), childhood stories and movies such as Fern Gully (with the bull dozer and oil monster coming to cut down the fairies trees/homes in the rainforest), The Lorax (where ALL the sneads were cut down to make fashion and now society only has artificial trees), and even on many “bottom line emails” about not printing the email out to save paper and thus “save” a tree….
Now, please don’t mistake this that I’m okay with cutting and converting the Amazon Rainforest, or the Giant Sequoia’s in California. But, why is it that we associate THOSE concepts to the every-day logger and tree harvest? I could talk for days on the truths and benefits of tree harvests and clearcuts, but I am going to stick to 5 common misconceptions I hear
almost . every . single . time .
So let’s debunk these statements!
1) “Cutting” trees is NOT “deforestation”.
Now the technical definition, according to Google, of deforestation is the clearing a wide area of trees/forest. By this blanket definition a clearcut would fall into the category… however the story does NOT stop there. Logging and clearcuts and tree harvesting for forest management does not END with the harvest – but has a waiting period and is REPLANTED. A new forest is planted, often times the following winter from when it was logged. Why is it not planted right away after the trees are removed? Well 1: because you can only plant tree seedlings between November and February, during winter when the seedlings are dormant, otherwise they’ll die. 2: If you plant too soon after a harvest, you increase the risk of your new seedlings getting infected by insects called pales weevils, which again, might eat your seedlings after they invade the stumps of the fresh harvest, it’s recommended to leave ~5 months after a harvest for the weevils to leave the stumps. 3: it’s simply a good thing to let the ground “rest” after having equipment operations, this will also help reduce soil compaction and allows revegetation to occur which help reduce any soil erosion that may occur (site dependent). Deforestation assumes that’s the end of the story, and IF the land is cleared and paved over and converted to a shopping center, or even converted to an agricultural field, then yes that could be called deforestation… but that is not forestry. So remember, not every clearcut you see is being converted to a parking lot or blueberry field. Some are just in their transitional phase to be replanted.
2) You should NEVER cut trees, and just leave the forest be “Natural”
Okay- let’s get this straight… there are hardly any “natural” forests- and even those that people visualize in their minds-eye of what they perceive to be a natural forest, is not “natural”. It had at one point been harvested (most likely, there are a few exceptions to this- and most of those exceptions are in national forests), but referring to perceived natural forests they are, most likely, being periodically thinned OR having some other management activities done to them. Forests that are left completely “natural” have a high risk of forest health diseases AND wildfire impacts. Just as an example, think of the catastrophic California wildfires a few summers ago… Now, I’m not saying ALL those fires were because of unhealthy forests, however it is noted that many of those forests were overstocked and had heavy fuel loads (aka the plant matter that is combustible). Natural forests are more likely to be susceptible to major diseases and insects because of their tendency to be over-crowded and thus the trees become stressed. And like humans who are stressed are more likely to catch a cold, and then the flu, which make them more susceptible to other health issues… trees are the same way when they become stressed. When they become malnourished due to their stressful and overcrowded conditions, they are more likely to not be able to fend off basic forest fungus and insects, which then make them more susceptible to major insect infestations. And naturally now with a ton of dead/dying trees, which equals dry wood, makes wildfires MORE damaging than fires which are started (naturally) within healthy ecosystems. “Well nature will take care of itself!” Your right… it will… with insect, disease and wildfires….
3) I want to save trees so I don’t use paper products and that will help save wetlands from being destroyed.
Okay, that’s great. I’m glad you’re using renewable products. But, just because you’re not using paper directly (… and if COVID-19 has taught us anything is that apparently toilet paper is basically gold, and Amazon Delivery, *in cardboard boxes* is King…), you are still using TREE products with other aspects of your life. There’s homes construction, furniture (even IKEA furniture), female products, baby products, and even cell phone screens… so basically at least the one product every American keeps glued to their hand, has components made from tree products. And that doesn’t even factor in all the other products in our life that are made in some way or another from trees (which by the way is next to everything… except sponges, because those are sponges…) Also, honestly those wetlands are not being created into paper (at least not those cypress tree images you see in advertisements talking about how logging and forestry is destroying the environment). Looking at it economically, the landowner lost A LOT of money if they sold their beautiful cypresses for pulp. THOSE trees in the emotional photos and videos are being sent to make specialty products, veneer and nice lumber. So the next time you see an advertisement that shows images of logging and emphasizing the destruction of the environment to promote their “tree-free” paper products…. Remember that is most likely NOT the true story behind those videos and images. I have nothing against using bamboo, hemp or 100% recyclable materials- I just want YOU to know that paper products does NOT equal wetland destruction (or any other forest destruction in the United States at least).
4) Logging destroys the environment!
Okay, so this slightly piggy-backs on point 3, but covers all types of logging: thinning, clearcuts, hardwoods, pine plantations, swamp logging. Logging does not destroy the environment. First off, because if it did the loggers would essentially be putting themselves out of a job, and no one wants to do that on purpose. Secondly, there are forestry best management practices (bmps) loggers and foresters follow to be sure the environment is being taken care of. BMP’s are voluntary practices that are followed to minimize sedimentation and erosion to waterways. Now, each state is different on what they have addressed in their BMP’s, but in general there are sections that cover harvesting, reforestation, road construction, prescribe burning, and how to minimize soil compaction and erosion while performing management operations. Third references bullet 1: IF it is a FORESTRY logging operation, (not a developmental clearing or conversion) the same area being logged WILL be replanted in trees which will be growing new forests (and will hopefully be logged again in the future…)
5) What about all the animals?! Where do they go when you destroy their home?
The first question I always ask is “Which animals? Which wildlife?” Now, I know everyone is concerned about the wildlife during a harvest. But trust me. They’re okay. Unless they are listed as endangered, the logging operation will only put a minor inconvenience within their lives. But the truth is wildlife are diverse. Most require a diverse set of habitat types over a wide home range (where an animal will naturally roam and inhabit during their lifetime). Just like YOU don’t only sit in your living room and front yard (with the exception of this self-isolation period), wildlife do not sit only on one tract. For example a deer’s home range can range from 500 to 800 acres! But let’s go back to my question of “what wildlife?” Because with the destruction of one habitat type there is the creation of another habitat type! There will now be different birds that didn’t exist in the fully wooded forest. There will now be rabbits and other rodents, butterflies, and even deer and turkey will enjoy the new vegetative growth of the opening that was just created. So what about the animals?? They’re okay- and you’re actually IMPROVING the ecosystem as a whole.
Finally, it is simple common sense of economics. The heart can love the forests and environment all it wants- but if there is no ability to receive income and revenue to help afford the land (land payments, taxes, etc), then it is likely not to stay in forest and be converted to another best economic use.
So, lets embrace loggers and harvesting! Let’s embrace paper products and utilizing wood in more of our lives. Let us continue the sustainability and stewardship of our working forests.