RE: NANFA-- soapboxes and ugly fish

Jay DeLong (
Mon, 23 Aug 1999 23:31:39 -0700

> "But are there any "wild-eyed", largely unecessary, or unjustly
> destructive/expensive conservation efforts underway right now?" Well, I
> think you mentioned the one that has received the most media attention in
> the past, which is the spotted owl controversy. I was living in
> Washington at the time and saw the economic depression that hit many
> small logging towns. I think we should preserve some old growth forest,
> but I also believe that timber is a crop, much like wheat.

Conservation of old-growth forests is not unnecessary, destructive or
expensive. I've driven through those logging communities and seen the
cardboard signs in their lawns saying "This family supported by timber
dollars". What those signs should really say is "This family was screwed by
the timber industry". The issue isn't whether these logging communities can
continue to exist and thrive, even though these uninformed (and
propagandized) logging communities continue to state that. Their days were
numbered-- they just didn't know it-- and it wasn't because of the spotted
owl or conservation groups or liberal politicians. The very companies they
worked for did them in. Because of the abundance of old growth timber, and
decades of easy access to millions of acres of forest, the logging companies
tooled up to cut only one type of tree-- large old growth. Communities
sprang up all over from northern California to British Columbia for one
thing-- logging the ancient forest. Timber was the cash crop for this area
for decades, and in a relatively short period of time over 90% of the
old-growth forest disappeared. Logging is one of the most dangerous and
difficult occupations in the world, and these people are proud of their
heritage. But these people weren't trained to do anything else and they did
it for generation after generation. They became so dependent on logging
that changes in economics and policy devastated their communities.

I agree that you can sometimes compare timber to a crop like wheat, but you
can't compare old growth forests to tree plantations. Tree plantations are
monocultures of a desireable tree planted and managed for harvest similar to
what occurs in the eastern U.S. Old growth forests are complex ecosystems
of many life forms and ecological relationships. A true cost-benefit
analysis of logging old-growth will never be attainable because we don't
know all the benefits (and therefore the associated costs to compare to the
value of the wood in the trees, the livelihoods of the loggers and timber
companies, etc.). Dave's reference to the cancer-fighting value of the
Pacific yew, an uncommon, slow-growing woody plant, is just one example of
recent advances in research.

Old growth forests are not properly managed by the timber companies for
future harvest. As most people know, their methods have historically been
clear-cut and move on. These are federal lands and these companies are
cutting trees and destroying an ecosystem that belongs to all of us. This
is no different than a factory polluting a river that we all share. The
effects of water pollution are generally evident, but with logging they can
be subtle and long-term.

Oops, this is a fish discussion list. Exactly! Old growth logging
practices have direct and indirect negative effects on fish populations.
Examples include canopy removal and increased water temperatures, erosion
and siltation of spawning gravels, flooding, decreased oxygen-carrying
capacity of the water, changes in nutrient input, changes in invertebrate
communities, and increased flow which scours out the river bottom and along
with it salmon nests and spawning gravels to name some significant ones.
These have been occurring on a coastwide scale, but the immediate value of
wood from these forests has until now been enough to ignore these effects.
Not any more. We're now all bracing for a mega-financial hit from the ESA
listing of Pacific salmon-- species absolutely dependent on the quality of
the rivers that drain these forests.

Pacific salmon are the keynote fishes for this region, but there are others
in trouble that aren't getting any press or public sympathy. I believe the
reasons there is so much money and effort being directed to saving salmon
(dam removal projects totaling over a billion dollars, 100 million dollars
being allocated by the present Congress for new salmon projects, lots of
other state and federal funds) are money and popularity. Salmon are so
significant to the region financially. Add to that a large segment of the
population here who is sympathetic to the species (salmon biology is taught
in schools--they're part of our culture) and you've got the ingredients for
fish conservation.

What chance does the Alabama sturgeon have? It's fortunate to have a state
in its name-- I'll bet that's why many Alabama residents support saving the
fish. But it doesn't have school kids putting on sturgeon festivals, or
community sturgeon homecoming celebrations like you see with salmon here in
the northwest. No, that fish and the dozens of others in dire straits need
to grab the attention of the public and officials, and that's where NANFA
can do some good. Learning about fish, studying them, educating others, and
promoting conservation-minded officials, are all key to fish and habitat
conservation. This passage by Baba Bioum is a good one:

"In the end we will conserve only what we love.
We love only what we understand.
We will understand only what we are taught."

I look forward to a more progressive society which places value on
conserving each species and doesn't think the extinction of any species is a
necessary progression of an industrial society or a natural effect of the
human race. My region is about to see large-scale changes in response to
fish species in trouble. I'll pay more for electricity and apples and I
won't get that waterfront property I might have had my eye on, but I'm proud
to live here and see what's happening and accept the costs associated with
it. I'm proud of our government because it finally had the guts to use the
Endangered Species Act as justification for saying "Enough is enough". I'm
proud of the politicians who fight to strengthen the ESA. And I'm proud to
be in NANFA when we ignore our differences and work together on the problems
facing our fishes.

Jay DeLong
Olympia, Washington

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