The Future of Oregon’s Forest is Not Clear-Cut (by Jared White)


As an outdoor enthusiast, my work in the community naturally led me to a place where I completely felt in my element. The forest. For my research, I began by brainstorming about what issues about Portland and the surrounding areas are most important to me. One of these issues really stood out to me and led me to my research question:

Are the practices being implemented by logging companies in western Oregon sustainable? Are their practices geared towards sustaining the environment (air/water/soil/wildlife) or are they simply interested in their products sustainability (lumber).

The Research Collection

Citation 1

“A Sustainable, Science-Based Solution for Oregon’s O&C Lands”. Web. March 3rd, 2014.  This is an explanation of the Bill proposed by U.S. Senator of Oregon Ron Wyden. It highlights all of the proposed bill’s potential positive changes to the forestry and logging industries posted on Ron Wyden‘s website.

This article is basically selling the public on why this proposed bill is a good idea. The way it is set up reminded me of a mattress commercial. Highlighting controversial topics in the logging world and explaining why this bill magically will solve these issues without any consequences. It is a perfect devils advocate to a letter calling the bill into question.

Citation 2

“Senate Logging Bill Not the Right Path Forward for Public Lands”. Oregon Wild. Web. March 4th, 2014.  This is a counter to Senator Wyden’s proposed bill, highlighting talking points on issues concerning wilderness protection, ecologically-based forest restoration and clear cutting. Oregon Wild claims they and their allies have spent years working with the senator to promote these things.

This article’s purpose was to call out Wyden’s bill as a step in the wrong direction for the future of Oregon’s ecosystem and scenery. It’s purpose is to inform the public of the bill being pushed by Wyden and call into question the motivation of said bill. Oregon Wild is asking people to write the senator to express concerns on the matter.

Citation 3

Heinrich, Bernd. “Clear-Cutting the Truth About Trees”. New York Times (OP-ED Contributor). Dec 19th, 2009. Web. March 11th, 2014.  This is a paper going into great detail on the affects clear cutting and other forms of logging can have on an ecosystem and communities. The writer, Bernd Heinrich, was a professor at the University of Vermont before retiring and author of the book “Nesting Season”.

The paper is the most detailed and research backed resource I could find on the topic and provides multiple points of emphasis on which to present to the Senator.

The Public Writing

Dear Senator Wyden:

The legislation titled “The O&C Land Grant Act of 2013” greatly interests me for many reasons. The main reason is that I have always been bothered by what I’ve seen when driving to the coast from my home town of Portland, Oregon. When driving through lush, thriving forests, it comes as a bit of a shock and disappointment to come around a bend to see acre upon acre upon acre of mangled and scared land that was once thriving, reduced to wasteland thanks to a logging practice most commonly known as clear-cutting. Furthermore, after doing research on the matter, I’ve found that this clear-cutting practice that creates such an eye-sore for travelers and nature enthusiasts is terrible for our environment. I understand that the logging industry is not going anywhere and rightfully so. It is a staple to our state’s economy and growth. That is all the more reason to use sustainable practices when harvesting our trees. I feel that it is of paramount importance, especially in today’s world with seemingly limitless information and technology at our fingertips, to take steps in the right direction to protect the resources we have been trusted to. I don’t feel that this particular bill is a step in the right direction.

I am primarily concerned about the Variable Retention Harvest (or VHL) practice that your bill embraces which allows clear-cutting forests that have been in existence for over a century, leaving behind only 1/3 of the existing trees. Beyond the obvious issues with aesthetics, with all we now know about ecosystems and how fragile they can be, I find it hard to believe that this VHL practice puts the environment before the bottom line. One cannot just replace what is being destroyed by these clear-cuts.

In an article written by Bernd Heinrich, an author of a many books dealing with nature’s behavior and ecology, he states:

“A forest is an ecosystem. It is not something planted. A forest grows on its own. When a tree falls, the race is on immediately to replace it. In the forests I study, there are so many seeds and seedlings that if a square foot of ground space opens up, more than a hundred trees of many different species compete to grow there. So if you want to plant a specific species of tree for lumber or offsets, you’ll have to apply an (petroleum-based) herbicide repeatedly over its lifespan. If you hope to make a profit, you will plant a tree genetically engineered to grow quickly and resist disease. This is the path to domestication of a plant that needs to be ever coddled with fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides.”

When it comes to aesthetics, I cannot help but feel that I am part of the majority that feels that clear-cutting in any shape or form is a step in the wrong direction. I have a one year old daughter and it is important to me that she be exposed to the wonders of nature. Perhaps even more important to me is that she not be confused by the message that clear-cutting sends out. Money is more important than maintaining the natural beauty of our Oregon forests.

Bernd also wrote in his article Clear-Cutting the Truth about Trees that can be found on the New York Times website:

“The world’s forests are key to our survival, and that of millions of other species. Not only are they critical to providing us with building material, paper, food, recreation and oxygen, they also ground us spiritually and connect us to our primal past. Never before in our earth’s history have our forests been under such attack.”

Once again, my main concern is preserving our great state’s natural beauty and being able to pass that along to my child. When the time comes to tell my daughter what makes our forests so special, I’d prefer that I not have to consider showing her a logging P&L sheet.

Thank you for your consideration of my viewpoint on this matter. I believe it is an important issue, and would like to see the legislation be amended to ban clear-cutting of any form. I look forward to your reply addressing my concerns and expressing your opinions on the issue.


Jared White


One comment

  1. Jared Response:
    Ok sir, awesome technical writing, you had your research question down, the flow of the paper was good and you had a clear topic. Everything technically was great, I think the rest of conversation is just on style of writing, what you would prefer which would be like, you may like pizza and I may like Chinese food as my favorite. I like that you want to prevent clear cutting, I like that you want your family to be able to enjoy nature, I like that you acknowledge that lumber is part of Oregon’s exports and essential to its economy. To me this is a big business issue, I would wonder what senator Wyden could do in his government position, an individual could take a more radical approach. I don’t know what would be my preference if I really wanted to change this, probably do the more militant thing and try and make the news somehow, like sit on top of the Oregon Forestry Center building and not come down to try and make the 6 o’clock news.

    In lieu of stopping the “VHL” clear cutting practice you mentioned the genetically engineered trees that need to be treated with fungicides and toxic fertilizers which you said can hurt the environment. I have to say the industry is so huge it’s just like genetically grown beef or chickens with no feathers that grow as big as turkeys, it’s a hard thing to change in industry so supported by the masses. Perhaps the answer relies in reducing the need for wood completely a new kind of energy and material, sir I think there will be a day when we will not need wood anymore, this will come perhaps 200 years from now. Good writing and I appreciate looking at.

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