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Implications of Deforestation in USA

Info: 2095 words (8 pages) Essay
Published: 22nd Oct 2021 in Environmental Studies

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Throughout U.S. history, timber has been the highest priority in our forests and although our forests have served to establish people across the western states, forest harvesting practices such as clear-cutting have displayed how it's not a sustainable way to manage our national forests. The Bitterroot National Forest forest management plans, in the 1960s, sparked controversy over common timber harvesting practices, which has led to the creation of legislation that controls how National Forests are managed (Wilkinson, 19992: pg. 140). Responding to the national pressure for timber, the Bitterroot National Forest engaged in extensive timber harvesting, which meant larger swaths of land were being clear cut and more roads were being built throughout the forest to load out the timber that was being harvested (Wilkinson, 1992: pg. 140). Criticism on how the Bitterroot National Forest timber practices mounted, and the environment impacts grew from this poor management.

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The Bitterroot Valley is characterized by its vast open space, an economy that centralizes around its natural resources, and a community that values their natural resources in a high regard (U.S. Congress, 1970). For example, the Bitterroot clear-cutting affected certain resources that people relied on such as watersheds, and fisheries in the area due snowpack melting too early and bald hillsides eroding away into the rivers and streams (Wilkinson, 1992: pg. 140-141). With these types of impacts on the local community, economy, and environment, it was clear that more research in understanding certain impacts on land management decisions was needed, which led to a commission to study the Bitterroot (Wilkinson, 1992: pg. 141).

In 1970, the Bolle Report, which was led by the University of Montana School of Forestry Dean, Dr. Arnold W. Bolle, outlined the overarching concerns of clear-cutting in Bitterroot National Forest. The report pinpointed the Forest Service mismanagement raising concern that the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960 was not governing the Bitterroot National Forest management practices (U.S. Congress, 1970). The Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act was a huge step because it avoided setting any priorities of forest uses, and was the first time recreation was recognized as a proper use of our national forests (Wilkinson, 1992: pg. 137). This act also addresses the importance of sustainability by assuring that the resources that federal lands provide will continue to be made available for generations to come (U.S.​ Congress, 1992), but the report on the Bitterroot showed that the forest was not being held to the standards that were established by the Multiple use Sustained yield Act.

The quality of timber management and harvesting practices were obsolete, and the consideration for other forest practices such as recreation, watershed, wildlife, and grazing seemed to be overlooked for forest uses (​ U.S. Congress, 1970). Issues that surrounded the Forest Service operations was their current harvesting rates could not be maintained, and the overall economic return from the harvested timber was being countered by their tree planting efforts (U.S. Congress, 1970). Local communities criticized the Forest Service practices and decision making in the Bitterroot National Forest as exploitative of local resources for non-local benefit (U.S. Congress, 1970). The concerns made by the local community addresses the Forest Service lack of recognizing the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act, by prioritising one resource use.

The Bolle Report recognized the concerning issues that our federal forest face at a bureaucratic level, which had led to institution changes that was then brought up by the Church Report in 1972. The Church Report called for a significant reduction in clear-cutting and addressed certain issues surrounding timber harvesting, whether that be clear-cutting or other methods, and where those practices should be allowed (Wilkinson, 1992: pg. 142). The report identifies for classes that outline where timber harvesting should not be permitted, which included: forest with low reforestation potential, fragile soils, highly scenic land, and land where timber harvesting would be uneconomical (Wilkinson, 1992: pg. 142). These guidelines that were addressed in the Church Report would become the successor for the National Forest Management Act of 1976, which restricted clear-cutting, though it does not prohibit it (Wilkinson, 1992: pg. 144).

Unquestionably, the goal of the National Forest Management Act was to keep the annual amount of timber being harvested to remain at a productive levels, but also required serious environmental protection of our forest resources (Wilkinson, 1992: pg. 144). Clear-cutting was not prohibited due to special cases such as for the Douglas fir tree, which is a shade intolerant tree. Douglas fir stands, especially the young trees require direct sunlight and usually will not regenerate under a canopy. This act especially held importance because it set new restraints on the Forest Service, and when timber is being harvested, it has to be done in a manner that will protect watersheds, fish habitat, ensure that soil conditions will not be irreversibly damaged, and ensure harvested lands are restocked within five years (Wilkinson, 1992: pg. 145). These limitations ensures that our forests were managed in a way that protects the biodiversity of plants and animals, while also discouraging the Forest Service from harvesting timber at unsustainable rates.

Due to the complexity of the issue, NFMA had no initial bites and instead Congress directed that NFMA would not go into effect immediately, and instead would be implemented through individual forest plans (Wilkinson, 1992: pg. 145). This created initiative for all National Forest to come up with a plan on the best management strategy, but timber harvest rates stayed steady at 11 billion board feet until the 1990's where harvesting rates started to decrease to three billion board feet annually (USDA Forest Service, 2018). Although there have been restraints put into place to restrict how much and how the Forest Service harvest timber, the question is raised on behalf of how our current administration values issues concerning climate change, and the importance of conservation of public lands over timber harvesting.

The Trump Administration, since taking office back in 2016, has proposed many rules, some of which have been pushed through, such as the repeal of mitigation policies regarding endangered species and their habitat, lifted restrictions on oil and gas operations and methane emissions on public land. Although increasing extractive operations such as oil and gas, mineral, and timber will be beneficial economically, these all will have to come at a cost when environmental concerns seem to be at the administrations lowest priority.

In 2015, BLM published a final rule entitled, Oil and Gas; Hydraulic Fracturing on Federaland Indian Lands​, the rule was intended for ensuring the oil and gas wells built on public lands are properly constructed in order to protect groundwater (Bureau of Land Management, 2017). This rule was also created to ensure that extraction operations were managed in an environmentally responsible way (Bureau of Land Management, 2017), but in 2017, BLM withdrew compliance requirements for fracking operations that were intended in protecting groundwater (Bureau of Land Management, 2017).

In 2016, the Bureau of Land Management amended: Waste Prevention, ProductionSubject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation​, in an effort to reduce waste of natural gas through venting, flaring, or leaks during oil and gas production (Bureau of Land Management, 2018). Although the majority of this rule did not come into effect until January of 2017, BLM, in 2018, decided under President Trump's executive order on energy independence and economic growth that the 2016 rules imposed more costs than benefits (Bureau of Land Management, 2018). The new rule withdrew from the 2016 regulations on flaring, and venting methane and other emissions from oil and gas extractive operations on public land (Bureau of Land Management, 2018).

In 2016, the ESA-CMP was created under the Obama Administration, which directed the Department of the Interior to create strategies to increase conservation while balancing resource extraction and development on public lands (Fish and Wildlife, 2018). What this final ruling allowed for extractive industries that are using public lands was that they didn't have to mitigate their impact on endangered species or habitat by protecting habitat elsewhere.

The Trump Administration, in October of 2019, is proposing to exempt Alaska's Tongass National Forest from Alaska's 2001 roadless rule, which protects millions of acres of pristine old growth forest from logging and development (Rott and Jenkins, 2019). In 2001, the USDA formulated the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which established nationwide restrictions on timber harvesting, road construction and reconstruction within certain alloted areas designated to be a roadless area (Forest Service, 2019). The roadless rule did not go into full effect on the Tongass until 2011 (Forest Service, 2019), soon after Forest Service phased out clear-cutting in Tongass National Park in 2016 (Santoro, 2019). An environmental impact statement (EIS) was released by the Forest Service proposing to exempt Tongass National Park from the 2001 roadless, which in return provides Tongass National Park authority for management decision concerning timber harvest, road construction and reconstruction (Forest Service, 2019).

Although, the Forest Service would have to act under the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act, and NFMA, if this proposed rule goes through, but this has led to concern about the potential negative impacts on watersheds, rare wildlife, and the overall impact of deforestation will have on these lands.

Sources Cited

Bureau of Land Management, Interior. "Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation; Rescission or Revision of Certain Requirements." Federal Register​ ​, 28 Sept. 2018, www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/09/28/2018-20689/waste-prevention-production-subje ct-to-royalties-and-resource-conservation-rescission-or-revision-of.

Bureau of Land Management, Interior. "Oil and Gas; Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands; Rescission of a 2015 Rule." Federal Register​ ​, 29 Dec. 2017, www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/12/29/2017-28211/oil-and-gas-hydraulic-fracturing-on -federal-and-indian-lands-rescission-of-a-2015-rule.

Fish and Wildlife, Interior. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy." Federal Register​ ​, 30 July 2018, www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/07/30/2018-16171/endangered-and-threatened-wildlif e-and-plants-endangered-species-act-compensatory-mitigation-policy.

Forest Service, USDA. "Special Areas; Roadless Area Conservation; National Forest System Lands in Alaska." Federal Register​ ​, 17 Oct. 2019, www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/10/17/2019-22638/special-areas-roadless-area-conse rvation-national-forest-system-lands-in-alaska.

Rott, Nathan, and Elizabeth Jenkins. "Trump Administration Moves To Expand Logging In Nation's Largest National Forest." NPR​ ​, NPR, 15 Oct. 2019, www.npr.org/2019/10/15/770410803/trump-administration-moves-to-expand-logging-in-nations-l argest-national-forest.

Santoro, Helen. "Trump Administration Pushes to Exempt Tongass from Logging Restrictions." High Country News ​, 16 Sept. 2019, www.hcn.org/issues/51.16/latest-trump-administration-pushes-to-exempt-tongass-from-logging-r estrictions.

USDA Forest Service. "FY 1905-2017 National Summary Cut and Sold Data and Graphs." 2018, www.fs.fed.us/forestmanagement/documents/sold-harvest/documents/1905-2017_Natl_Summa ry_Graph.pdf.

U.S. Congress. House Committee on Interior Insular Affairs. (1992). Web.

U.S. Congress. Senate Committee on Rules Administration. Senate Committee on Interior Insular Affairs. (1970). Web.

Wilkinson, C.F. "Crossing the next Meridian: Land, Water, and the Future of the West." 1992.

 

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