Green states – forestry in the US

Green states – forestry in the US – Products Survey

Penny McGuire

Forestry practice in America, as one would expect of such a geographically varied and diverse country, is equally diverse and curate’s egg-like, very good in parts. It is plain that forests survive where there is political will. Legislation to protect the environment is generally a matter for the individual state, but ecological passions running high throughout the country have on occasion superseded the local.

Such passions, focusing a decade ago on the survival of the northern spotted owl, stopped disastrous widespread logging of the bird’s ancient forest habitat in the Pacific Northwest, mainly in Oregon and Washington. This most successful of green campaigns resulted in the US government’s declaring the appealing creature an endangered species.

However the campaign has recently backfired. American birdwatchers, who rushed out in droves to see the last few owls, quickly found many more. Timber companies are now pressing for the bird to be taken off the endangered list so that they can resume operations.

Learning the lesson, environmentalists trying to save wildernesses are concentrating on threatened ecosystems, rather than one species. But the campaign and its consequences have reverberated throughout the country. Forest industries on the eastern side of the US take pains to emphasise their ecological sophistication. Generally speaking, unlike the softwood forests of the NorthWest which are mostly in federal hands, the luxuriant hardwood forests that cover large tracts of land in the east are largely in private hands. Given the fierce American adherence to citizens’ rights, landowners are Encouraged rather than coerced, by the forest products industry and various advisory group to practice good silviculture and harvesting. The situation is made easier in States such as North Carolina in the south, and New Hampshire in the north by climate and extraordinary fertility of the land.

Regeneration takes place naturally and there is now more dense forest in both places than at any other time since pre-colonial days. Experimental forestry stations, such as Bent Creek in the Southern Appalachian area of North Carolina carry out valuable research into, among other aspects of silviculture, methods of selective regeneration and harvesting. Depending on the area, eastern forest supply valuable hardwoods, such as red oak, oak-hickory, white ash, maples and beech. The impression is that state legislature concentrates on controlling forest products industries rather than the landowners.

In New Hampshire, for example, where largely hardwood forests cover 87 per cent of the land and the forestry industry is of great importance, timber harvesting laws do more than monitor the cutting of trees. They are designed to protect th purity of streams, rivers and wetlands, control erosion and ensure continued diversity in plants and wildlife.

Advanced emission control systems installed by the state’s pulp and paper companies are helping to clean up formerly polluted waterways; while improvements in sawing, kiln drying and processing have, it appears, increased the wood yield per log and enabled manufacturers to use many more species. Environmentally friendly wood power plants rouse water in their operations to save rivers and streams from pollutants. Air pollution is strictly controlled with ash from burning being used to fertilise the land.

Logging aesthetics is a term that has entered the language. There are machines now in use that, remaining stationary, reach out a huge arm through the forest and delicately pick off a tree at its base, lifting and placing it without damaging the forest or the forest floor.

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