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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Stand Up for Forestry

A funny thing happened this week. I picked up a copy of The Forestry Source, which is an official monthly publication of the Society of American Foresters. Since I haven't been an SAF member since my college days, I thought it would be interesting to see how much forestry issues have changed in that time of several decades.

As I thumbed through the issue, I thought to myself..."a lot."

Then, the funny thing happened. Not two hours later, I received an email from my old friend and former Ibberson Chair professor at Penn State, Harry Wiant. Harry retired from here about seven or eight years ago, I guess, and went out to live with his family in Seattle. I occasionally still get a nice email from him, and it's either another one of his country music recordings, or something related to forestry. This time, he was making a direct reference to the very issue I had just been reading...and he had some thoughts to share, including a speech he used to regularly give. Many foresters loved this speech, but near the end of his career Harry found his point of view in the minority, at least among policy makers and educators. Times were changing, and 21st-century forestry is not what 20th-century forestry was. Much of what Harry warned against in this speech have now come to be.

Whether you agree with his viewpoint or not, I think you'll agree that his speech gives us a frame of reference for what professional forestry values once were. With Harry's permission, I reprint it here for posterity.

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The Forestry Source this month is a painful obituary of a once proud profession.  Many of us saw this coming years ago.  National forests are a non-productive disaster, forestry schools have little forestry left, even in the names, and the nightmare sought by the Greenies is reality.  I am thankful I was in the profession when it was a profession.  Goodbye forestry!

Here is my talk in case you have lost it; I fear the last couple sentences was a dream.

STAND UP FOR FORESTRY

Harry V. Wiant, Jr.
1997 President, Society of American Foresters

This speech, with minor variations, has been presented over two dozen times at SAF and other forestry meetings. I always provide a disclaimer, indicating that the opinions I convey are my own and not necessarily those of SAF.

WHY I RAN

The Society of American Foresters has been a major part of my professional life, but I had never considered running for a national office.

Actually, I was becoming very discouraged . It appeared to me that many foresters were giving up in the struggle for meaningful forest management and were accepting politically correct but scientifically dubious management philosophies. I decided it was time to retire. A call from a well-known leader in our profession, asking me to run for Vice President, changed my life.

While visiting my daughter and son-in-law, both attorneys in Seattle, I wrote my campaign statement expressing forthrightly my concerns and agenda. "Dad, you can't win with a statement like that," my daughter exclaimed. Many were surprised when I did win in one of the largest voter turnouts (52%) in our history.

PHILOSOPHICAL SUMMARY

The philosophy I espouse, and the one that I'm convinced is shared by a majority of foresters in SAF is, briefly:

1. We love the forest but do not worship the forest. There is a world of difference.
2. We believe management of nature is not just an option but a necessity for human survival.
3. We believe biodiversity is a good thing but does not always over-ride other considerations. That's why we use hoes in our vegetable gardens.
4. We believe large segments of the environmental community have moved from legitimate concerns for clean air and water to eco-nonsense which threatens our economic prosperity and basic freedoms.
5. We believe forest management must be science based, and, like medicine, incrementally improved as new facts are learned.
6. We believe the biocentric philosophy undergirding much of the environmental movement today depreciates human beings and could have devastating consequences to our society.

I will expand discussion of some of these "tenants" in later sections.

REMEMBERING OUR ROOTS

Foresters generally have a broad education, but their unique knowledge is that relating to growing trees for timber production on a sustained yield basis. Warren Dolittle, a Past President of SAF, wrote in 1966:

"...as professional foresters, timber production is the one use of the land which is our undisputed responsibility. We manage forest lands for other uses too, but other groups and scientists usually claim primary responsibility for the disciplines representing these uses. So, let us take good care of our responsibility for growing timber before some other group lays claim to it."

Forestry schools and SAF, when considering membership requirements, accreditation of forestry programs, and certification of foresters, forget Warren's admonition at their own peril.


ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT

Ecosystem management, touted as a "paradigm switch" , is more politics than science. Proponents stress that its implementation will require "cooperation" by federal, state, and private landowners. In addition to the likelihood that it will encroach on our freedoms, this approach is hampered by the difficulty of defining and delimiting an ecosystem and the hopeless complexity of trying to manage one if you can figure out what and where it is.

The most serious problem with ecosystem management, in my opinion, is that the inherent complexities and uncertainties will provide our opponents with even more weapons to halt all meaningful forest management, further impacting the timber industry and rural communities.

The idea of returning our forests to some imagined condition in the past, usually severely limiting human influence, is troublesome also. I often say, trying to point out the absurdity of this notion, that I am kind of partial to the ice age. Why don't we return our agricultural lands to a pre-human condition so we can solve all our problems through starvation?

BIODIVERSITY AND ENDANGERED SPECIES

Every forester today should read "In a Dark Wood" by the philosopher, Alston Chase "Broken Trust, Broken Land" by the forester-sociologist Robert G. Lee , and "Saviors of the Earth" by the forester and environmental educator Michael S. Coffman . These authors trace the development of today's biocentric thinking, in many ways a return to primitive earth worship. Chase defines biocentrism as the belief that all things are interconnected (the "circle of life" espoused by New Age folks) and no organism is more important or valuable than another. It is a deadly philosophy dressed up in politically correct sentimentalism.

Karl Wenger, our Vice President, wrote in a letter in the J. For. (Nov. 1996):

"...native peoples set the forest afire annually, sometimes twice a year. Then during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, land was heavily logged without regard for the future. Fire followed and woodland grazing was widespread. Wildlife populations were decimated, erosion filled the streams with sediments, and floods were frequent and damaging. That current land management practices are threatening or endangering 1,300 species of the survivors of that period, as claimed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is simply not believable." He is absolutely right!

THE NEW WORLD PLANNED FOR US

Someone must produce! We cannot just trade trinkets produced in the "Cottage Industries" promoted by our eco-friends. In my speech, I point out here that the lights on in our meeting room are on because someone dug coal, or someone built a dam, or someone drilled for oil, or someone constructed a nuclear power plant. Again, someone must produce! Robert Lee, in a paper entitled, "The Futility of Seeking Common Ground," (Proc.For. Prod. Res. Soc., 1991) states:

"There is not a well-articulated ground in this debate. Advocates for radical change in forest management practices are seeking to revolutionize the social and moral order by challenging industrial capitalism and promoting "biocentric ethics" in place of "homocentric ethics.""

Eco-extremists have a nightmarish plan for us, viewed as utopian by them, as "...jobs would concentrate in urban area...as vast lands in the interior of North America return to a wild state. " (Am. Sci. 84:166). The Wildlands Project, returning over half of North America to the wild state and pretty much eliminating man's access, may take 200 years to accomplish, by their estimate. Unfortunately, at the rate they are succeeding today, they will reach their goal much sooner. People and jobs receive scant attention by them.

While visiting in Seattle, a cold, rainy evening prompted our desire for a fire in the fireplace. A quick trip to the store provided neatly wrapped artificial fireplace logs. Printed on the box was:

"No trees were cut to produce these logs. Only sawdust, a waste product, was used."

My daughter suggested a big rubber stamp print on each piece of lumber:

"No trees were cut to produce this lumber. The boards fell out while producing sawdust to make composite fireplace logs."

A forester suggested the other day that on every roll of toilet paper, every ream of writing paper, plywood sheets, etc., we should print "Product of our Renewable Forests."


IN THE POLITICAL ARENA

It has been my pleasure to serve on North Carolina Congressman Charles Taylor's
Forest Science Panel. He was a sponsor of the "Salvage Rider" which was bitterly fought by eco-extremists. At a public meeting in Asheville, NC, a reporter asked me, "Do you think the Salvage Rider was a good thing?" Amazingly, my answer, "Yes, and it's too bad we can't manage our public lands so we don't need a Salvage Rider." was quoted correctly the next day in the local press.

Also, it was my privilege to testify on "Criteria of Forest Health" before the Committee on Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, chaired by Helen Chenoweth, Congressional Representative from Idaho. She, like Charles Taylor, supports real forest management. I testified as President of SAF and independently as a forester and concerned citizen.

The SAF report on this topic was provided. Testifying independently, which I clearly differentiated, I stated:

* as humans we experience the joy of birth, the vigor of youth, slowing down with age, and finally, death; few of us believe the "hands-off" approach is appropriate for maintaining human health.

* the same is true for forests; a well-managed forest is the healthiest possible.

* criteria of forest health include an adequate cadre of professional foresters; the flexibility to manage the forest unhampered by poorly conceived environmental laws, frivolous appeals and lawsuits, and tax codes that discourage
long-term investments; strong forestry research programs in the USDA Forest Service, universities, and the private sector; and that forest management remain science based with a complete toolkit (prescribed fire, herbicides, clearcutting,
etc.).

I summarized by saying that the answer to forest health problems is more not less forest management, and that the primary responsibility for managing our forests should in the hands of those best qualified to do the job - foresters!

A later witness, obviously an environmentalist, said, "I can't believe the arrogance of anyone saying that they can manage the forest better than god." Those few words tell us volumes.

AN ECO-GOLIATH

One of my more thoughtful critics, not implying that most are not, wrote saying the environmentalist would welcome SAF trying to stand up to them since they outnumber us so. He has a point. Recent data indicate the mainline environmental groups in the U.S. have a membership about 350 times that of SAF and budgets that total more than 80 times ours. Those are challenging odds. Alston Chase is quoted as saying it took the Sierra Club 100 years to reach the first 100,000 members and just two years to recruit the second 100,000 and Greenpeace, which started in the U.S. in 1978, is adding 10,000 new subscribers to its publication every month. Truly, the environmental movement is an eco-Goliath.

I suggest SAF has three little stones, TRUTH, SCIENCE, and ECONOMICS. With the proper sling, such as the TV campaign, perhaps we can prevail.

An article by an environmental educator, J. H. Lehr (in press or published in Soil & Ground Water Cleanup Magazine), wrote:

"The world has just witnessed an environmental backlash that lasted less than two years.
... a newly elected Republican Congress was thought to be set on dismantling abusive environmental regulations. Some were sure they would succeed. Others...were not. They knew that the environmental movement, for better or worse, had done too thorough a job brainwashing the world's population...Yes, the battle is over...One can only be in awe of the leadership of the environmental movement for laying so strong a foundation that even logic, common sense, good science and economics could not knock the building from its moorings...
Today we are an environmentally activist society - so you may as well lean back and enjoy it. Continue to speak the truth, advise reason, logic and good science, but don't be disappointed when such wisdom is ignored. With psychic hotlines a 300 million dollar industry today, what can we expect..."

After one of my talks, a forester reported to me that his daughter was given a t-shirt in kindergarten which pictured a loaded log truck. Printed underneath was "If only trees could scream!" It starts in kindergarten but continues through our educational system. A college textbook of ecology says:

"Consider the ultimate form of external environmental disturbance - total destruction of the habitat, such as might result from logging of a forest, or an asteroid collision, or a nuclear holocaust."

The challenge is almost overwhelming. As I said in my campaign statement:

"A vote for me is a call to battle. I cannot promise victory, nor can I promise fame and glory... But you will know you fought the good fight."


THE CAMPAIGN STATEMENT

The campaign statement (J. For., Sept. 1995) read:

"It has been a generally orderly retreat, but a retreat nonetheless. Now our backs are against the wall, and powerful voices in our ranks urge surrender. I heard the early salvos in northern California. Facts proved inadequate against a foe unhampered by truth, and the once-powerful redwood industry dried. Next, clearcutting, undoubtedly our best silvicultural tool, came under attack in my home state of West Virginia. Foresters stood shoulder-to-shoulder, but we lost ground steadily. Now school children are taught by propagandized teachers that clearcutting is a despicable and evil practice. The Pacific Northwest, probably the best timber-growing region in the world, has been lost to anti-utilization forces. Thousands of families and hundreds of communities have suffered in the name of the Northern Spotted Owl. The public does not understand that the owl was never the real issue; it was merely the excuse used by those determined to stop timber cutting and destroy the timber industry. Increased paper, lumber, and housing costs; use of metal studs in construction; and even lowly plastic bags in grocery stores testify to our defeats. There are those among us who say it is not "us against them," as if we can wish an enemy out of existence. "Ecosystem management,""sustainable forestry," and a dozen other vague and meaningless terms are incorporated into the surrender document. Some of our number are even accepting the ludicrous notion that forests should be returned to some "pre-settlement" condition. Should we do the same for agricultural land so we can all starve? The flag under which SAF should rally should proclaim our devotion to science-based forest management, with the main focus on furnishing basic human needs…wood for shelter, paper, and hundreds of other necessities. I, for one, would rather lose under that standard than see SAF become just another weak and vacillating organization under the banner of political expediency. Foresters know how to grow trees on a sustained basis, and that is the primary strength of our profession and its reason for existence. We have demonstrated time and time again that good forest management is compatible with the other uses of the forest: watershed, wildlife, and recreation. We have a proud history, but do we have a future? The forestry profession is viable only as long as forest industry is strong. Park rangers do not need forestry degrees! I recognize this is not an uplifting "all-is-well" message. I truly fear for the future of the profession and SAF. A vote for me is a call to battle. I cannot promise victory, nor can I promise fame and glory. If you join me, I must warn you that your character, motives, and intelligence will be assailed. But you will know you fought the good fight. Perhaps we can reverse a prophecy I penned some time ago in somewhat biblical form.

"In the latter days an anti-wise-use force will arise and will deceive many. It will reign for one generation. Mills will be closed, prices will rise, and once-productive forests will be filled with dead and dying trees. The sound of the saw and the ax will be heard no more. The woods will be the habitation of agitators, negotiators, and commentators. But this too shall pass. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. The people will cry, "Why are we wasting this renewable resource? We cannot afford homes as our fathers before us, and lowly paper is beyond our means. Ecosystem management is a false god with a thousand faces, equating humans and salamanders, and calling no management ‘good’ and good management ‘bad.’ It is used by those destroying our means of production." And a new generation of foresters will come forth, once again guided by science-based reason and the knowledge that the stand has always been the basic silvicultural unit, and timber the most important product of the forest. It will be understood that man cannot live by bread and shelter alone, but he surely cannot live without them."

5 comments:

Shelby Jones said...

This is one of the most enjoyable reads I have experienced in a long time! I'm really glad I voted for Harry in his race for SAF Presidency. I wish this text could be available to every undergraduate forestry student (and especially those in combined degree programs such as forestry/wildlife) in the US.

Shelby Jones,

Edward Murriner said...

Harry Wiant was at WVU before he went to Penn State and was very outspoken on forest management while he was here and I have heard him give this speach also.

John Wells said...

Amen, well said. Sadly human existance may have to go a complete circle before we can return to logic.

Jeff Wartluft said...

Again - well said. My alma mater, Duke, used to be the Duke School of Forestry. Now it is the Nicholas School of the Environment. And I understand the former Penn State School of Forestry is now the Penn State School of Ecosystem Science (or something similar). Duke built a new "Duke Environment Hall" recently, and who could guess that they study "forestry" there by the concrete, steel, aluminum and glass structure with a token amount of wood paneling in the interior? And if you can believe it, the building garnered a LEED Platinum standard. Apparently neither the Duke decision makers nor the LEED judges know much about the renewability, carbon sequestering, low embodied energy, insulation, low conductivity, strength to weight ratio, beauty and on site adaptability of wood products in construction. But how can they learn these things with the slim chances of getting some education in forestry.

John Wells said...

I believe the "clasic" forestry education maybe better than we think. The fact is there are a large number of forestry educated people working successfully in other career fields.