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Environmental, Campaign & Website News > Economists urge protection of old-growth forests

Economists urge protection of old-growth forests

Date : 1st Mar 2002, Source : Newsgroup

Friday, March 1, 2002

By ROBERT McCLURE
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

Fifteen Pacific Northwest economists are appealing to federal officials to preserve more old-growth forests, saying they are worth more standing than cut down.

And a new poll shows continuing support for preservation of old-growth forests on federal land among a majority of the public here -- even in timber towns.

Both pieces of information are being released this week by the Northwest Old-Growth Campaign, a coalition of 13 environmental groups from Bellingham to southern Oregon. They want to persuade Congress to ban cutting of timber in old-growth and other mature forests in the Northwest.

The economists' Feb. 15 letter to regional heads of agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management argues that older forests are important for recreation, which produces economic activity.

"There are non-extractive and 'passive' uses of forests," their letter says. "Economists are beginning to acknowledge and measure these values, providing a more complete picture of the economics of public forestlands." Citing state government statistics, the economists pointed out that between 1990 and 1996 the percentage of logs more than 100 years old processed in Western Washington sawmills dropped from 24 percent to 4 percent.

The poll by Portland-based Davis, Hibbetts & McCaig Inc., a non-partisan firm that also has done work for the timber industry, showed that 71 percent of the 600 people interviewed supported protections for old growth on federal land. That fell off to 65 percent for "mature" forests that are on their way to becoming old-growth. The poll echoes one done last year before the recession and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Adam Davis, head of the polling firm, said the public generally wants a "balanced approach" to forestry that allows logging on private lands but protects old-growth on federal property.

"There's clear support, and there has been for some time, to protect old-growth and mature forests on national forest lands," he said. "This is something that is important to the people of the Northwest. ... This should not be new to anyone in the timber industry."

Chris West, vice president of the Portland-based American Forest Resource Council, a timber group, faulted the poll for failing to point out that most old-growth on federal land already is off-limits to loggers.

"Ten years ago, when we were talking about old growth and how much was left, the definition the environmental community used was so narrow -- the ancient cathedral forests. 'There's only a few thousand acres left,'" he said. "Now that they've secured protection for 80 or 90 percent of that, they've broadened the definition. We've got a new campaign going."



Document last updated on Tuesday 30 August 2011

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