ZeroCut: The Campaign to End Logging on Public Land

(Adapted from Native Forest News International, 2nd Quarter 1998. Native Forest Network)

Ninety-five percent of U. S. Forests have been logged. Should we save whatís left?

In the past year thereís been a significant shift in the debate over management of US National Forests. Instead of talking about how much forest to cut, citizens are now asking if we should be cutting at all.

A radical move? Hardly. Only after 95% of our forests have been cut are we finally saying "ZeroCut". After years of persistence by community activists, the concept of saving whatís left has gained mainstream approval from the public, conservation groups such as the Sierra Club and even conservative members of Congress.

The shift toward ZeroCut shows that the vast majority of the public understands that National Forests are far more valuable when left standing than when liquidated for short-term profit. The Forest Serviceís own 1994 nation-wide poll found that 58% of the American public oppose any commodity extraction on public lands. Polls in Kentucky and Indiana found 72% and 69%, respectively, oppose logging on National Forests. Dozens of reports are showing that logging federal public lands contributes very little to our economy. Nationally, only 3% of the jobs on National Forests are logging related, while 74% are recreation based.

Also, according to the Forest Service, recreation, hunting and fishing on National Forests contribute 31 times more to the nationís economy than logging and provide 38 times more jobs. In more resource extractive states like Montana and Idaho, the logging program provides less than 3% of the regionís employment.

Whatís more, the public land logging program is a big money loser. Taxpayers, not the timber industry, pay for logging road construction, timber sale planning and administration, and the replanting of trees. According to the Forest Service, the federal timber program lost $15 million in 1996. However, if you add the costs of roads, payments to counties, and timber sale planning, the program cost $791 million.

But, cry logging boosters, where will the wood supply come from if we donít log public lands? Conservationists reply that private lands provide the majority of our nationís wood supply. Only 3.9% of total wood consumption comes from federal lands. This could easily be made up thorough recycling alone. Forty-eight per cent of U. S hardwood goes into shipping pallets, of which 54% are thrown out after one use. Federal subsidies also decrease the value of logs and woodchips on private lands, thus encouraging landowners to overcut and manage for shorter rotations.

The question today is not if ZeroCut will happen, but when! The most significant event is the recent introduction of the National Forest Protection and Restoration Act (NFPRA) which is H.R. 2789. A bill before Congress that would end the federal logging program and redirect subsidies toward restoration, worker retraining, and development of alternative fibers, NFPRA would allow the gathering of firewood and other non-commercial uses. In addition, the Act would develop a scientifically based restoration plan that includes some cutting of trees for forest health purposes. The bill was introduced by Cynthia McKinney (D- GA) and James Leach (R-IA), and currently has 22 co-sponsors.

As a grassroots campaign, ZeroCutís success lies with the people. Every person, every letter and every effort adds up. We know we have people on our side, now our job is to mobilize their support.

How you can help the ZeroCut campaign: Write or call your representative in Congress and ask them to sponsor H. R. 2789.

Representative Alan Mollohan
2346 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515

Representative Bob Wise
2367 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515

Representative Nick J. Rahall
2307 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515

Call toll free 1-800-522-6721.

Write a ZeroCut article for your groupís newsletter or local newspaper.

(The staff at the Native Forest Network encourages you to join our campaign efforts and call us to show your support. We will let you know what is going on in your area and how to plug in Call NFN ZeroCut: Missoula MT (406) 542-7343 or Burlington, VT (802) 863-0571.) _