Tag: National Forests

Why Is the West on Fire?


Let’s go back to the turn of the century. No, not the 20th/21st centuries, but back to the 19th/20th century. It was then that the National Park and National Forest services began, then quickly expanded later by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt. The former set aside national wilderness as federally managed land for the public to enjoy, the latter as federally managed land to maintain wilderness, agriculture and the timber industry. That last part is important: The National Forests had an aspect towards maintaining the timber industry.

For about a hundred years, this had gone pretty well. The timber industry harvested in the national forests and replanted so they could go back around again. Several decades back, the industries overplanted figuring once the trees grew to maturity they’d have even more to harvest. The result are the dense forest lands I grew up with in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, one of the first engineering firms had several projects with the National Forest Service, and our contact was from the East. She hated Oregon forests because they were so dense. Well, this was by the timber industries’ design. Then we come to the late eighties/early nineties.

Environmentalism was on the rise, and in the Pacific Northwest one of the key designated villains were the timber industries. We were told that the industries just wanted to clear cut all of Oregon’s forests and leave nothing. The Spotted Owl was paraded around as needing the old growth trees. It didn’t help that almost a century later, no one remembered there was a distinction made between national parks and national forests – a fact the environmentalists exploited to their favor. Popular opinion against timber industries rose, and it didn’t take long to find a sympathetic judge to block timber harvesting.