Most Endangered U.S. Forests Ranking Pinpoints Logging Pressure

MISSOULA, Montana, October 14, 2005 (ENS) - Oregon has more national forests at risk of commercial logging than any other state, according to the latest listing of the most endangered U.S. national forests released Wednesday by the nonprofit National Forest Protection Alliance.

Representing some of the nationís most diverse old-growth forests remaining, these wooded lands in Oregon contain the region's largest roadless areas, which provide critical habitat for threatened and endangered species.

The Zane Grey roadless area and the Rouge River in Oregon. The Bureau of Land Management proposes a timber sale in this pristine area. (Photo courtesy NFPA)
"Our national forests face myriad threats from Bush administration policies and Forest Service management," said Jake Kreilick, Endangered Forests Project coordinator with the National Forest Protection Alliance (NFPA).

"Collectively, the forest profiles in this report illustrate the poor ecological state of the national forest system, in large part from Forest Service efforts to place private industrial interests above the interests of the American people," Kreilick said.

Since 2002, the volume of wood cut in the federal logging program has grown by over 300 million board feet due to an escalation of logging in Oregon, California and the South, the NFPA points out.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth has said logging is important for fire risk reduction because fuels that might go up in smoke are removed. That too is the rationale behind the Bush administration's Healthy Forests law passed in 2003.

But the number of acres burned this year, after four years of logging to clear fuels, at 8,221,095 acres, is greater than any year since the Bush administration took office, and nearly twice the 10 year average number of acres burned from 1995 to 2005 of 4,568,739 acres.

The Forest Service estimates that "high priority treatment areas" for fuel removal cover 397 million acres across all ownerships, public and private, an area three times the size of France.

Black Hills

A clear cut in the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota (Photo courtesy NFPA)
The National Forest Protection Alliance report, "America's Endangered National Forests: Lumber, Landfill or Living Legacy?" lists 12 most endangered forests, nine threatened forests and two deserving of special mention - the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota, and the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina.

The 1.2 million acre Black Hills National Forest is a biologically distinct forest ecosystem where Rocky Mountain, eastern deciduous and boreal forests meet. Though the forest in its entirety is sacred to the Lakota Native people, logging, roadbuilding, overgrazing, mining and development are constant threats, and most of the forest has been logging at least once.

In the 1.3 million acre Nantahala National Forest, "intense pressure" from logging and roadbuilding is the greatest concern, according to the National Forest Protection Alliance. The Nantahala and surrounding forests contain 130 species of hardwoods and more than 2,000 species of flowering plants. The NFPA says, "The forest provides refuge for more than 50 species of terrestrial plants and animals that are listed as endangered or threatened and for 289 imperiled aquatic species."

Most of the forests featured in the report face threats to roadless areas from logging, roadbuilding, grazing, off-road vehicles and the Bush administrationís new roadless policy that gives state governors just 18 months to request protection for roadless areas in their state.

"Protecting roadless areas is no longer a priority of the Forest Service and many are now proposed for development," the NFPA warned.

America's Most Endangered National Forests:

America's Most Threatened National Forests: "Most Americans would be shocked to learn that logging on the Tongass National Forest is still being scheduled at about the same yearly rate that, over the past century, has already endangered this forest," said Larry Edwards of Greenpeace, a member of the Alliance.

"To force rational management of this national treasure and other national forests, we must turn to the one place where people have indomitable power - the marketplace," Edwards said.

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Kentucky's Daniel Boone National Forest is at risk of intensified logging on stands of trees just recovering from the logging of 100 years ago. Roadbuilding and mining are other imminent threats. (Photo courtesy NFPA)
The economic research presented in the market section was compiled by Dr. John Talberth, an expert on the values and benefits derived from all the national forest programs and uses.

"Clearly, America's national forests are far more valuable standing than cut down and converted into 2 x4's and paper products that are of trivial importance to our nationís wood products supply," said Talberth. "Nonetheless, through generous taxpayer subsidies of the federal timber sale program, the Forest Service is trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. These subsidies would be far better spent protecting and restoring ecological services of immense value to both existing and future generations."

The NFPA's Jeanette Russell said, "The National Forest Protection Alliance believes that the marketplace provides a new and effective avenue for protecting and restoring national forests. It's clear that citizens can no longer rely exclusively on Congress or the Bush administration to protect these public forests, as they are the very entities promoting more industrial logging and development."

"Given the disconnect between these bigger economic trends and the federal government's pro-logging policies," said Russell, "consumer demand and corporate responsibility will play increasingly important roles in changing how national forests are managed."

The report, "America's Endangered National Forests: Lumber, Landfill or Living Legacy?"is online at: http://www.forestadvocate.org/endangered/index.html