By Chuck Woodbury
I was poking around on Google Earth today, checking out the road between Eugene and Florence, Oregon. At first, I didn’t think much of all the brown spots on the satellite view of the thick forest. Then it hit me! These were areas where the forest had been clear-cut by loggers.
Clear-cut logging takes every tree. There is nothing left, as you can see in the photo. Clear-cutting is controversial. Loggers say it’s important to create certain types of forest ecosystems and to promote select species that require an abundance of sunlight or grow in large, even-age stands. Clear-cutting is also a way to create farmland.
Environmentalists criticize clear-cutting as destructive to water, soil, wildlife and atmosphere, and recommend the use of sustainable alternatives. According to Wikipedia, “clear-cutting has a very big impact on the water cycle. Trees hold water and topsoil. Clear-cutting in forests removes the trees which would otherwise have been transpiring large volumes of water and also physically damages the grasses, mosses, lichens, and ferns populating the under story.”
Clear-cut areas are replanted. Twenty years later the trees may be 30 or 40 feet tall. But you can tell these “farmed” forests: The trees look like big bushes, sometimes in rows if you look closely. They are not as beautiful or inviting as a natural forest.
To me, clear-cutting is just plain ugly. U.S. 101 through Washington’s Olympic Peninsula goes right through many clear-cuts. Every time I drive this road I recall when I spent two days on assignment in Mount St. Helen’s red zone a few months after the volcano’s eruption, when the forest was blown away or leveled by the force of the blast. Some clear-cut forests look much the same.
There’s a lot more to this story, and I am no expert. So, just saying. . .