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Reasons Why Harvesting Can Be Bad
Article #121, July 2007

     We often focus on the many reasons why timber harvest is good. Maybe a tongue-in-cheek approach to the inverse might emphasize some perspectives many folks don't often consider. Let's think about all the reasons why timber harvesting is bad! Remember, this is a bit of a spoof.

     If we don't harvest locally, the cost of everything that contains wood will increase - lumber, paper, panels, packaging, clothing, chemicals, food additives, and many more items. We can buy wood from greater distances away and consume more fossil fuels in the process. Our friends in the OPEC nations are with us on this idea.

     Forcing harvest to occur in places where it shouldn't will accelerate the loss of rain forests and other forests in unregulated countries. It seems silly to produce what we use. Trading sound science for unsustainable practices seems more and more popular. Besides, who cares about Brazil or Indonesia?

     Treating forests as strictly parks and playgrounds also allows timber to be imported from somewhere else. For every acre "reserved", another 15-20 acres somewhere else may be subjected to poor harvest practices. But then, that's not our problem is it? As long as we can play up north, then who cares?

     Benign neglect is the best invitation to forest health problems. So, you want a deteriorating forest with a hearty dose of unwanted species? Well then, make sure you harvest no timber. There's nothing like a little neglect to attract the bad guys of the forest world. Besides, it's the American way to use tax dollars to fix something that could have been avoided earlier, at a profit.

     Not harvesting is a great way to break our rural economic backbone. All the recent talk of shaky economies and rural development really shouldn't consider our single greatest natural resource asset in the North Country. Forests. It's a good idea to take our most stable and good-paying jobs and trade them for unstable, low-paying jobs. It will save trees and make downstate folks happy. There are plenty of examples in the country where this has happened. Look to the Pacific Northwest. After all, big cities are wonderful places for our young folks to migrate to.

     It may be possible to significantly reduce dependency on foreign oil through the use of trees. But that's not a good idea because we would have to harvest trees to do so. As we look around the North Country, we won't see a lot of corn or soybeans. However, we do have a lot of forest, and much of it remains unharvested and under-producing. But then, that's the way we like it. Better to send those dollars to Kansas and Venezuela. Besides, we like burning coal.

     We don't really care much about wildlife and habitat. So, it's OK to let that forest continue along an unmanaged route. Deer, grouse, woodcock and hundreds of other species will just need to adapt to different conditions. Those animals that don't like it can just move somewhere else. Who really pays any attention to most wildlife anyway?

     Everybody knows that nature knows best, so avoiding timber harvest will certainly help us along this path. Those pre-settlement conditions should rebound within a few years or decades, even if the science demonstrates that it is impossible. Who believes scientists anyway? Fiction is far more romantic than fact.

     The forest always looks horrible after a harvest so, naturally, it must be a bad thing. Pretty is a good thing. We all know that visual quality is a great measure of ecological integrity. After all, something that looks bad must be bad. It's the same with people, if we don't like the way they look, then they must be bad people.

     If we return to a more serious tone, it becomes clear that timber harvest provides many benefits to not only forest owners but society as a whole. Somewhere over the past few decades many of us seem to have lost this knowledge or not learned it in the first place. Maybe it's time you considered a timber harvest? Just look at all the "good" things you can avoid!

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Bill Cook is an MSU Extension forester providing educational programming for the entire Upper Peninsula. His office is located at the MSU Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center near Escanaba. The Center is the headquarters for three MSU Forestry properties in the U.P., with a combined area of about 8,000 acres. He can be reached at cookwi@msu.edu or 906-786-1575.

Prepared by Bill Cook, Forester/Biologist, Michigan State University Extension, 6005 J Road, Escanaba, MI  49829
906-786-1575 (voice),  906-786-9370 (fax),  e-mail:  cookwi@msu.edu

Use / reprinting of these articles is encouraged. Please notify Bill Cook.
By-line should read "Bill Cook, MSU Extension" Please use the article trailer whenever possible.

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