If a tree is clearcut in the forest and no one hears it, it
still makes noise.
Just ask the residents of Humboldt County, California,
who heard rumbling mudslides late last year that wiped out seven
homes, closed more than 40 roads, displaced several families,
and caused million of dollars worth of damage. The clearcutting
of trees on the hillsides near the town of Stafford left the
surrounding land unstable and led to the destruction.
The mudslides that took place on private property
in Humboldt County could just as easily have taken place on
public lands. Beyond destabilizing the soil, clearcutting contributes
to deforestation, pushes America's native plant and animal species
toward extinction, and decreases the diversity of our biological
resources in this country. Of the 1 billion acres of original
forest in the United States, less than 6 percent remain-and
only 1 percent of the original forests in the lower 48 states.
It is imperative for us to act to preserve our
dwindling forestlands, starting with the areas that are held
in public trust.
To this end, I've introduced the Act to Save America's
Forests. This legislation would put an end to clearcutting on
federal forestlands, promote sustainable forestry practices,
and provide strong protection to the last remaining core areas
of forest biodiversity in the United States.
Specifically, the Act to Save America's Forests
would prevent the USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management,
Bureau of Indian Affairs, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and
the Armed Services from allowing clearcutting on forestlands
under their jurisdiction. In its place, these agencies would
be required to make the preservation of native forest biological
diversity their top priority in managing these areas, and the
Forest Service in particular would be required to actually restore
native plants and animals.
Further, the legislation would prohibit any extractive
logging and road building on federal land in the ancient Northwest
forests and roadless areas. The Act to Save America's Forests
would help protect land along the banks of lakes and waterways,
key watershed, and isolated patches of old-growth forests.
However, there are also over 100 significant swaths
of federal forestland that would not qualify for protection
under the ancient Northwest forest or roadless area provisions
of the legislation. These areas-totaling nearly four million
acres-are specifically named in the Act to Save America's Forests
as off-limits to extractive logging and road building. Special
areas from the Giant Sequoia Preserve in California to the Robert
Frost Mountain Area in Vermont would be preserved under this
The Act to Save America's Forests s more than
a simple step toward better stewardship over our public lands-it
represents a 180-degree turn from the federal government's current
approach to managing federal forests. Instead of encouraging
federal agencies to continue looking for ways to sell off this
nation's natural heritage at below-market prices, it requires
them to pursue ways to preserve and enhance forested areas for
It also represents a direct response to the American
people's expressed desire for stronger-not weaker-environmental
protection. Last year people throughout the nation refuted the
104th Congress's attempts to gut important conservation measures.
Although most of the antienvironmental legislation introduced
in the 104th Congress was defeated, some became law, including
an ill-conceived plan to open up old-growth forests in the Pacific
Northwest to clearcutting. The Act to Save America's Forests
is an attempt to reverse the ecological destruction caused in
the previous Congress and take a proactive approach to helping
Some observers may say that there is little chance
of getting such a sweeping piece of legislation through the
current majority in Congress. But I'm encouraged by the strong
show of support for the initiative. The bill has 60 originals
cosponsors so far, and it's been gaining support ever since
it was introduced a few weeks ago.
If the Act to Save America's Forests continues
to gain momentum, it will undoubtedly become one of the greatest
legacies of the 105th Congress.