Only 500 years ago, the land we call the United States was covered with over 1 billion acres of pristine ancient, virgin, and native forests. A squirrel could travel from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River without touching the ground! In the East, White Pine, Oak, Hemlock, Maple, Chestnut and many other species of trees stood tall, the framework of some of the most diverse and complex forests on Earth. Magnificent ancient forests of Giant Sequoia, Redwood, Douglas Fir, Spruce, and Cedar were an unbroken band of temperate rainforest from California to Alaska.
Forests grow wherever conditions of temperature, soil, precipitation, and sunshine occur in the right combinations. Natural forests create clean air, clean water, and many other essentials for the continuation of all life on Earth.
Modern civilization has waged war on America’s forest ecosystems. About 97% of our original forests have been destroyed, and the last 3% reside almost entirely on public lands owned commonly by all Americans. But, National Forests are by not protected from continued destruction. The past 40 years have seen heartbreaking losses on America’s public lands. The rate of destruction increased when the National Forest Management Act legalized clearcutting in 1976. Now, the last wild forests in our National Forests across the country are falling to the chainsaw and bulldozer. With the help of Congress and the U.S. Forest Service, private timber companies log our national lands at an annual cost of billions of taxpayer dollars. TOP
A founding purpose of the U.S. Forest Service was to reclaim lands laid to waste by cut-and-run logging operations during the 19th century and to ensure that the same type of destruction would not happen to the remaining virgin forests of the West. After almost 100 years of natural regrowth, many of the second growth forests are regaining some of their original native biodiversity. We call these "native forests." Along with the fragments of ancient forests still in existence, native forests are the last repositories of the original biological diversity of the United States. Biodiversity is the complex web of interconnected and interdependent species— microorganisms, fungi, flowers, plants, and animals—that thrive in a natural forest, the result of millions of years of evolution. Extinction of species is now occurring faster than at any time in history. Protection of our last biologically diverse forests is critical to insure the survival of thousands of endangered plant and animal species, and habitat destruction is the single greatest cause of species extinction worldwide. The loss of even a single species contributes to the unraveling of this delicate web of life that forms the forest ecosystem. Henry David Thoreau recognized the importance of natural biodiversity when he said, "In Wildness is the Preservation of the World."
Yet now, with marching orders created by the timber lobby and handed down by past congresses and presidents, the Forest Service has been destroying the same lands it was originally mandated to protect. In the last 25 years, with the use of clearcutting, slash burning, bulldozing, and pesticide and herbicide application, most of our ancient and native forests have been logged, with many converted into single species tree farms. Few other plants or animals can survive in these "monocultures." The poisoned topsoil runs of into our streams, rivers, and oceans, killing fish and wildlife. TOP
Because of intense public outcry and improved media coverage, Congress is finally beginning to address this issue. The timber industry, however, is pulling out all the stops in an effort to hold on to their bonanza of subsidized logging on public lands. Without a powerful political coalition to lead the fight for protection, our forests don’t stand a chance.
Now is the time for all concerned citizens to come to the defense of our country’s natural heritage. Without strong forest protection legislation from Congress soon, we will lose our last and only chance to save and restore our native forest ecosystems. It is imperative that we win a political victory for our forests, silence the din of chainsaws destroying the last of wild nature, and create a new era of environmental and economic responsibility. TOP