Letter: Logger-environmentalist debate shifts

There has been a paradigm shift in the Loggers versus the Environmentalists battle.

Published on January 22, 2018 2:10PM

Last changed on January 22, 2018 2:11PM

I wish to compliment both Mark Turner and the Capital Press for the Jan. 19 Guest Comment article: “Public deserves an honest debate over logging and wildfire.”

I sense a paradigm shift in the Loggers versus the Environmentalists battle. As long as I can recall, the timber industry and environmental groups have been at “loggerheads,” and that dispute will likely continue ad infinitum if the environmental groups ignore the new aspects of reality presented by the change in conditions that we have all witnessed in the increasing number, size and devastation of Northwest wildfires.

Mark Turner clearly points out these new aspects of reality in his article. These changes have the potential to transcend the age-old debate and to bring the two sides together in a manner that has heretofore been unthinkable.

The climate change debate: Mr. Turner neither affirmed nor denied climate change, yet most environmental groups are avid in their affirmation. The timber industry does not have to hold an adversarial position, it can remain neutral. If climate change is what is causing these record wildfires in the Northwest and forest practices can help mitigate the impact, then logging becomes a tool to prevent the wholesale assault of wildfire on the very environment that environmentalists so dearly wish to protect.

Loggers get to work and the environmentalists get to preserve what they have fought to preserve instead of watching it go up in smoke. That’s win/win.

Smoke. That’s carbon, as Mr. Turner points out. If Washington and Oregon enact proposed legislation that caps carbon and taxes carbon polluters, the public forests could potentially be the biggest offender. Not only do these massive wildfires produce vast, wasteful carbon, just as importantly they destroy the forest that is the best natural source of carbon sequestration. That is a lose/lose situation.

If the Forest Service fails to put into place practices that will prevent such carbon pollution and mitigate against the destruction of natural sequestration, will they not be potentially liable under such new carbon tax laws? If not legally, certainly in the public’s perception. Mr. Turner points to how privately managed forest lands do not suffer the same extreme losses, not remotely.

Habitat loss. In public lands set apart for old growth habitat or specific areas designated for the protection of certain plant or animal species, logging the margins or even strips within the designated areas can act as firebreaks to preserve and protect what has been set aside as that which needs to be protected. Huge contiguous areas without wildfire breaks simply put all the eggs in one big basket and put the preserve and the flora and fauna contained within that basket at greater risk of loss.

This is a pivotal moment in our local history and chance to move forward from a beleaguered conflict to a partnership that would serve the public interests. One need simply imagine 10 years down the road based upon what we have seen over the past 5 years in terms of Northwest wildfires to judge that our present course will not sustain us and a change in tactics and alliances is going to be required.

Brian Quigley

Camano Island, Wash.


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