Stop the Deforestation Madness

Logging debris, Lolo National Forest. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Since the late 1970s I’ve been actively involved in issues that relate directly to protecting forest ecosystems in the Northern Rockies bioregion. I still marvel at the beauty and God-given miracles that can be found everywhere among the trees and animals that live there. Everyone can experience this same forest magic without paying a fee. Forests can heal us if we could just slow down enough to accept her many gifts.

In that time, over four decades now, the propaganda produced by the private-public partnership that created modern industrial logging after the end of WWII, has kept pace with the expanded use of heavy machinery to extract and process logs. There’s plenty of blaming others for causing “illegally deforested land around world,” and finger-pointing directed at domestic forest activists, but never constructive self-criticism or reflection that might lead to change in forest practices causing deforestation here at home. Industry propaganda is repeated ad nauseam by industry flacks, active and retired U.S. Forest Service (USFS-USDA) agents and like-minded congressional members, who all sing in perfect unison from the same hymnal.

Where we (most of us) see, experience and feel a forest, the timber industry and its partners in crimes against nature, see only “natural capital” as an engine to generate corporate profit. The more acres of nature converted to profit, the greater their bottom line. Measuring a forest’s value only in dollars is ceremonial cult worship. Propaganda (false narratives to divert our gaze away from clearcutting) manipulates public perception by distorting what’s really happening to public forests and the deadly effects on all local lifeforms.

Let me share a few doctrinal whoppers this death cult uses frequently:

False statement (propaganda) #1) “Preservation is not conservation.” This misstatement is decades old boilerplate.

From Webster’s (1828): “Conservation, noun [Latin See Conserve.] The act of preserving, guarding or protecting; preservation from loss, decay, injury, or violation; the keeping of a thing in a safe or entire state; as the conservation of bodies from perishing; the conservation of the peace of society; the conservation of privileges.”

Modern Webster’s says it this way: “Conservation 1: a careful preservation and protection of something especially: planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect water conservation wildlife conservation 2: the preservation of a physical quantity during transformations or reactions”

Conservation is preservation. Converting so-called “natural capital” into profit using big machines – bulldozers, excavators, feller-bunchers, limbers, skidders, log trucks, etc. – and mountains of propaganda, is not conservation.

False statement (propaganda) #2) “Logging is forest restoration, which in turn benefits elk.” The truth is: clearcuts eliminate elk hiding cover, susceptible to poachers and hunters wanting to kill them. Clearcutting eliminates thermal cover that cools elk and other animals in summer and keeps them alive in the coldest nights of winter. A logging road leads to every clearcut, enabling drive-by shootings and road-hunters. Logging is neither restoration, nor a benefit to elk.

In direct response to the fallacious op-ed that ran in the Helena IR recently, written by an R-Y Lumber Co. manager/spokesman, on behalf of out-of-state billionaire mill owners: The court stopped the Forest Service from logging the roadless areas of Tenmile drainage West of Helena because the USFS-USDA broke the law. If the USFS-USDA simply followed the laws governing management of national (public) forests, plaintiffs would never win. Like a dog returns to its vomit, the USFS-USDA is a repeat offender that can’t help itself.

We witness the destruction caused by clear-cut logging and roadbuilding. Machines turn forest magic and wonderment into mass psychotic nightmares. Won’t you help stop this deforestation madness?

Steve Kelly is a an artist and environmental activist. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.