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Where the Old Trees Grow

old growthHave you ever had a time in your life where everything, if only for a few minutes, seemed perfect? For me, that time was the late afternoon of June 21, 2011 and the place was the Tarkine Forest of northwest Tasmania. As I review my journal from that day, everything comes back to me. I remember standing next to a girl I felt very connected with at my side, breathing in the rich smell of moss and damp earth. All I could hear were a few songbirds and a light breeze rustling through wispy tree ferns. And then, of course, there were those trees.

Enormous swamp gum trees, some with diameters over fifteen feet, loomed overhead and their lofty heights left me awe-struck. I have never felt more moved by the beauty of nature in my life. My companion, Alex, and I still talk about that time in the Tarkine as if it were a dream. Perhaps that is why it is so hard for me to accept that the Tarkine is mostly unprotected from logging. More of the Tarkine, as with so many other irreplaceable old-growth forests around the world, is being cut down every day. That fact is very hard for me to accept and I will tell you why.

Old-growth forests are extremely valuable for both animals and people. They collectively harbor a substantial portion of the world’s biodiversity, providing a safe place to live for a tremendous number of threatened animal species. In fact, there are many animals that need old-growth forests to survive, such as the northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, and Phillipine monkey-eating eagle. When it comes to people, we rely on these forests more than you might think. The health and cleanliness of many watersheds relies on old-growth forests, and we need to increasingly depend on these ecosystems for their carbon-trapping functions. So why would anyone want to cut them down?

old growth forestThe simple answer to that question is: quick money. Old-growth trees, generally-speaking, are larger which results in more money from a plot of land than other, less mature forests. Many of the companies currently logging old-growth forests, especially those clear-cutting old-growth forests, will face a serious problem once their temporarily-high profits vanish. Old-growth forests that are completely cut down will take hundreds of years to fully recover. They provide large profits in the short term but, once they are gone, timber companies are forced to either lay off employees or spend huge amounts of money to buy new land to log. I’m sure you see the problem here.

The timber companies that are most economically-stable are selectively logging the land they own and avoiding the deceptive lure of quick profits possible from logging old-growth forests. Selective logging means only harvesting up to 1/3 of the forest volume in a given plot of land. This method of logging requires more land to compete with clear-cutting, but is much less destructive and allows for a consistent resource to harvest in the future. These are the companies typically certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and are the ones that you and I should support. Every person reading this uses the products of trees each day. As much as some of us hate to admit, harvesting trees is necessary. Logging old-growth forests is not. By making well-informed decisions as consumers and reaching out to others, particularly elected officials, you can help stop the unsustainable practice of old-growth forest logging. That way, everyone will have the opportunity to step into one of nature’s cathedrals and be inspired by the forest for generations to come.

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me with echidnaPeter Kleinhenz hails from Ohio, where he majored in zoology and media production at Miami University. Currently, he is pursuing his masters of science in environmental education at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. In his free time, Peter enjoys nature photography, caving, and live music - See more at: http://www.silentsprings.com/blog/dont-let-them-croak/#sthash.DDA7tT5q.dpuf

 

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