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National forests: More than the sum of their precious parts

United States
Guest Columnist
23/07/2010
Randi Spivak and Tom Power

It's time for a 21st century dialogue about Oregon's federal forests that recognizes they are greater than the sum of their parts. Debates over logging vs. spotted owls  are narrow, polarizing and obsolete.

No other region in the country boasts forests that provide such abundant supplies of clean water, recreational opportunities and fish and wildlife as federal forests in the Northwest. No other forests absorb and store as much carbon as the Northwest's massive old trees and rich soils. These are the precious natural resources we must safeguard and restore to ensure that both rural and urban communities can adapt to and help lessen climate change impacts.

The next time you turn on your tap, consider that more than half of the water in the West comes from national forests. This priceless fresh water is not only essential for homes, farms and industries, it also provides the last refuge for wild salmon. Securing high-quality water from federal forests is fundamental to our well-being and prosperity and will become increasingly important as climate change-induced droughts shrink supply in places and development of private timberland reduces water quality.

Yet even these watersheds are already under stress from decades of logging, grazing and an over-built and crumbling road system that contributes to fire risks, causes erosion and pollutes streams with sediment. Climate disruption will compound these stressors as increasing temperatures and wetter winters in parts of the region fundamentally alter how much and when water is produced and released downstream.

Our vision is simple: Keep watersheds forested by protecting the best and restoring the rest. What can this mean for local communities? Jobs. Watershed and forest restoration activities create 20 jobs for every $1 million invested, according to the University of Oregon Ecosystem Workforce Program. Keeping our rivers, streams and watersheds healthy and resilient will also keep the millions of people who visit our federal forests coming back. Recreational activities on our federal forests contribute $14.5 billion annually, supporting more than 220,000 jobs in rural areas, helping to diversify and create sustainable local economies.

Thinning impoverished tree plantations also will restore mature and old-growth forests over time while providing logs to mills with less controversy. Much of the timber industry already has made this welcomed transition.

The forests of the Northwest are among the world's greatest carbon accumulators, storing as much or more carbon per acre than even tropical rainforests. These large, extremely long-lived trees are also naturally more resilient to disturbance, making for stable carbon stores. We must do at home what we're asking developing countries to do now: avoid dangerous carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. This means protecting our carbon champions -- older forests and their immense carbon stores from the California redwoods to Alaska's Tongass rainforest.

If properly protected and restored, our forested watersheds can sustain both human and wildlife needs for clean water, producing jobs for rural communities and providing nature's insurance policy against climate change and other challenges.

Clearly, Oregon's forests are more than the spotted owl.

Randi Spivak is vice president of government affairs with the Ashland-based National Center for Conservation Science & Policy. Tom Power is a research professor and Economics Department professor emeritus at the University of Montana and is a science advisory board member for the National Center for Conservation Science & Policy.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.

    

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