How Detrimental Clear-Cut Logging And Other Options Have you ever awakened on a beautiful sunny morning in the Southwest planning on going for a hike in the Cascade Mountains, but when you arrive at your destination there are only stumps? This is the result of clear-cut logging. The negative aspects of logging, by far, outweigh the benefits. Clear-cut logging is the practice of harvesting all the trees in a specifically marked area. Another logging method is a selective cut which is the harvesting of some trees to open the canopy so the remaining trees can grow faster. Last but not least, is the practice of salvage logging. This results in the harvesting of dead or dying trees, either in a selective or clear-cut method.
Over time, clear-cut logging has been used for a variety of reasons. They include, but are not limited to, generating revenue, the maximum production of wood fiber for its many uses, and clearing land for houses and businesses. Clear-cut logging possesses some positive outcomes and some negative outcomes. The positives of clear-cut logging include: The increased amount of jobs available, which in turn betters America’s economy by generating revenue, the chance for prevention of catastrophic fires, and the bettering of forest health. Another benefit is the production of wood products, and the access provided to the public from the logging roads.
On the other hand, the negatives of clear-cut logging include the increased amount of sedimentation in streams and rivers, the increase in water temperatures, the degradation of fish and wildlife habitat, the increased chance for fires, and the soil compacting caused by heavy logging machinery. Clear-cut logging benefits America’s economy in several ways. First, there are a variety of jobs created, like the everyday logger, the log truck drivers, helicopter pilots, mill workers, carpenters and the construction companies , to name a few. These jobs help our economy by increasing the money flow in society and decreasing the number of America’s unemployed. Another economic benefit is the generation of revenue for communities. Twenty-five percent of the revenue from logging sales on national forest goes back to the community/county where logging occurred, for the improvement of roads and schools (USDA 2000). Clear-cut logging can also help forest health.
A created opening clear-cut can be made to protect the most valuable trees from fire. For example, the clearing of Lodge Pole Pine creates space between itself and Ponderosa Pine. This clear-cut technique helps reduce the chance for catastrophic fires by removing fuels from the fire and not allowing the fire to “jump” to the Ponderosas Pine. Wood products such as houses, furniture, and paper products are all benefits of clear-cut logging. Also, when companies clear-cut they build roads to reach their destination. These roads provide access to the public for fishing, hunting, or any other outdoor activity. Although there are some benefits of clear-cut logging, it can also severely damage the ecosystem.
The first con is the cause and effect of sedimentation. The number one cause of sedimentation is road building. “Even though the amount of sediment has not been quantified, it is known that roads contribute the single largest source of delivery in managed landscapes” (Gibbon and Salo 45). The second is the loss of ground cover, which occurs during clear-cut logging. “These high levels of sediment caused by clear-cut logging and road construction have been one of the main causes of stream degradation,” according to (USFS ). Sedimentation is detrimental because it smothers the aquatic insects that juvenile fish eat, and causes the salmon and trout eggs in the gravel to suffocate.
“Logging typically increases erosion for six years, but sediment delivery has been documented to remain elevated for more than nine years” (Megahan ). Another factor of sedimentation is the heavy logging equipment, which causes soil compacting. As the machinery moves through areas being logged, the soil becomes compacted causing plant and tree re-growth very difficult. Another negative aspect is the practice of clear-cut logging near streams. “In fact, timber harvest on public and private land in the Grande Ronde river sub basin has reduced overall stream shade from a potential eighty percent to a total of twenty-eight percent” (Noll ).
This allows the sun to penetrate the water, thus raising water temperatures. “Removal of riparian vegetation by road construction and logging is known to greatly increase water temperatures, decrease bank stability, and increase sediment delivery” (Beschta ). Changing the natural environment can harm the local wildlife in the area. “Increased water temperatures can cause the death of adult salmon and trout before they spawn if waters reaches sixty degrees Fahrenheit, salmonid eggs in the gravel will also die” (Brett ). Clear-cut logging also causes the destruction of fish and wildlife habitat.
“Increased levels of logging increase the likelihood of habitat degradation and resultant reduction in salmonid species” (NMFS,USFS ). Studies also have shown that maintaining dead and dying fire-affected trees, can serve to protect many important resource values. “Dead, standing, and downed trees are sources of shade, refuge, and food for fish and other wildlife, both in riparian and upland areas” (Espinosa ). For example, in the forest there is a variety of wildlife, from elk and deer to the endangered species of Spotted Owls. In large clear-cuts, these animals are left without any cover for protection or the comfort of living. Clear-cut logging near streams decreases large organic debris, such as root wads or fallen trees, which has the potential to fall into the stream or river, and be used as habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms.
“In Alaska, salmon populations are at record high levels in most areas. This is because most of the areas have excellent habitat. It is not a coincidence that the only stream in Alaska, on Etolin Island, where pre-spawning mortality is a serious problem was clear-cut logged” (Espinosa ). Also, the cutting down of the most valuable species such as Ponderosa Pine, which are the most, fire-adapted trees, increases the chance for catastrophic fire. The branches on the Ponderosa Pine start very high up, so fires spreading do not ignite these trees. But when clear-cut logging occurs, Lodge Pole Pine replaces the Ponderosa Pine in very dense stands increasing the chances for fires to catch and become catastrophic.
There are several reasons why clear-cut, selective, and salvage logging techniques have been used. A few include: the economic benefit, the increase in forest health, an the maximum production of wood fiber for its many uses. Although clear-cut logging may provide economic benefits, we now see why it is so detrimental to the environment. Even though here in the Southwest the economy outweighs the ecosystem, everyday the ecosystem is catches up a little bit to the economy. It is our job as a nation to ensure that future generations can enjoy a beautiful forest and a wonderful wildlife to go with it.