The philosophy behind Greek & Roman conquests was to destroy and conquer, clear the land and build cities. The same has held true through all history. The late 1800’s and early 1900’s found the same philosophy in the United States “clear the land and build cities”. Cities were created and flourished from the seemingly endless supply of timber with which to build homes, ships, and furniture and produce leather supplies. The land was cut and cleared of every living woody plant stem with disregard for the plant and animal species that survived there and only the dollar drove the saw.
Clearcutting” a term that brings to mind a sight of a once pristine forest ravaged by the worst of human kind with blatant disregard for all the species which reside there, a “raping of the woods” where the only concern is the money it returns. In our society “many people associate clearcutting with deforestation”(Bliss 6). But could there be a remote possibility that if done properly and with regard to all species involved that it could be a good and effective silvicultural tool? Those of us in the forestry field feel the answer is ‘yes’, in general society says ‘no’.
In general “public opposition is widespread. But why is this so? ”(Bliss 6). Much of it is the perception of clearcutting and how a clearcutting looks after it has been applied. It is not always a pretty sight and many “find clearcutting aesthetically offensive”(Bliss 6), myself included. The short terms after affects are no more pleasing, briars everywhere, treetops strewn about, dead stems reaching towards the sky. When applied on a small scale these areas are virtual havens for wildlife.
The briars and treetops support an as diverse, if not more so, species population than the forest preceding it and the dead stems provide homes for many squirrels and bird species. What about the other factors such as “soil erosion, landslides, loss of biodiversity, and degradation of water resources”(Bliss 6)? Many of these problems can be avoided and depending on the area which clearcutting is applied may be of no concern. As stated before species biodiversity may actually increase, the pioneer species (briars, ferns, grasses and saplings) along with the tops of trees can often prevent soil erosion.
Federal and state regulations require that logging companies do things to promote species regeneration and prevent erosion and water degradation. These concerns are usually only based on stories people have been told about that one bad logging company or a news story of a landslide in a third world country which killed dozens due to clearcutting. In an article in the Journal of Forestry, Bliss states, “Some research suggests that increased knowledge about forest practices raises public acceptability of them”(7). In general the public view is a product of a lack of education and a few stories from a “save the trees” environmentalist.