Seeing the Forest tells the story of the Siuslaw National Forest in Oregon — how it made a successful transition from timber extraction to ecosystem restoration.
Once the epicenter of conflict, the Siuslaw today is an exemplar of cooperation and collaboration.
They harvest wood sustainably by thinning overly dense monoculture stands that are a legacy of the earlier days of unrestrained clearcutting. This not only improves the health of the forest by providing better habitat, but also creates local jobs and provides revenue to fund other restoration activities.
These activities include stream and watershed restoration, installing large culverts for aquatic organism passage, road maintenance, and road closures. All of these activities create more local jobs, in a virtuous circle that benefits the people, the forest, and salmon.
This is the story of how one national forest evolved from seeing trees as its primary resource, to seeing the forest as a whole.
Text by David Bollier
In the 1990s, many communities in central Oregon were torn asunder by the “War of the Woods.” Environmentalists had brought lawsuits against the U.S. Forest Service for violating its own governing statutes. For decades, timber companies had been allowed to clear-cut public forests, re-seed with tree monocultures, and build ecologically harmful roads on mountain landscapes.
Environmentalists won their lawsuit in 1991 when a federal judge issued an injunction that in effect shut down timber operations in the Pacific Northwest of the US. While the endangered northern spotted owl was the focus of much of the debate, the health of the entire ecosystem was at risk, including the Pacific salmon, which swim upstream to spawn.
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