Archive for March, 2004

MYTH – American Forests are disappearing

Challenging Conventional Wisdom
More Myth-Busting With 20/20
By John Stossel

March 22, 2004 – We’ve all grown up hearing all sorts of wives’ tales. Some of them seem to make good sense, but a lot turn out to be just nonsense. Watch 20/20’s “Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity” tonight at 10 p.m.

MYTH # 3 – Are We Destroying Our Forests?
Lots of Americans feel bad when they see images of trees being cut down, because they’ve been told that America’s running out of forestland.

Carl Ross, of the group, Save America’s Forests, says we’ve cut way too much.

“The loss of natural forests in America is a crisis,” he said. “And we will lose species forever, and they’ll go extinct, if we don’t take action now.”
Other environmental groups run ads warning of the dire consequences.

But The U.S. Agriculture Department says America has 749 million acres of forestland. In 1920, we had 735 million acres of forest.

We have more forest now. How can that be? One reason is technology that allows us to grow five times more food per acre – so we need less farmland. Lots of what once was farmland has reverted to forest.

But Ross says we don’t really have more forests. “We have more areas, in America, with trees on them, that’s true. But we have less that are natural,” he said.

He’s right that many of the oldest trees have been cut down, and about 7 percent of America’s forests have been planted by man, but that still means that 93 percent are natural.

Ross is also concerned that loss of old-growth forest is leading to a loss of biodiversity. But while some species have decreased, the populations of many others animals have actually increased in the past 75 years.

Michael Shermer says many people believe America is destroying the forests because environment groups need to scare people to raise money.

“The fear is there,” he said, “because, if your goal is to raise funds you have to scare people. You can’t tell people things are getting better, and here’s the data. You have to tell people things are worse.”

The truth, however, is that today in the United States there are two acres of forestland for every single person, and America is growing more forest than it cuts.

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Greenpeace Co-Founder Defends Logging

Greenpeace Co-Founder Defends Logging at Kutztown, Pa., Conference

By Mike Urban, Reading Eagle, Pa. Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Mar. 17 – Clear-cut forests often are regarded as symbols of environmental destruction.

But woodlands cleared by loggers actually teem with animals, insects and plants that thrive in that type of environment, according to Dr. Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, a worldwide environmental activist group.

And, he said, the logging industry is committed to reforesting those woodlands and supporting biodiversity, making forestry a boon to the economy, community and environment.

Moore spoke Sunday at a forests and wildlife conference in Kutztown University’s Schaeffer Auditorium attended by about 100 people.

“When people use wood, they are encouraging the forestry industry to plant more trees, which is good for the environment,” said Moore, whose family has forested in British Columbia for four generations.

Far more damaging to the environment are urban sprawl and agriculture, particularly farms that are not efficient in getting the best production per acre, he said.

Those practices prevent the environment from returning to its natural state, while forestry encourages that phenomenon, he said.

Moore’s views have put him at odds with many in the environmental movement, and for that reason he quit Greenpeace in 1986.

Moore said many environmentalists rely on false beliefs instead of the scientific data he uses, and forestry is just one example.

“Just because a clear-cut forest doesn’t look like a postcard picture, people think that it’s environmentally harmful, but that’s not true,” he said. “A pastoral farm looks a lot prettier, but it’s a lot more damaging.”

And, he said, if people don’t use wood they instead will use metal and concrete, which are non-renewable, require far more energy to produce and are worse for the environment.

Driving across Pennsylvania to the conference, Moore was pleased to see the state’s abundant woodlands, but concerned about the many strip malls and clustered housing developments lacking in green space.

“Zoning is the key to preventing forest and wildlife destruction,” he said.

The Southeast PA Forest Issues Working Group sponsored Sunday’s conference.

The event also featured Dr. Gary L. Alt, head of the state game commission’s deer management program.

Alt also spoke of ways to preserve Pennsylvania’s woodlands.

Although Pennsylvania is 49th in the nation in population growth, it is among the worst states in terms of habitat loss, a statistic related to rampant urban sprawl, he said.

As a result, smart growth must be a priority, as should controlling the deer population, Alt said. An overabundance of deer otherwise will eat away forests, especially young oak trees, which many creatures rely on for the acorns they provide, he said.

Although sweeping changes in state deer hunting laws have helped in recent years, Alt said more changes are needed.

“We’re trying to have the right number of deer, of the right sexes and ages, in the right areas,” he said.

Antlerless deer season — which currently is about one month long, and just a few years ago lasted only three days — should be further extended, he said.

“Over the next decade, doe season in some areas will last up to four months,” he said.


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