• Sumo

Right now the environment is one of the most talked about topics. “What is good for the environment?” “What’s damaging the environment beyond repair?” Generally during debate, logging gets brought up as a negative aspect with the assumption that logging companies are rapidly depleting the world of its forests. But is that entirely true? Not even close.

The timber industry is one of the oldest and most established industries in the United States, as well as all other countries of the world, due to the need for wood. We use wood for everything, whether it is for building homes and furniture, manufacturing paper, or simply burning in fireplaces for heat. With a resource so critical, what is being done to prevent the worst-case scenario of global deforestation? Actually, quite a lot.

Turns out, the logging companies, while looking like the bad guys all the time, do a lot to ensure that they aren’t. Beyond supporting local economies by providing jobs and business, dozens of rules and regulations are in place to prevent a catastrophe such as the loss of an entire forest or the destruction of an ecosystem. Coming from Oregon’s timber laws, one such law demands that within a year of harvesting, the process of replanting occurs and wraps up within that year. That means that for each tree cut down, another tree is planted. Think of that: Every time you purchase a plank of wood, essentially you’re purchasing another tree getting planted. If logging companies did nothing but chop trees indiscriminately, they’d eventually run out of their most precious commodity, leading to a complete breakdown of the industry. As callused as it may sound, they just aren’t stupid enough to shoot themselves in the foot, a fact that thankfully becomes good news for us.

A lot of people have the notion that logging companies clear-cut forests down to the ground, but that’s also not true. According to another of Oregon’s timber laws, clearcutting cannot be done to more than 120 acres in one area owned by the logging company, and further clearcutting cannot be done within 300 feet of the same area until the first area has been completely reforested. Much of the time, this means that logging companies are moving around from place to place, taking some trees but leaving most. This leaves time for the younger trees to grow in between logging cycles and perpetuates the rebuilding of forests at a regular pace.

In fact, at this point in time a lot of people have the incorrect assumption that our forests are disappearing, even though we have just as much forestland in the United States as we had 300 years ago. The place where the most clearcutting of forests- specifically rain forests- is happening turns out to be in small, impoverished countries and performed by the actual natives. They’re faced with the problem of feeding their families, and the only way to accomplish this is by planting more crops, so they have to slash and burn through more rain forest acres to find the needed land.

Much of the movement against logging companies has come not as a result of activists seeking justice for the environment but rather as a general anti-big business movement, something that does a lot to deflate such a movement’s credibility or reliability. Semantics can be a very tricky thing. Picking a scapegoat is a dangerous move, especially in this case as the scapegoat singled out happens to be one of the good guys, predominantly.

To be fair, not all logging companies are upstanding examples of smart ecological business practices. Just as in any other industry, there are some unfortunate members that choose to just do what they want, in this case skirting the laws and doing what they please, such as cutting too much in one area or cutting in areas that aren’t approved for logging. However, do not judge the entire industry on these isolated instances alone! You’d be doing a great injustice to the rest of the industry, much like if you said that all of law enforcement was corrupt and needed to be taken down just because of a few cops that take bribes. The fact of the matter is, the logging industry does far more good than evil.

If anything, logging companies are going a long way to preserve forests and ensure they remain a sustainable commodity for hundreds of years to come. You must be careful about the dichotomy created when attacking logging companies and those who clearcut trees. It can easily become a “Small Guys vs Big Business” debate, or even a “Rich Nations vs Impoverished Nations” debate when looked at from the correct angles, and unfortunately we’re paitning the “Rich Nations” as the good guys here. So be aware of what’s happening out there and learn your facts. Sometimes not everything is exactly as the world perceives.