Deforestation of the Northwest

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Deforestation of the Pacific Northwest

One of the most controversial areas associated with the global problem of deforestation is the Pacific Northwest of the US. The problem can be broken down into several issues that all tie in together. These include the near extinction of the Northern Spotted Owl, the 'business' aspect of logging versus the environmental aspect, and the role of the government in this problem.

In 1973, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed. This enabled the Dept. of Commerce and Dept. of the Interior to place species, either land or marine, as either threatened or endangered. Under these terms species could no longer be hunted, collected, injured or killed. The northern spotted owl falls under the more serious condition of being endangered. Also, the bill forbids federal agencies to fund or carry out any activity that would threaten the species or its' habitat.

It is the latter part of the bill that causes the controversy. Under the ESA, loggers should not be allowed to cut down the old-growth of the forest. The old growth of a forest includes the largest and oldest trees, living or dead. In the case of the North Coast forests, this includes some thousand-year-old stands with heights above three-hundred feet and diameters of more than ten feet.

In 1990, the number of spotted owls dropped to 2000 breeding pairs. The preservation of any species contributes to the biodiversity of an area. In an ecosystem, the absence of one species creates unfavorable conditions for the others. The absence of the spotted owl could have a significant effect on the North Coast forest ecosystem. In order to send the owl population in the right direction, the major problem for their decline would have to...