Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Straightforward answers

Posted on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 3:14 PM

Down through the decades, Montanans and many others have become familiar with forests' potential to be a renewable resource. The logic is straightforward. We could cut some trees today, then go back to that same acreage later, and cut the trees that grew to replace them.

The potential for economic sustainability grows from forests' potential renewability. Again, the logic is straightforward. Because forests have potential to be renewed, the businesses and jobs dependent on them could be sustained year after year, decade after decade.

All of which is widely approved, with very good reason. And there is reason to believe that logging companies are capable of doing it.

Alas, there have been challenges to making it work that way. Instead of relying on forest renewability, logging operations have often been pushed into roadless areas where trees have never been cut. This has been especially true when a combined exuberance of banking and building puts ambitious demands on the forests.

The booms in lending, building and logging have of course created booms in jobs. But, as we all know now, they have also ended with the pain of busted jobs in all three industries, stress on the financial system, and less roadless forest. These busts of finance, jobs and forest are not things we want renewed or sustained.

So, when Sen. Jon Tester wants yet another push into roadless acreage, it makes many of us wonder if the potential for renewability of forests and the sustainability of business and jobs will ever get their day in the sun. Many would much rather see what's left of the roadless areas protected under the Wilderness Act, and would be delighted if Tester decided to put his good will behind keeping renewable forests and sustainable businesses and jobs alive and well in Montana.

Lance Olsen


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