Front Porch Blog

The National Forest Firesale

I hope I never see the “Pisgah National mini-mall.” Our national forests are being rapidly put up for sale by timber companies who’ve realized that woods are worth more as real estate than as a source of lumber.

A recent U.S. Forest Service study predicted that more than 44 million acres of private forest land, an area twice the size of Maine, will be sold over the next 25 years.

Having run out of fancy names, and not wanting to pass up a chance to join in destroying and developing every inch of our planet, the Bush Administration is supporting a bill to sell up to 300,000 acres of national forests under the guise of “raising money for rural kids.” Its too bad those kids will never know what Lincoln Logs are!

That only complicates the selling of forestland by private companies, which remains mostly under the radar.

The sales have attracted limited national attention because they are mostly private transactions and involve local planning decisions, but the stakes are enormous…Today, a third of the U.S. land mass is forest — the same proportion as in 1907…and 57 percent of it is privately owned.

But it turns out that when people know about this forest firesale, they are fighting back…

The Conservation Fund (recently ranked the nation’s #1 environmental non-profit) is hoping to raise $48 million in the coming months to buy up to 16,000 acres of California forest in Big River and Salmon Creek. President Lawrence A. Selzer says this sale “ has the potential to permanently and profoundly change the landscape of America.”

It will change the landscape of American forests into minimalls unless we help them. Just two years ago, the Conservation Fund bought 24,000 acres of forests along the Garcia River for $18 million. There will be limited logging in order to pay property taxes and restore what they call “key ecological areas.” They have tried to limit the environmental impacts by buying protecting areas of “greatest ecological value”, but they cannot afford to buy all the vast expanses and halt this trend outright.

The Conservation Fund is also actively at work in the South, having bought 1,600 acres of land in Georgia. This was however, only a fraction of the 300,000 acres that Weyerhaeuser was selling in the state. Fund officials then resold the tract to state officials, who have plans to turn the area into a nature preserve.

The Fund is also at work in Maine, which has the largest contiguous block of undeveloped forest east of the Mississippi —

at least 10 million acres, or more than half of the state’s entire land mass. Most of it was once owned by paper companies, but this is shifting quickly. According to the Massachusetts-based Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, 20 million acres changed hands in Maine’s North Woods, north of Bangor, between 1980 and 2000.

Last year there was a failed attempt to turn 1000 acres of Maine forest into two resorts and town homes. That won’t stop them from trying again with a more “environmentally friendly” proposal.

Its great to get this kind of coverage in the Washington Post.

Read the whole article here

It also wouldnt hurt to thank them and author Julie Eilperin here




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