Home SiteCynic Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

by Seattle City Councilmember, Heidi Wills

Whether it was their great love of trees or the chance to see Dave Matthews perform a free concert, something special drove more than a thousand people to Victor Steinbrueck Park on Sept. 29 to rally in support of protecting our old-growth forests.

In the face of new and sweeping threats to millions of acres of old-growth and mature trees from President Bush’s so-called “Healthy Forests Initiative,” the Northwest Old-Growth Campaign and several supporting organizations such as Biodiversity Northwest sponsored this fabulous event.

Dave was just one of the distinguished and passionate guests who came out to voice concern over Bush’s proposal that would lift protections for old-growth trees in our national forests under the guise of wildfire prevention. Representative Jay Inslee, Bob Guenther of the Lewis-Thurston Central Labor Council, Northwest Ecosystem Alliance’s Mitch Friedman, and others joined me in urging the densely-packed crowd to tell our congressional leaders that the people of the Emerald City love our trees and won’t stand for weakened protections for the ancient giants of our Northwest forests.

Rather than foster healthier forests, the “Healthy Forests Initiative” would open our public lands to increased logging of our old-growth trees without giving the public an opportunity to challenge these practices. Many notable scientists contend that the removal of old, large-diameter trees would do nothing to decrease the fire danger. Old-growth trees are the most resistant to fire. History shows that over the past 50 years, catastrophic wildfires have ravaged our national forests following the largest timber harvests.

There certainly is a need to better manage our forests near the communities most at risk from wildfires. But brush removal, rather than logging in isolated old-growth stands will better protect these communities. The market for old-growth wood is drying up at mills and timber retailers throughout the Northwest. The equipment at many timber mills is designed for smaller logs, not large-diameter trees. Many large timber retailers such as Lowe’s, Home Depot and Golden State Lumber are phasing out old-growth products altogether. And recent polls show more than three-quarters of the public want increased protections for these majestic trees.

Despite the strong outcry against increased logging in our Northwest national forests, the Bush Administration is pushing a plan that contains no limits on the size of trees that can be cut. The plan eliminates environmental reviews and appeals and would bar judges from temporarily stopping the logging of old-growth trees while appeals are under review. At its core, it’s concerning that the public would be silenced from challenging unsustainable logging practices in our own publicly-funded forests.

Congress will vote on the “Healthy Forests Initiative” in coming weeks. I urge you to let the Bush Administration and Washington Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray know what you think about the “Healthy Forests Initiative”.

Heidi Wills was elected to the Seattle City Council in November 1999 and began her term on January 1, 2000. In addition to her role as one of nine councilmembers, Councilmember Wills chairs the Energy and Environmental Policy Committee, serves as Vice Chair of the Transportation Committee and serves as a member of the Water and Health Committee and the Monorail Ad-Hoc Committee. Councilmember Wills also serves on several regional committees, including the Metropolitan King County Regional Transit Committee, the Puget Sound Regional Transportation Policy Board, and the Trans-Lake Washington Executive Committee, which will make final recommendations on improvements to the 520 Bridge.

Prior to being elected to the Seattle City Council, Councilmember Wills served as a Special Assistant to King County Executive Ron Sims, where she facilitated the successful implementation of several of the Executive’s key policy issues.

Councilmember Wills received her Bachelor’s Degree in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine from the University of Washington.