May 2, 2002

Scientists Push to End Logging in National Forests

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Recently, 221 scientists signed a petition urging President Bush to put an end to commercial logging in America’s national forests. Kraig Adler, professor of biology and vice provost for life sciences, was among the signers.


Released by the environmental organization Sierra Club, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the National Forest Protection Alliance, the letter employed ecological as well as economic arguments for the preservation of the public lands.

“It is now widely recognized that commercial logging has damaged ecosystem health, clean water and recreational opportunities — values that are highly appreciated by the American public,” the petition stated. It also stated that forests generate far more revenue when used as a source of recreation and clean water rather than timber.


“The continued logging of our National Forests also wastes American tax dollars and diminishes the possibilities of future economic benefits. The Forest Service and independent economists have estimated that timber accounts for only 2.7 percent of the total values of goods and services derived from the National Forests, while recreation and fish and wildlife produce 84.6 percent,” the petition stated.

“The basic message is to reduce or eliminate commercial logging in national forests and to put value on conservation,” said Adler.

Campus activists reacted with excitement. “I think it’s great that scientists are becoming involved in speaking out,” said Garrett Meigs, president of the Society for Natural Resources Conservation (SNRC). The SNRC is a student organization founded in 1995 to spearhead environmental and forest-related conservation efforts on university campuses across the country.

“The goal is to get the message to the President, but I think it will take more in the way of community involvement to protect these lands,” Meigs said.

“We do not expect that this single effort will succeed, but it begins a process. People will notice who and how many people signed the letter and this, in turn, will help the next efforts, such as visits to Capitol Hill or discussions with legislators in their home districts,” said Adler.

Last year, 15,000 Ithaca area residents signed a petition to prevent oil and natural gas extraction from the Finger Lakes National Forest. The forest, located about 20 miles west of Ithaca between Cayuga and Seneca Lakes, is New York’s only national forest.

“The forest is very small and fragmented, so any disruption would have had negative effects on the ecosystem. Also, there was concern that toxic sludge from the extraction could seep into both lakes,” said Meigs.

The Finger Lakes serve as the source drinking water for much of the region — including Ithaca and Cornell. Due to the large community response, Congress prohibited the leasing of the forest for oil and gas extraction.

“For those looking to become involved, contact the national organization which will put your name on a list. Locally, like-minded students can group together, giving them more voice on a particular issue,” said Adler.

For the Cornell student, many such venues for participation are readily accessible through student organizations like the SNRC.

“This year we’ve focused on our Tree-Free Cornell campaign. We have been working with various Cornell administrators to switch the campus to 100 percent post-consumer, recycled paper,” Meigs said. He added that the campaign has already resulted in the decision to switch to 100 percent post-consumer paper in the Net-Print labs on campus.

Other notable signers of the national forest commercial logging petition include Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Ehrlich and Harvard Professor Edward O. Wilson.

Archived article by Philip Lane