Forest lands: What are they for?
By Dexter Gill
And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth; and it was so. And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.” — Genesis 1:11-12.
“The Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” — Genesis 2: 15
Man blew it, so, “Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you shall eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” — Genesis 3:17b-19. So, “therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.” — Genesis 3:23.
Right from the beginning, man was charged with cultivating, using, maintaining the vegetation of the earth. The palatable vegetation was for food for man and beast, the woody vegetation was for shelter and fuel.
Jumping forward many thousands of years, we still have vegetation to eat and trees for shelter and fuel, even after many “climate changes,” wars and natural disasters. Amazing, isn’t it? Man obviously does not have the ability to damage the natural environment and climate like some would like us to believe. During all these millennia, man was using and cultivating the vegetation including the trees, with the result of there being more trees in the United States today than there was over 200 years ago. The forests we see today are the result of heavy use, cultivating and keeping them productive.
Next, let’s jump forward to statehood for the western states. Beginning with California, the western states forest lands were used as “political controls” over the states by the eastern states Congress, in violation of the Constitution and doctrine of “equal footing” in the formation of the states. That led to the next step. The federal government further illegally confiscated the forests of the western states, to declare them “National Forests.” In the 1897 Organic Act, it stated what the forests were to be for: “to improve and protect the forest, or to secure favorable conditions of water flows, and to furnish a continuous supply of timber.” Even though the taking of the forests from the states was illegal, it was still consistent with our Creator’s instructions to the first man, to cultivate and keep it! It was also made clear that the forest resources of water, timber, minerals were for the local area use and governed by state laws.
Next leap began with the United States becoming more affluent than most of the world. More people did not have to work by the sweat of their brow to eat, and had leisure time to relax and decide how other people should live. Recreation and relaxation to please one’s self was now paramount.
Many of those decided that the now “public forests and lands” should be set aside for their specific and personal enjoyment. Some decided that livestock should no longer be allowed in the forests. Others began the “woodsman, spare that tree” movement. These all spawned the faux environmental actions to set aside areas as “wilderness,” “roadless,” “scenic rivers” and “parks” where use, cultivation and management to improve and protect the resources were banned! This was expedited by the 1976 new National Forest Management Act and the Federal Lands Planning Management Act. These acts along with other faux environment acts such as National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA) have enabled the self-serving activists to stop and change the purpose and use of the forests to one of NO cultivation, NO keeping and maintaining, NO protection, NO use by man.
In just the last 45 years, the faux environmental activists have changed the thousands of years of directed purpose of the forests from cultivation, use and maintaining to one of non-use and waste. We are starting to pay the price for this change each year in seeing thousands of acres of forest burn and die from insects and diseases, rivers and springs producing less water, jobs and economies going down. All the result of a few self-serving activists thinking they knew better than the One that created the forests and gave man the direction for their use and management.
A well-maintained and cultivated forest provides timber for housing, forage for livestock and wildlife, water for springs and streams. The work of maintaining the forest, provides jobs and economy, recreation and visual enjoyment. A poorly or non-managed forest is susceptible to insect attack, wildfire, lacks forage for wildlife and livestock, intercepts snow and rain.
What are the forests for? To produce wood products, water, forage, wildlife for our use and enjoyment, not to set aside to waste away.
Dexter Gill is a retired forest manager, having worked for private industry, three Western state forestry agencies, and the Navajo Nation forestry department. He writes from Lewis, Colo.