The Maine Woods

A Publication of the Forest Ecology Network

 Volume Five     Number Two                           Late Fall 2001

Report Reveals Eastern Forests Damaged by Unsustainable Logging, Air Pollution and Numerous Other Threats



In April the American Lands Alliance released "A Vision For Protecting and Restoring Eastern Forests" to highlight the unique values found in Eastern Forests, discuss the threats they face and to offer fresh ideas on how to solve these problems. Eastern Forests have abundant diversity of plants, fish and wildlife with many species that live nowhere else on Earth. Regretfully, air pollution, invasive species, off-road vehicles, coal mining, roadbuilding and logging are combining to undermine the recovery of Eastern Forests and threaten this unique biodiversity.

"Eastern forests have begun to recover from the destructive past logging, but now the timber industry has shifted its attention back to this region," said Kristen Sykes, former Eastern Forest Advocate for American Lands. "New statistics now show that logging east of the Mississippi is at unsustainable levels and now exceeds logging in the West." According to U.S. Forest Service data, logging currently exceeds growth for softwoods and if current trends continue the same will be true for hardwoods by the end of the decade.

John Demos of American Lands Alliance and FEN director Jonathan Carter discuss the Eastern Forest Report at a Portland Press Conference.

"This vision can only be accomplished by halting threats to the forests and by investing resources into ecological restoration," said Sykes. "There is tremendous potential to create jobs restoring eastern forests which have been heavily damaged by logging, roadbuilding, energy development and invasive species."

The backlog for road maintenance alone on National Forests is $8.4 billion and tens of thousands of miles of road have been identified in the Forest Planning process for decommissioning. "We estimate it could take decades of work to restore functioning forest ecosystems in the East by fixing the road system and rehabilitating degraded watersheds," said Sykes.

Other important opportunities may be lost if the Bush Administration continues to promote resource extraction and environmental rollbacks over the health of our children and the protection of the environment.

"The National Forest roadless area protection policy protects important areas of biodiversity in the East that have the potential to become Wilderness," said Sykes. "The Bush Administration recently failed to defend the roadless policy in court and is likely to abolish the Plan with an out of court settlement in favor of the timber industry. The President should reverse course and support what has been the most popular land protection initiative in a hundred years since the National Forests were created in the first place."

"In response to the "energy crisis" eastern forests are threatened by renewed development of oil, gas and coal," said Jim Kleissler, Allegheny Defense Project. "National Forests in the East are also threatened by new drilling and mining projects because in most cases, the government does not own the subsurface rights and cannot prevent harmful new developments on public lands."

"There is both a federal rule making process and legislation to reduce air pollution that is harming human health and high-elevation eastern forest due to acid rain deposition and ozone," said Harvard Ayers, Ph.D., of Appalachian Voices. "Like many other proposed regulations to protect the environment and public health, the Haze rule under consideration by the Environmental Protection Agency is at risk of being overturned by the Bush Administration."

Other critical problems such as the invasion of harmful pests and the growing use of off-road vehicles have barely begun to be responsibly addressed.

"Numerous invasive species in eastern forests are threatening trees including elm, dogwood, hemlock and maples, which are being weakened by air pollution and made much more susceptible to these pests, " said Faith Campbell, director of American Lands Invasive Species Program. "The American Chestnut once dominated eastern forests, but it has been completely extirpated due to the invasive chestnut blight."

"Dirt bikes and other off-road vehicles are running rampant and harming eastern forests and streams due to a lack of law enforcement on the National Forests," said Alix Davidson recreation campaigner for American Lands. "Without stronger measures to enforce existing regulations and monitor the impacts, user conflicts and environmental harm from off-road vehicles will only increase in the future."

"A Vision for Restoring and Protecting Eastern Forests" can be viewed in its entirety on the American Lands Alliance website at:

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