Clear Cutting Forests Is “Cutting the Lungs Out of the Earth.”
Forests grow slowly over the decades. Trees grow deep roots, their leaves falling on the forest floor creating soil full of life and organic nutrients that support diverse populations of animals and plants. Water falls during rains and seeps into the ground where it is held by the root systems and living organisms to be released slowly into streams and rivers that run all year around. Carbon in the atmosphere aids the forest to grow and in turn the forest releases oxygen into the air. This cycle of growth has supported our living planet and human cultures for thousands of years. Over the past century, corporate interests with advanced technology have set upon our natural resources, as private owners or in National Forests, with a destructive logging practice called clear cutting. This gallery presents photos by Harvey Richards taken in the 1960’s and 70’s that give a glimpse of the reality of what clear cutting does to a forest. Judi Bari characterized it as “cutting the lungs out of the earth.”
Logging companies move into forests by creating logging roads. Bulldozers create these roads without regard to drainage or conservation principles that would preserve the integrity of the forest ecology. Once the roads are in, big machines and loggers with chain saws cut down the trees. All the trees. After the trees are cut down, loggers connect them to thick wires on a pulley system that drags them to central locations for loading on trucks. Bulldozers preform the same functions, shown in other photos, dragging logs down hillsides for loading. In the 1960’s when logging was booming and lumber prices low, up to 50% of the cut logs were left on the forest floor, surplus, not worth hauling out. In years after the logging boom passed and prices rose, fewer logs were left on the wrecked forest floor.
The process of dragging logs across the forest floor disrupts the soil completely, disturbing soil biology and root systems thousands of years old. With the canopy gone, the sun dries out the soil killing whatever life is left. When winter comes, rain no longer sinks into the soil with now dead root systems and rich top soils disrupted. Now, the rain washes the top soil into the creeks which fill up with silt, chasing away fish and destroying their habitat. The bird, insect and animal populations decline as well, leaving a once rich ecology decimated and vacant. A more destructive way of logging the forest could not be imagined.