Thursday, August 11, 2005

Farming Nature

So I’m watching the History Channel’s Modern Marvels, this one about the logging industry. Naturally an important part of the show is the environmental impact of cutting trees down and how those concerns changed the industry. This led into one of the first responses the industry offered way back in the 1940s: tree farms.

Tree farms are still used today; some one-third of our lumber comes from them and that number continues to grow. But some people have a problem with them. The program included footage of a university professor noting that these farms are horrible things because they are comprised of only a few species of trees, thus support only a few species of animal life. In that way, they cannot replace forests, whose diversity in foliage allows greater protection against calamity and supports more wildlife.

No one, by the way, is seriously considering that we tear down all forests and replace them with farms (especially since most tree farms are in the Southwest, a region not known for it’s sprawling vegetation). The idea is we get our lumber from farms, allowing us to leave our forests intact and get the lumber society demands. By cultivating trees, we indirectly cultivate nature. Thus farms compliment the natural world by segregating its uses into preservation and harvesting.

Forests are freed to be used for other profitable, but eco-friendly activity, including hiking, camping, limited fishing and limited hunting. And because a great deal of money can be made in these endeavors, the government is not the only way to protect wildlife (even though that’s what the program claimed).

Environmentalists who demonize these farms because they aren’t “natural enough” miss the forest for the trees in the most literal sense.

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