The following is a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt speaking to the Society of American Foresters on March 26, 1903.
“And now first and foremost you can never afford to forget for one moment what is the object of our forest policy. That object is not to preserve the forests because they are beautiful, though that is good in itself, nor because they are refuges for the wild creatures of the wilderness, though that, too, is good in itself, but the primary object of our forest policy as of the land policy of the United States, is the making of prosperous homes. It is part of the traditional policy of home making in our country. Every other consideration comes as secondary. You yourselves have got to keep this practical object before your minds, to remember that a forest which contributes nothing to the wealth, progress or safety of the country is of no interest to the Government and should be of little use to the forester. Your attention must be directed to the preservation of forests, not as an end in itself, but as a means of preserving and increasing the prosperity of a nation.”
Roosevelt’s statement; “The preservation of a forest, not as an end in itself, but as a means of preserving and increasing the prosperity of a nation” is probably one of the least understood and less implemented statements of modern time. Wouldn’t you agree that if we followed the wisdom of President Roosevelt we would have a less controversial balance of preservation?
The meaning of the word preservation is: 1. to keep safe: guard, protect 2. to keep from decaying; to process food to prevent spoilage. That’s the Webster Dictionary meaning. Typically what we discuss politically is the emotional meaning of preservation as determined by different groups with different interests. As a logger the word “preservation” can make us cringe. As an extremist the word “preservation” can make us jump for joy!
Although President Roosevelt was responsible for the creation of some of our national parks, he also understood the need to use resources for the growth of the nation and the rights of families to provide for themselves and be prosperous within our nation. In 1910 Teddy Roosevelt also said “conservation means development as much as it does protection.”
Here we are over one hundred years later and the battle rages about preservation. Would it be fair to say the meaning of preservation has been skewed from what Roosevelt envisioned? Preservation to him meant that some area should be set aside and preserved for their natural beauty creating wealth of a non-monetary form, but, as he stated that should come secondary to preserving and increasing the prosperity of a nation. You would think after one hundred plus years we should have found a balance of preservation. One can only wonder if he envisioned forestry being driven by emotion in politics rather than common sense and science.
A report from the US Chamber of Commerce expressed the US economy could be getting out of the recession much sooner if our natural resources, including forests, were properly and responsibly used to put Americans back to work.
Roosevelt’s statement “the making of prosperous homes” seems to have been lost in the past couple of decades. A report from the US Chamber of Commerce expressed the US economy could be getting out of the recession much sooner if our natural resources, including forests, were properly and responsibly used to put Americans back to work. A major part of American society has come to believe that if we would just leave the forest as they are all our needs would be met including ecosystem services. That sounds wonderful, but the fact remains if no products are being produced and no income generated, where will the money come from to pay for those services? Roosevelt understood using the resource wisely was an important part of the task to leave the land even better for our descendants than it is for us. Perhaps because of our entitlement society, many folks seem to think someone else will cover the cost. It reminds me of the time Scot Walker was elected as governor. He won by popular vote which meant the majority of voters agreed the deficit and spending had to be brought under control. That was okay until the same voters realized everyone would have to pay something. It was like, Hey, Wait a Minute; I didn’t realize you were talking about me pitching in!!
I suspect the same will hold true for the forest. When all other resources such as those that are mined, extracted or created synthetically to replace wood products are used up without any chance of replenishment neither natural or planted, and large tracts of forest has been left on their own with no human intervention subjected to fire, disease and self-thinning, someone will most certainly say I didn’t want that to happen in my back yard! The difference will be the money in the first example can be replaced in a couple of weeks, the forest will take years. At times it seems as though the battle to define preservation with a balance is daunting, but rest assured that FISTA/GLTPA will continue to follow the thinking of President Theodore Roosevelt who understood the big picture.
By the time you read this article a Movie called The LORAX will have had its debut slated for March 2nd 2012. If you have not read the book called The LORAX by Dr. Suess I suggest that you do at your earliest convenience. The LORAX was first written in 1971 and seems to portray a time back in the day of the great cutover, but it also includes a modern twist sighting pollution and a lack of care for the forest. In printed statements by Universal Studios, the AD Council and the USDA Forest Service the movie is designed to get children and their families to “unplug and reconnect to nature.” After reading all the printed material, looking at the previews, and following all the links of the supporters of The LORAX message, it seems like there is a want to create a positive message but the devil may be in the details for this one.
Until next month
Henry Schienebeck is the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association (GLTPA), which is headquartered in Rhinelander, Wisconsin and represents over 1000 timber industry professionals in Wisconsin and Michigan. He is also the Editor for the Great Lakes TPA magazine. Henry’s understanding of industry issues comes from 37 years in the forest products industry as an owner/operator of a trucking business and a logging operation. For more information please contact Henry at 715-282-5828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.