Walking on a small trail through a canopy of white oak and other mixed hardwoods I soon came to an overlook, a small rock overhang from which I could see the gently rolling canvas of green for miles. The Mark Twain National Forest. As I turned my head however, the canvas of green became more like a patchwork quilt. One square mile of forest, another square mile of nothing except stumps and slash, the waste products of a logging clear-cut. The loggers had taken what they needed and left, allowing nature to take over where they left off, to start again from nothing.
As I walked down the hill from my perch I noticed the roads which were made of dirt and were marked with deep ruts from the heavy machinery that was necessary to harvest the forest of it's lumber. Quickly put together with little or no regard to the problems of erosion or ground water runoff, these roads would be a permanent addition to the forest. Many of the trails I used to travel through the forest were once logging roads, over one hundred years ago. I arrived at the sight of the clear-cut. What awaited me I will never forget. A desert of stumps and waste wood, the ugliest sight I have ever seen.
This was one of my experiences with the use of clear cutting as a tool to extract the wood of the forests of southern Missouri. This region is not alone in its plight. The United States National Forest system is made up of more than 191 million acres, or more than one quarter of forest land in the U.S. (Internet 5.1.95). An extremely large portion of this land is deemed as public, which means it belongs to United States taxpayers. In the period before World War II most of the demands for lumber were fulfilled through the use of private land, which was more accessible and possessed higher quality groups, also known as stands, of trees. But since World War II, the primary goal of rangers and forest managers dubbed "timber beasts" has been to get national forest timber cut, sold and hauled out as quickly as possible (Drablle) There are many problems with this view on forest management. Timber that is needed to support the demand for high quality lumber is no longer easily accessible. Roads must be built to get to the high quality stands, if they even exist. The timber is then cut and removed leaving large empty voids where once majestic beings stood.
In the 1960s the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act gave the Forest Service discretion over the flow of all the benefits of the national forests. Along with the Wilderness Act of 1964, however, the Forest Service was mandated to use the national forests as a multi-purpose area, with uses other than but not excluding timber-harvesting. The Forest Service then has "mouthed the formula of multiple-use while, in reality, favored the use of timber-harvesting." (Drabelle) In 1976 The National Forest Management Act was implemented. It is this act that allows critics of the Forest Service to have an extremely valid...