January 4, 2010

EDITORIAL: Get our forests healthy again

If you've ever driven up or down the Northway, you've probably noticed areas here and there where "blowdowns" have left rotting trees on the ground, suffocating new growth and providing nothing for wildlife. Many people have wondered why the state hasn't contracted with loggers to get rid of this collection of forest-fire-threatening waste and getting those areas back into the ecological cycle.

James Andre of Cadyville has gone a step further: He wonders why the state doesn't establish a logging program to cull dying or dead trees from forests throughout New York state — not just the ones that have already decayed on the forest floor. Through his initiative, Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) is sponsoring a bill calling for the regular pruning of state forest lands to keep the lumber coming, to keep wildlife flourishing and make some money for the state in the process, as well as providing jobs for loggers.

Andre knows an unattractive trend when he sees one, and he sees one here. A hunter for 65 years who came by it from generations before him, he sees a significant diminution of deer and other wildlife in the areas he's spent a lifetime observing while stalking game. The reason for the decrease in wildlife population is that the animals are finding less to feed on in certain areas and are moving on to where the food is. And the reason for the decrease in food is that the forests aren't being properly cared for.

Andre believes the state should immediately undertake a program to tend to its forests, including culling dead or ailing trees to make room for new growth. That new growth would restore game animals and all wildlife to levels that used to populate those regions.

He is not alone in his assessment, he says. Veteran hunters agree with him that the game is just not anything like what it used to be four or five decades ago. Poor forestry practices — or none at all — are to blame.

Here are the advantages in setting up a program as he and the bill suggest:

•  Game would thrive, and hunting would be enhanced.

•  Hundreds — maybe thousands — of jobs would be created to log the smitten areas.

•  The state would realize millions of dollars from the sale of the trees.

For those who fear clearcutting or environmental abuse of the forests, the state would oversee the work and see that it was done according to the best interests of the state and the land. Trees removed would be replaced, and the forests would thrive, perhaps as never before.

If there is a down side to this bill, it's not apparent what it would be. Our forests need attention, and this would provide it — along with a host of benefits we would all realize.