NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 10, 2005

In a report by the Harvard Forest, a research unit of Harvard University, Brian Donahue of Brandeis University and his coauthors argue that cutting trees for wood products improves forest health and boosts regeneration of new trees, while economically increasing the value of the land.

However, convincing the public that some logging is beneficial may be difficult since so many believe that forests are quickly disappearing. But data indicates that forests can be harvested and preserved:

  • In 12 Northeastern states, 72 percent of that land that was covered in forest in 1630 was reforested by 1997.
  • In Massachusetts, 60 percent of the state is covered with forest; in fact, the state has more wood than in the past 200 years, enough to supply 50 percent of its wood products consumption.
  • In the town of Weston, Mass., 90 percent of the forest was lost to cropland and pastures by 1850, but now, several thousand acres of privately-owned forests have regenerated.

Donahue notes that wood must come from somewhere to satisfy the demand from Americans who use 2.5 times more wood and paper than Europeans. What people must understand, he says, is that filling consumer demand without local logging means harvesting trees in other countries, where environmental safeguards are less stringent and deforestation can have more impact on habitats.

Harvard Forest scientists estimate that Massachusetts forests alone could supply 50 percent of the state's wood product consumption without adversely impacting the environment.

Source: James P. Sterba, "To Preserve Forests, Supporters Suggest Cutting Some Trees," Wall Street Journal, May 5, 2005.

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