Wildlife Research Institute
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The White Pine Society

White Pine News

The Minnesota Daily - Editorial/Opinions February 20, 1996

Legislation necessary to save the white pine

If you already spent 98 percent of all the cash you had, and weren't sure you could get any more money in the foreseeable future, wouldn't you be extremely careful with the last 2 percent of your financial resources? The state Legislature is facing a similar situation this week. Minnesota has logged 98 percent of its white pines, and now the state Senate will debate the fate of the remaining 2 percent.

Ecologist and former Forest Service employee Lynn Rogers and others support a bill called the Restore the White Pine Act, which would require the Department of Natural Resources to place a priority on planting, protecting and studying white pines. A controversial part of the bill places a moratorium on cutting the pines on state-owned land for 22 months while reforestation methods are studied.

Unfortunately, the debate has not always been civil. Sources say that Rogers notified the Washington office of the Forest Service about an article he wrote on the white pine issue. Within weeks the Forest Service allegedly confiscated his data, locked him out of his office and tried for more than a year to fire him on a wide array of charges. After Rogers proved some of the allegations false and others ridiculous, the charges were dropped, his retirement benefits were restored and the Forest Service apparently paid him not to sue.

When reached for comment, Rogers said part of the settlement requires that he not talk to the media about his former employer. It's impossible, however, to stop him from talking about white pines. "(Humans) have changed the forest and made it harder for white pines to regenerate," Rogers said. "We've always harvested (white pines) with a frontier spirit; now it's time to change to sustainable yield."

Dennis Ingvaldson of the Department of Natural Resources said he agrees with all of the provisions of the White Pine Act except for the logging moratorium. He said reduced numbers of forest fires complicate the conditions conducive to new white pine growth. "There needs to be a seedbed for the trees; of course the logging bares the mineral soil and provides a place for the seeds to grow," he said. Ingvaldson said the decision-making power to cut the trees is left to four-member Forest Service teams, and he said logging decisions should be made through a planning process and not legislated.

The Restore the White Pine Act has already passed through two state House committees and faces an 11th-hour Senate hurdle this week. We support the act as a way to halt irresponsible logging practices in Minnesota.

The argument that pines should be cut down to create seedbeds is lame at best. Controlled burning or the use of a skidder -- a heavy vehicle designed to remove forest underbrush -- could create the proper conditions for new growth. The state Senate should pass the Restore the White Pine Act with the moratorium fully intact.