Kathryn Glenister and Donnell Tinkelenberg
1992 Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute


One of the most challenging dilemmas Americans face today is the hard choice between economic growth/development and conservation/preservation. This struggle is embodied by the old-growth forest preservationists vs. the logging industry. Which of these two sides represents the quality of life that Americans envision? Is there a compromise that must be reached? This module will help students to make ethical decisions that reflect the quality of life they choose for the future.

Intended Audience:

Grades 9-12:

Subject Areas:

Biology, Ecology, Economics, Government Studies, Sociology


By the end of this unit, students should be able to:
  1. Define the problem.

  2. Name the different and conflicting interest groups.

  3. Define the driving forces of the interest groups.

  4. Conduct a search for further information, while distinguishing between fact and opinion.

  5. Develop a position paper.

  6. Present one side of the argument to a group of students.

  7. Gain experience in cooperative learning.


In order to complete this activity, students need to have had experience in some form(s) of ethical/decision making model(s). In addition, students should have some experience working within small groups.

  1. Introduce Subject: See "Teacher Background Material, Appendix 1". To introduce this material to the class, assign one of the three recommended articles: "Owl vs. Man" from Time, "Whose Woods are These" from Time, or "Who Runs America's Forests" from National Wildlife. (See Suggested References: Appendix 4).

  2. Have students write their immediate personal response to the subject. Their writing should communicate how they feel about the topic, NOT simply repeat what was said in the article. Have each student place his/her personal response in an envelope, seal it and return it to the teacher.

  3. Brainstorming: Different interest groups that exist in this issue will be determined. It is essential that the three major sides (the lumber industry, the conservationist/ environmentalists and the United States Forest Service) be included. These major interest groups may be subdivided. For example, students may divide the conservationists group into a more conservative view represented by the Sierra Club and a more radical view like Earth First.

  4. Assign students to one of the predetermined groups. Students may not necessarily agree with the point of view of their assigned group.

  5. Groups will conduct research in defense of their point of view. Work with the school librarian to schedule the research time. Groups should complete a position paper that includes at least three belief statements, followed by facts or data to support those statements. All sources must be recorded (See Appendix 3). Note that the teacher may wish to narrow the scope of research to one specific area of old growth forest in the United States.

  6. After groups have pooled their position paper information and have reviewed their points of view, rearrange into new groups. These new groups should consist of at least one representative from each of the initial position groups.

  7. A decision-making model should be identified before students are placed into new groups. Each representative must communicate the group's point of view, facts and data to the new group. Using the decision-making model each group needs to reach a final consensus on how old growth forests should be used. In addition, recommendations on how to implement their solutions should be included.

  8. A representative from each group should be selected to present their solutions to the entire class. The teacher should facilitate discussion on the implications of their decisions.

  9. Return the sealed envelopes to respective students and have them open and review their previous decisions. Ask students if their positions have changed. Why? Discuss in class.

  10. Extensions: At this point, the teacher may wish to help the students implement their decisions. These activities may range from local actions at the school or community level, to activities on a national level (See Appendix 4 for organizational addresses).



Listed below is some general information on old growth forests, roughly broken up into three major interest categories. These statements were gathered from sources listed in the bibliography and are designed to be used by the teacher to facilitate class discussions. Minimum preparation by the teacher should include reading the three articles listed in number one of the procedure This information is by no means exhaustive, and may change over time.

Logging Industry:

Protection for the spotted owl may result in mill closings and cutbacks costing 30,000 jobs, real estate prices tumbling, and hundreds of millions of dollars lost in wages, revenue and salaries. Many communities rely almost exclusively on the lumber industry for individual employment and public works money. (Gup, p57)

Relatively few species of animals use old growth exclusively - nine species have currently been identified. (Hansen, p384)

Many mills are set up to handle large old-growth logs, not smaller regrowth logs. (Chandler, p122)

Technological changes/advances in the logging industry will displace 13% of the work force during the next 15 years. (Gup, p59)

Export of logs to Japan and China instead of milling them in the U.S. has cut into work for local mills. An added 13,400 timber jobs could be created in the region by the year 2030 if Oregon and Washington ended their exports of raw logs from state and private land and instead turned these logs into lumber, plywood, furniture and other finished products, employing local labor in local mills. (Chandler, p125)

High production cost of lumber and plywood (old mills and highly paid, unionized employees) makes the region vulnerable to competition from the South and Canada. (Chandler, p122)

The jobs that would replace unionized logging jobs will probably pay substantially lower salaries. (Chandler, p120)

The industry's reforestation practices have markedly improved over the past decade, but the reinvestment is too little too late. (Gup, p58)

Forest management practices across the region vary substantially with ownership, management objectives, and other factors. (Hansen, p386)

United States Forest Service:

National parks are protected from logging and are kept for recreational use and wilderness areas � national forests are designated for "multiple use" which includes logging. (Gup, p59)

Federally protected forests were originally established for two reasons, to improve and protect the woods, and to furnish a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of the nation. (Lipske, p26)

Since the Forest Service was created by Theodore Roosevelt in 1905, it has been required to manage its land for "multiple use". The national forests now hold some 18% of the country's commercial timber, serve as cheap grazing land for thousands of cattle, support multimillion-dollar mining operations and contain a 579,000-km (360,000-mi) network of roads that is eight times longer than all the U.S. interstate highways combined. (Lemonick, p71)

National Forest Management Act (NFMA) directs the Forest Service to " provide for diversity of plant and animal communities based on the suitability and capability of the specific land area" in order to meet "overall multiple- use objectives" within each national forest. Also, in each NFMA forest management plan, the Forest Service must provide "where appropriate, to the degree practicable, steps to be taken to preserve the diversity of tree species similar to that existing in the region controlled by the plan." This law is deliberately nonspecific. NFMA also requires the Forest Service to identify management indicator species (like the spotted owl). (Chandler, p127)

In recent years, Congress has actually mandated higher timber sales levels in the Forest Service's yearly appropriations bill than the Forest Service requested. Congress sets overall national cut levels taking into account information supplied by the Forest Service. (Lipske, p27)

Big lumber companies have enormous political clout in heavily forested states, and the Forest Service is considered by environmental groups to be little more than a federally subsidized logging agency. (Lemonick, p71)

According to congressional estimates, the Forest Service has lost as much as $350 million in Tongass National Forest timber sales alone over the past decade. (Lipske, p27)

The Forest Service not only builds all the roads, providing easy access for workers and machinery, but also sells off the trees for prices that are often far below market value. (Lemonick, p71)

The Association of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (AFSEEE) has attracted 3,000 members in one year � half of them current or former Forest Service personnel. The groups founder says many members have quit the agency "in disgust". (Lipske, pp24-25)

In the Pacific Northwest, the Forest Service contends that approximately 20 percent of the commercial timber is managed on "long " rotation schedules of 120 years or more, including some rotations of 250 years. But where the Forest Service determines the net present value of timber outweighs other values, national forests will be logged on "economic" rotation schedules that normally do not exceed 100 years. (Chandler, p113)

The Forest Service generally prefers to maximize wood growth on the national forests, and most foresters contend that growth rates decline once trees reach an age of 80 to 100 years. In managing for a 100 year rotation period, the forest Service sees itself as maximizing timber productivity. (Chandler, p113)

The Forest Service manages about 39 percent, large industrial timber companies own 27 percent, and federal and state agencies other than the Forest Service manage about 15 percent of the forests in the Northwest. (Chandler, p116)

The Forest Service has traditionally asserted its obligation to promote community stability in timber communities. (Chandler, p121)


Are the forests for man to use and exploit, or are they to be revered and preserved? (Gup, 58)

We are doing the same thing to our rain forests the Third World countries are doing to theirs. (Lipske, p26)

Less then 10% of the ancient forest that once covered the Northwest remains. Only 10 million acres remain of the 70 million original acres of Coastal Plain from Virginia to Texas. (Gup, p59)

The disproportionately high rate of logging on private lands has led many to fear future declines in private wood production, which may increase timber demands on the national forests. (Chandler, p119)

Ancient forests in the Northwest face a serious threat from fragmentation - this could assure the elimination of most ancient forests as functioning ecosystems within 5 to 15 years. They face greater exposure to wind, and the island biogeography theory predicts the gradual genetic and ecological destruction of isolated ecosystems. (Chandler, p115)

If the industry is allowed to keep cutting, the last ancient forests outside wilderness areas could fall within 10-30 years. The question is whether this will occur while old-growth ecosystems still exist and provide the region with recreational, scenic, and watershed benefits, or whether the transition will come after old-growth and its considerable non-timber values have been lost. (Chandler, 123; Gup, 58)

Jobs in the recreation and tourism industries which partly depend on the scenic and undisturbed backcountry resources of ancient forests might help to replace some timber jobs in various Pacific Northwest communities. (Chandler, p124)

Old-growth plays an integral role in regulating water levels and quality, cleaning the air, enhancing the productivity of fisheries and enriching the stability and character of the soil. (Gup, p59)

Managed plantations will lack the multilayered canopy, diverse tree sizes, and abundant snags and fallen trees that exist in natural forests. (Hansen, p386)

Compared to younger managed forests, ancient forests may show greater resistance to catastrophic wildfires because of their higher moisture content and mix of hardwood and conifer species present. (Chandler,188)

The spotted owl requires large snags in old-growth areas to successfully nest- it is on the endangered list and thus stops logging of its habitat. (Rice, p141)

The northern spotted owl was declared threatened in July of 1990. (Gup, p57)

The Pacific Northwest natural salmon and other anadromous fish industry does seem to be threatened by rapid clear cutting of ancient trees. (Chandler, 108)



The variety of different species in an ecosystem
board foot:
a standard unit used to measure timber, equivalent to a slab of wood 1" thick and 12" square.
the removal of all trees from an area, usually with future plans to replant the area. Many times the debris in clear-cut areas is burned after logging is complete.
forest fragmentation:
smaller patchwork pattern of different successional strategies, as opposed to large stands of forest in one stage; may be caused by logging areas within a forest or by natural disturbances.
indicator species (key species):
a sensitive probe of the vitality of an ecosystem.
the removal of all trees from an area followed by no replanting .
old-growth forest:
Although there seems to be no agreement on a mut-ually acceptable definition of this term, in 1986 the Old-Growth Definition Task Force of the Forest Service provided an interim definition as follows: "Old-growth stands must include at least six trees per acre that are more than 30 to 32" in diameter and more than 200 years in age. The stands must have multilayered canopies (except within mixed evergreen forests) and hold minimal amounts of large standing snags more than 20 " in diameter and fallen logs at least 24" in diameter."
a closed community dominated by usually tall trees forming a deep, densely interlacing canopy in which epiphytes (one plant growing on another) are often present, with smaller trees, shrubs, ferns, and herbs beneath.
the planting of trees for re-establishment of a former forest.
selective cutting:
cutting only designated or selected trees from an area.
broken-topped dead trees still standing that provide habitat for many organisms in old-growth forests. Snags are mostly absent from reforested areas.
sustained yield:
harvesting the forest at such a rate that natural regeneration can replace the trees logged.




Group Members:

Our Position:

  1. We Believe That:










Chandler, William J., ed. Audubon Wildlife Report: 1989/1990. San Diego, Harcourt Brace, �1989.

Kula, Erthun. The Economics of Forestry: Modern theory and practice. Portland, Timber Press, �1988.

Mitchell, John G. Dispatches From the Deep Wood. Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, �1991.

Schrepfer, Swan R. The Fight to Save the Redwoods: A History of Environmental Reforms, 1917-1978. Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, �1983.

Watson, Ian. Fighting Over the Forests. Sydney, Allen and Unwin, � 1990.


Abate, T. "Which Bird is the Better Indicator Species for Old-Growth Forests? ". Bio Science, v.42, Jan., 1992: 8-9.

Baden, J. " Spare That Tree." Forbes, v.148, December 9, 1991: 229-232.

Byrnes, P. "Society Challenges Timber Job Assumptions." Wilderness, v.55, Wint. 1991: 5

Byrnes, P. "Spotted Owl Threatened." Wilderness, v.54, Fall, 1990: 4-5.

Budiansky, S. "Sawdust and Mirrors." US News and World Report , v.111, July 1, 1991:55-7.

"Can We Save Our National Forests?" USA Today, v.119, Mar. 1991: 22-3.

Chapman, J.L. "Forests Under Siege." USA Today, v.119, Mar. 1991:17-21.

"Environment's Little Big Bird." Time, v.135, Apr. 16, 1990: 21.

"Forests: Environmental Quality Index." National Wildlife, v. 30, Feb/Mar, 1992: 38.

Gup, T. " Owl vs. Man." Time, v.135, June 25, 1990: 56- 62+.

Hamilton, J. "The Owl and the Scientists." Sierra, v.76, Jul/Aug. 1991:20+.

Hansen, A.J. "Conserving Biodiversity in Managed Forests." Bio Science v. 41, June, 1991:382-92.

Knize, P. "The Mismanagement of the National Forests.". The Atlantic, v. 268, Oct.. 1991:98-100.

Lemonick, M.D. "Whose Woods are These?." Time, v. 138, Dec. 9, 1991:70-2.

Line, L. "Gambits and Skirmishes." Audubon, v. 92, May, 1990:4

Lipske, M. "Who Runs America's Forests?". National Wildlife , v. 28, Oct./Nov., 1990:24-8.

McAdoo, M. " An Owl or a Job: Spotted owls and the timber industry in the Pacific Northwest." Scholastic Update, teacher's edition, v.124, Apr. 17, 1992:12-13.

Mitchell, J.G. "Sour Time in Sweet Home." Audubon, v.93, Mar., 1991:86-97.

"No Peace for the Owl." Time, v. 136, Jul 9, 1990:63.

O'Toole, R. "The Forest Service's Catch 22." The Washington Monthly, v.21, Jan., 1990:21.

Rice, J.O. "Where Many an Owl is Spotted." National Review , v.44, Mar. 2, 1992:41-44.

Satchell, M. "The Endangered Logger." US News and World Report , v. 108, June 25, 1990:27-9.

Scott, G. "Hoots to Blame?: When owls and industry meet." Current Health, v. 18, Feb., 1992:16-17.

"Spotted Owl Declared Threatened Species." National Parks, v.65, Sep./Oct, 1990:10.

Turner, T. "How Many Owls is Too Many Owls?". The Mother Earth News, v. 121, Jan./Feb.,

"Wild and Scenic River Suffers from Logging." National Parks , v.65, Nov./Dec., 1991:14.

Zuckerman, S. "New Forestry, New Hope?." Sierra, v. 77, Mar./Apr., 1992:40-5.

Sources For Further Information:

Alliance for Environmental Education
2111 Wilson Blvd., #751
Arlington, VA 22201
Attn: Steve Kussman
California ReLeaf
Trust for Public Land
16 New Montgomery St., 4th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105
Conservation Directory
National Wildlife Federation
1400-16th St., NW
Washington, DC 20036-2266
Environmental Law Institute
1616 P. St., NW Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036
Lori Wainright, Director Communications
Friends of the Earth
218 D St., SE
Washington, DC 20003
Forest Service, US Department of Agriculture
630 Sansome St.
San Francisco, CA 94111
National Audubon Society
950 Third Ave
New York, NY 10022
(212) 546-9220
National Parks and Conservation Association
1015-31st St., NW
Washington, DC
Info: Federal Activities Department
Save the Redwoods League
114 Sansome St., Room 605
San Francisco, CA 94120
Sierra Club
1050 Mills Tower
200 Bush Street
San Francisco, CA 94104

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