Research Work Finds Clearcutting the Best Method in the Douglas-fir Region

Research work continued in the Pacific Northwest and by the early 1950s the evidence was there to convince most professional foresters that clearcutting was the most desirable method of tree harvesting in the Douglas-fir region. These data were compelling from the economics of harvesting and the planting and growth of seedlings that need direct sunlight. Clearcutting has been the preferred method of timber harvesting since then. However, research work overlooked at least one important aspect or consequence of clearcutting: The visual disruption of the forest for at least a decade until the young trees grow tall (which is the social/political component). Other factors, which were discovered later, include the monoculture aspect of having similar genetically grown trees on the same forest stand, removing all non-target tree species, harvesting the site in relative quick succession, taking away the basic nutrients that came from decaying trees and vegetation, and disturbing the habitats of animal, fish, and plant species. The visual aspect was at least a little understood, as the Forest Service began "hiding" clearcuts behind a screen of standing tall trees along major highways and engaging in a public education effort to "educate" the public to seeing clearcuts. However, neither of these efforts completely overcame the public opposition toward clearcutting. Little did the proponents know that this public issue would raise its head in the mid-1960s over harvesting practices in the Bighorn, Bridger, Shoshone, Teton, and Tongass National Forests. However, it wasn't until the late 1960s and early 1970s that the issue came to a head.