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Reader's view: Careful harvesting keeps our forests healthy

A letter writer raised great alarm about flooding because too many trees are being harvested ("Cutting down forests limits our water storage ability," Jan. 15). I am a retired forester, and we addressed this situation frequently.

A letter writer raised great alarm about flooding because too many trees are being harvested ("Cutting down forests limits our water storage ability," Jan. 15). I am a retired forester, and we addressed this situation frequently.

The fact is that a landscape that has about 15 percent openings or young trees will release melt water at the slowest rate and will minimize flooding. This happens because the openings melt first and run off while snow is held under the mature canopy and released later. This is well documented by hydrologists.

We in forestry pay careful attention to this and keep our harvest levels at rates that minimize the "flashiness" of snow melt. In fact, less than 1 percent of our landscape is harvested each year. We grow far more trees than we harvest. More trees die of natural mortality than are harvested each year.

It is the greatest shame that our nation grows far, far more trees than we use, but we import timber and forest products needlessly, rather than harvesting our own trees, which would keep our forests healthier and keep many of our rural communities viable economically. Perhaps over time we can reach a proper balance of use and preservation -- if we can only set political correctness aside and use our heads. Timber harvest can coexist with endangered species, recreation and aesthetic needs, and at levels that can achieve independence from imports.

John Thompson

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Duluth

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