Old growth ecosystems that haven't been cut by man, particularly in Oregon, are almost completely gone. Most of what remains is on public land, but the Forest services routinely allow cutting on their land, even in old growth, for things like 'salvage' logging and thinning. The second and third growth forests are weaker than the old growth, so even if not logged they may succumb to either fire (partially due to no natural burns being allowed to lower the fuel load) or disease/pests that will take advantage of their not being 100% up to snuff.
Part of the problem is that between the clear cutting and replant of only select species and the herbicides they spray (which not only kills the "bad" hardwoods, but also the symbiotic fungi that allow a tree to grow to full height) the trees can't be as healthy as they would be in the "wild". Then there are tree farms, which apparently though they say trees are a renewable resource, no tree farm has successfully gone beyond 3rd growth due to monoculture lack of diversity and the way they are planted in rows.
Something to consider is that nature's balance is basically a chaotic system - too many variables in too complex a relationship to quantify; therefore, a complex and chaotic system. What this means is that the system will continue seemingly unaffected, or slightly affected by the harm we do, the imbalances we create due to not understanding the system well enough to keep it healthy or not caring. This will go on, making the system more and more non-linear, until a point is reached where a very small input will have an effect way out of Measureortion to the input. Essentially the straw that broke the camel's back, or that extra shove that snaps a tree off at the trunk, or that little butterfly's wings flapping that cause a hurricane in the Atlantic. When it happens, when it's finally so obvious no one can ignore it, it will be so fast we won't know what hit us, and it will probably be too late to do anything about it.
If poor forest practices, global warming, acid rain, ozone depletion and deposition of pollutants onto the forests and into the water don't stop soon, as well as the overpopulation that drives all of it - MAYBE there's 50 years left for 90% of the forests still out there. By then most of them will collapse to lone trees and scrub - then grasslands - then deserts. Obviously, the cities will still be able to keep trees growing with special care and treatment, - like lions in the zoo - but the naturally occurring forests can't endure the onslaught we are maintaining.
The problem is, it's not easy to see until it's too late. You see a few trees standing dead, maybe one in a hundred, but most of them 'look' healthy. There's so much green still there, it's hard to get across to people that tree mortality is 2 or 3 times what it was even 30 years ago - and it's INCREASING as the stress we put on the system takes its toll. It's like the Atlantic Cod tragedy of a few years ago - 10 years ago people noticed the catch was down due to overfishing, pollution and whatever. Nothing was done, then suddenly a few years later, in only a 2 year period they were all but extinct, and not only the fish suffered but an industry hundreds of years old went belly up too. The same is starting to happen with the salmon in the northwest - just ask the fishermen in Canada. Interestingly, part of the problem with the salmon has been over logging causing loss of habitat through stream siltation and inadequate buffer zones (the salmon need us to keep the streams running cool and clear and unblocked by damns).
It's about greed. Our society and the individuals which comprise it, aren't taught to think about what SHOULD be done, only about what can gotten away with, what's expedient for short term goals. Instead of thinking about the effects of our actions for 7 generations down the line, we are encouraged, nay brainwashed to think only about the profits for the next quarter, or our next meal, or our next purchase at the mall. Anything that gets in the way of that is pushed aside.
It's also typified by the 20th century industrial ideal of quantity rather than quality. Why make one light bulb that will last 100 years when you can make 200 that last 6 months, for half the unit price. People are then deluded into thinking they're getting a deal. Same with Measure 64 - why have 5 highly skilled well paid professional foresters carefully cut down 25% of the standing trees every when you can have 2 low paid monkeys with chain saws take 100% of them in the same time. They don't see the big picture, just their bottom line of short term profit. The fact is, foresters usually cut trees now at around 40 years old, which is just when they are growing the fastest. If they let them (or most of them) keep growing for another 40 years they would have FOUR TIMES the number of board feet per tree. But that's too long to wait.
Also, forests are like a machine that's dedicated to the production of trees. When you clear cut, you destroy the machine so it has to rebuild itself from scratch. Loggers will argue that a fire does the same thing, but studies have shown that critical ecological links are broken when you clear cut in ways that aren't at all (and in fact sometimes are strengthened) with a natural catastrophe. With all the trees gone, weeds and hardwoods then grow up (as in any young forest) in place of the conifers - so they revert to using herbicides to protect the ONE species of tree the replant to replace the half dozen or so they clear cut, thereby ENSURING that the trees will never reach their full potentials.
There are ways to log that don't break these critical links, that even encourage them, yet remain profitable. And the jobs engendered are high skill, high pay jobs instead of the low pay, low skill jobs in the modern, mechanized clear cut. Of course, post NAFTA, if we do do the right thing, increasing the cost of lumber a little closer to its true value to compensate, how can we compete against other countries that continue to strip mine their forests? It requires a global agreement to abide by the rules of something like Measure 64. There is no doubt that some would suffer from it in the short term, and it's awfully hard to convince people it's for their own (and their childrens') health and well being in the long run.
To me, Measure 64 is a minimum starting point. It doesn't go far
enough! In fact, it's the loggers who are the extremists - pirates
robbing us all of our common heritage and resources through greed and
mismanagement. Measure 64 will balance the books and help make sure
the forests are still there producing trees that the loggers'
children can use, enjoy, and possibly have a job cutting part of in a
sane and sustainable manner. The alternative doesn't bear thinking