More Than Birds
I recently looked at Audubon for the first time, and I am amazed by the in-depth coverage it features. The National Audubon Society isn't just about birds; it understands that birds are a part of a larger web of life, and is therefore committed to protecting and rehabilitating natural habitat for all species. Audubon is by far the most informative of any of the environmental magazines that I've seen. Keep up the great work. In this time of short articles on short deadlines, your magazine is all the more valuable.
To Log or Not to Log
Your logging article [“Timberrr!,” January-February] had a good message but should have stressed more strongly how important it is to guard against clear-cutting. Through the years I've seen too many magnificent woodlands sacrificed for the almighty dollar. One woods that I have always looked forward to visiting in the springtime when it is carpeted with wildflowers was devoid of trees the last time I visited. All that remained of the wildflowers were a few trilliums that escaped the fallen logs. The photograph I took that day is now a sad reminder that the bees, birds, and other wildlife living there are also gone.
Audubon New York's disgraceful guide for forest owners reads like a promotional handout from a loggers' association, nowhere even mentioning the merits of the no-cut alternative and the cathedral-like forest it will bring to pass. The idea that suburban sprawl will be combated if small landowners can get income from timber cutting is quixotic at best. The income flow generated by selective logging, especially when calculated on a per annum basis, is tiny in comparison with the cash inducements offered by developers. Frame the argument in these terms and you'll lose it.
Your article ignores more benign strategies. In many places it is possible for a landowner to place his or her forest in a conservation easement with a no-cut provision, and take a tax deduction based on the market value of the timber as well as the land. Money will be saved, but that's nothing compared to the prospect of the real reward: an undamaged forest ecosystem with a visual splendor and richness of life incomparably superior to even the best “managed” woodlot.
Audubon New York responds: We at Audubon like old forests, too. However, as you point out, biodiversity is essential to the ecological health of New York State, and with that comes the need for habitat diversity. Managed forests, like uncut forests, can provide excellent habitat for warblers, thrushes, and other birds and wildlife. We aren't deluded into thinking that land speculators will abandon their plans to try and cash in by developing forestlands, but surveys repeatedly show that most forest landowners want to keep their woods from being developed and they share common wildlife values.
Don't Bully SUVs
Audubon falls into the trap of blaming a pretty minor problem for all the energy woes of the country [“Hogwash?” Field Notes, January-February]. SUVs are your boogieman, but they are a small part of America's profligate energy consumption. Why didn't you focus instead on people who have McMansions? Or people who have more cars than family members? The rich consume far more energy per capita than some working stiff whose one vice is an SUV. I am not going to feel guilty about my SUV. I take it fishing and birding. It is my only car. Blaming the SUV drivers alone for our excess fuel consumption is like blaming a Chinese peasant with a rising standard of living for global warming. Maybe energy and oil should be allocated on the basis of need, not wealth.
Don't Forget to Write
© 2006 National Audubon Society