Save the trees

Published 11:46 am Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Daily Herald editorial

One of the wackier ideas bouncing around the Capitol this year calls for boosting state revenues by logging high-value trees out of state parks —specifically black walnut trees in southeastern Minnesota’s Whitewater and Frontenac parks. The drop those trees would put back into the state’s empty budget bucket hardly seems worth the damage it would cause.

The bill, actually an amendment to the larger environment finance bill, is supposed to get a House vote this week. If it passes there, and makes it through the conference committee process, it would require the DNR to sell off commercially valuable timber. Although the bill’s author has been quoted as saying that the measure would affect 1 percent of state park trees, we doubt it would stop there. If majestic, signature trees like the Whitewater and Frontenac black walnuts can be harvested, wouldn’t the next step be to cut the last old growth red pine in Itasca State Park? And couldn’t almost all parks’ trees be harvested for pulp paper making operations? Indeed, if commercial value is the only standard to be applied, the parks themselves could be sold — they occupy some beautiful land which developers would no doubt love to get their hands on.

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Starting down the path of commercially logging state parks — which are meant to be held in perpetuity for all the state’s people — would lead nowhere good, not least because it is a decision that can never be reversed. Once a tree is cut, it’s gone forever. Destruction is easy, but seldom wise. In this case, it is definitely the wrong course.