The truth is there is not a lot there in terms of civilization. The thing that is there is trees. Many, many trees. The town I lived in is called Eureka, located on the coast 270 miles north of San Francisco. Today people flock from all over the world to see the gorgeous, gigantic redwoods that grow there. Those trees are what drew people there originally, but not to marvel at them. To cut them down.
Growing up there I had a vague notion of the fact that the area was built on the work of loggers.
Starting in the mid-1800s, men began trekking into the forest with their saws and machines, chopping down the trees and shipping the wood off to factories where it was turned into lumber that built the beautiful city of San Francisco, among others.
What I experienced in 1980s Eureka was the much-reduced version of the area’s logging industry. Starting in the 1950s, the trade was on the decline largely due to over-harvesting of the trees (the same can be said of the area’s fishing). What I heard about was the shuttered sawmills and the out-of-work loggers.
That was fine with me. I loved to ride my bike on hilly trails through the thick expanses of trees.
Sometimes I would pretend I was Luke Skywalker battling Darth Vader’s forces just like in the movie “Return of the Jedi,” a portion of which was filmed just an hour or so north of where I lived (remember the Ewoks?). In the fall when the giant trees would drop mounds of leaves like snow, my friends and I would gather them up and build forts with them around the trees’ trunks.
My family moved away when I started high school and I was unable to return to the area until a decade later. When I drove there, I took Highway 299 through Trinity National Forest. As the road made its way through the gorgeous green mountains, I caught my first glimpse of the great swaths of land that had been clear cut. It was like a giant hand had come out of the sky and cleanly ripped away a strip of Earth. As I continued, I saw several lumber yards where the trees were stored until they could be processed.
This was what I had heard about as a child but never really seen. I am glad about that, as I don’t know if my young eyes would have understood it. Seeing this as an adult I am able to be horrified but understand what I am seeing. I know the wood that built my lovely home had to come from somewhere. Nonetheless, I still am concerned that the harvesting of the trees needs to be done responsibly and sustainably.
For many years,
conservation groups have battled with Sierra Pacific, the major lumber company in the Northern California region. The issue goes well beyond beauty: Damage to the environment, wildlife and entire ecosystems is caused by clear cutting, according to these groups. According to a blog on the Los Angeles Times website, in late January 2010 the Center for Biological Diversity, a Tucson, Ariz.-based environmental group, filed lawsuits against the California Department of Forestry in seven California counties to halt logging plans for 5,000 acres across the Sierra Nevada and Cascade regions. The basis of the suit was that clear cutting contributes to global warming. I was unable to find out what happened with the lawsuit, but it is my understanding that clear cutting is still taking place in forests not too far from here.
Now that I have come back to the region where trees and nature are a major attraction, I again feel the bond with the trees I had as a child. The science behind the issue concerns me, but it is easy to understand that our forests need protecting just by gazing at their simple beauty.
Though I haven’t visited them as much as I’d like, now that my girlfriend’s convertible Jeep is up and running I plan to take some drives under the canopy of trees and breathing them in.
People will never stop cutting down trees. As long as there is a use for them, we will harvest them. I just hope we can figure out a way to do it that will enable future generations of children to build forts like I did.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to go find my old light sabre.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.