Imaging a Shattering Earth: Contemporary Photography and the Environmental Debate
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Olympic National Forest, Washington

Located on the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington, Olympic National Forest covers 633,677 acres of land, including a temperate rainforest, a mountain range, several lowland lakes, rivers, and saltwater beaches. However, this is hardly the forest we see in John Ganis’s photograph. Over the years, as a result of tax breaks to encourage growth and replanting, lumber companies have grown into colossal corporations. However startling, these companies have cut nearly 85% of the two million acres of old growth trees that once grew on the Olympic Peninsula.

Old growth trees, like those found in Olympic National Forest, are important because they serve as habitat for endangered species, including the Spotted Owl and many other animals that cannot survive anywhere else. Clear cuts, like those seen here, destroy such habitats. In addition to displacing the natural species, clear cuts increase the risk of fire, blow down, and disease. In recent years, selective logging has been adopted by the lumber industry as an attempt to find a balance between nature and man. By thinning out overcrowded forests, companies can access the timber they need, while the wildlife remains unharmed, at times even benefiting from this practice.

The recent advances made in the lumber industry suggest what can be achieved when people put aside their differences and try to come up with a solution that benefits all involved. While lumber cutting may forever be an integral part of the US economic machine, it is imperative that we continue to find ways to improve the practice in hopes that future generations will be able to enjoy our National Forests.

Selected Bibliography

”Concepts in Ecosystem Management: Forest Edges.” Olympic National Forest. Weblink.

Russakoff, Dale. “Timber Industry is Rooted in Tax Breaks.” The Washington Post, 24 March 1985, A1.

“Selective logging touted as healthy for forests.” The Associated Press State and Local Wire, 18 August 2003, BC cycle.

Westneat, Danny. “War of the Woods: Contracts to Log Virgin Old-Growth Renew Northwest’s Debate Over Forests.” The Seattle Times, 31 January 1996, A1.

Olympic National Forest, Washington Pictures in the Gallery