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Wood for fuel:

I recently heard of a motion in the House or Senate to allow those in need of heating fuel to collect firewood from the National Forests. At first, this sounds like a humane method for providing heating fuel. The wood to be selected should supposedly already be on the ground – similar to the Biblical method of leaving grains and harvests that fall to the ground, and allowing them to then be picked up by the hungry.

It is easy to infer, though, that this system will be very easily circumvented and abused. People will take more than they need, as is the American way. Others will collect wood and sell it instead of using it. And still others will actively cut down trees for both personal use and profit. This will become a federally-validated assault on our national forests.

Some will maintain that the health, safety and survival of the nation’s citizens must come before the health of the environment; that the amount remaining wilderness in the US is so great that culling firewood won’t make a dent. Both of these would be false contentions: personal and environmental health are inextricably linked, and the amount of wilderness is not a commodity that can be deemed acceptable based on a set number.

Fallen wood is crucial to the health of the forest. Its decomposition provides nutrients and fertilizer to the soil and other trees and plants. It acts as fuel during forest fires, which are also crucial to the health of the forest, as they burn off the forest undergrowth and limit competition for space and light.

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