National Forests: Building a Better Land Ethic

U.S. Forest Chief Mike Dombeck talks about national forests, alternative building and the future of our land.

| October/November 1999

Do you think there should be recreational limits in national forests and parks? 

All of our activities need to be within the boundary of long-term sustainability. We must work within the limits of the land if we want to realize the benefits generation after generation.

Do you think there should be a shift toward a more universally simple lifestyle? 

Well, a simple lifestyle has always been one of my dreams. I do think that we should be as sufficient as we possibly can. And just as we need to support a land ethic, we need to help people understand why our land ethic is an important aspect of living by the land.

What are your thoughts on alternative home building? 

I think we ought to continue to research technology to see different ways of building and to look at the progress we've made so far; a lot of times we don't give ourselves credit for the progress we have been making. The fact is we're getting two-and-a-half times the use out of the same volume of wood today as we did at the turn of the century. This is [a result of] everything from our efficiency in milling operations to the utilization of a smaller diameter of wood. Oftentimes, use of substitute material for wood—whether it's steel, aluminum or plastic—consumes far more energy in the production process and has a more adverse impact on the environment than wood.

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