Saving the American Public Forest: Clergy Write the President




Dear Rabbi, Dear friend of God's creation,

I am writing to invite you to sign on to an Open Letter to President Bush from the clergy and religious leaders of America regarding his national forest policy.

You can sign on by Emailing

I worked on the letter as part of a multireligious team brought together by the Religious Campaign for Forest Conservation, led by Fred Krueger. Through this process we will not only encourage the President to rethink his forest policy, but we will engender deeper reflection and education on the religious and spiritual implications of our nation's forests.

Here is the text of the letter. After that you'll find some information from Fred Krueger to back it up.

Blessings that the trees we save become a great Etz Chayyim for planetary life, and that our efforts help renew the sense of Torah as itself a growing, active Etz Chayym, a tree providing life —

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director
The Shalom Center

Religious Campaign for Forest Conservation
409 Mendocino Avenue, Suite A
Santa Rosa, California 95401
(707) 573-3161

An Open Letter to President Bush from America's Religious Leader

April 8, 2003
(tentative presentation date)

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United State
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

§1. As clergy and religious leaders from across America, we submit to you this open letter about the importance of forest conservation. In particular we call your attention to the moral, ethical and spiritual reasons for protecting America's last wild forests from destructive road building and for ending commercial logging on the national forests.

§2. Over the past several years, numerous religious organizations have issued declarations on forest conservation. This is because issues of forest conservation at their core are also religious issues. They are religious issues because God commands care of creation and because trees anchor the life support system of the planet. For Christians and Jews alike the biblical story of human interaction with the world begins with God's commands regarding two trees. The way those first people responded reflected their relationship to their Creator and their fidelity to the commands given to them.

§3. Judaism and Christianity teach that we share a sacred obligation to God and future generations to protect and safeguard the biological systems that sustain humanity and the vitality of the planet. As a people we have been given dominion over Earth and commanded to steward its air, land and water. We are obliged to care for creation and ensure the fruitfulness and integrity of the biological processes that are essential for the life of the planet. These biblical commands provide a vision for humanity to dwell in harmony with God and the land. It is our human task to "dress and keep" creation and function in harmony with this ancient vision.

§4. The way we interact with forests and all of God's creation is thus informed by religious teaching. Yet this vision of human purpose has faded in our nation's public policy. Not only are the great forests of the world disappearing, in our own country, barely 4% of America's original great forest remains.

§5. The irony of this predicament is that the forests that are being lost to commercial logging are more valuable if left standing than when cut for lumber or pulp. Studies show that forest conservation brings important economic and social values. A 1995 U.S. Forest Service report found that there are many more rural jobs and more rural income when the forests are preserved. Opinion polls reflect that 70% of Americans would save the national forests from commercial logging. The clear fact is the forestshave spiritual, biological and social values far in excess of their dollar or commodity values.

§6. To people of faith, forests are places of inspiration and beauty. They witness to the power and majesty of God. Forests also reflect a unique handiwork of the Creator that reconnects us to the wonder and mystery of creation. To people of science, forests are "the lungs of the planet" and repositories of medicines and undiscovered cures for disease. Intact forest systems provide an array of natural services: They provide clean air and clean water. They metabolize carbon dioxide, restraining global climate change, releasing oxygen and sequestering carbon dioxide. They inhibit catastrophic fires. They serve social stability by regulating stream flows, transpiring moisture to enhance rainfall and restraining hillsides from erosion. They offer habitat for animal and plant species, many of them endangered. They afford recreation by providing places for hunting and fishing, hiking and camping, and many forms of outdoor repast and respite from the hurried and harried pace of society.

§7. The severe wildfires that our country recently experienced should call attention to the failures of past forest policies. The combination of excessive fuel loads caused by suppressing small fires, the flammable "slash" debris left by logging, the drying of the forests caused by removal of the largest trees — which are also the most fire resistant, coupled with record drought in many parts of the nation, have resulted in predictably higher levels of catastrophic fire damage. Because commercial logging degraded and dried the national forests, there can be no sounder policy than to end the roadbuilding and logging that have bequeathed us this unnecessary fire hazard and to institute a policy of ending commercial logging on the national forests.

§8. Numerous religious organizations have studied the array of forest concerns and issued formal statements. Roman Catholic Franciscans, Episcopalians, Evangelical Christians, Jewish organizations, the United Methodist Church and many others have national or regional declarations calling for an end to commercial logging on the national forests.

§9. These statements are emerging because forest issues are issues of value. Former U.S. Forest Service Chief Max Peterson recently related that after all the studies are done, "the problems facing our forests are not technical or scientific questions, they are value questions." Because forest questions at heart are questions of values and principles, the voice of religion has a responsibility to address this issue.

§10. Mr President, on behalf of the churches and synagogues of America, we appeal to your religious sensitivity and particularly to your campaign promise that you would apply religious principle to the policies of your administration. Please listen to the voice of the religious leaders who are calling for an end to commercial logging on the national forests. Please listen to the voice of science, which has called for this same end. Please listen to the majority of Americans, 70% of whom wish to end commercial logging on the national forests. Listen to us all as we ask you to stand up for religion, morality, right reason, unbiased science and a large majority of the American people. Stop the commercial logging of our national forests. Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

We are:

(Names of signatories follow below —
Please print full name, title, organization, city and state)





Please mail this signed letter back to:

Religious Campaign for Forest Conservation
409 Mendocino Avenue, Suite A
Santa Rosa, CA 95401

If you need additional copies of this letter for signature gathering purposes, please make them yourself, using 11 x 17 paper (preferred),
just use plain white paper and include the necessary signee information,
contact our office and request additional copies of this letter.
Call (707) 573-3161 or 573-3162 between 9:00 AM and 7:00 PM PST.
e-mail it to:

Thank you for assisting with this effort.


If you are able to send a contribution to this effort, it will be used to promote forest conservation and provide education on the spiritual and moral implications of national forest policy. Thank you.

The text of the letter above is based on three general sources:

* over a dozen formal national and regional declarations on forest policy by religious organizations (see list, below, under Talking Points, §2.)

* statements by world religious leaders, including Pope John Paul II, the Rev. Billy Graham, Patriarch Bartholomew and several rabbinic organizations.

* a similar Open Letter to President Bush from America's leading biologists and forest scientists.

Additional considerations include:

* More jobs are involved through saving the national forests than logging them (according to USForestService data).

* The forests are more valuable standing than cut because of the many non-comercial values associated with their natural services soar far above the dollar value of these trees; these natural values include clean water, clean air, climate stabilization, carbon sequestration, habitat for species, hunting and fishing and other forms of outdoor recreation.

* The entire Congressional Black Caucus supports this measure because of the justice for workers implications.

* Over 100 Congressional lawmakers cosponsored legislation to end commercial logging of the national forests in the 107th Congress.

* The cost of the commercial logging program of the U.S. Forest Service costs tax payers over $1 billion annually in subsidies to timber and pulp companies.

* The National Forests when first established were "Forest Reserves" to protect forest land from the abuses by the timber industry of forest lands.

* Most forest land is already owned by private companies, most of them timber companies and these are their primary source of wood products.

* Most Americans (70% according to recent polls) support this end to commercial logging of the national forests. It does not happen though because of the influence of campaign contributions from timber companies.

* At heart all decisions regarding air, land, water and forests are first value decisions which means religion has a responsibility to exercise discernment on this issue.

This Open Letter will be delivered to the White House in April. Press advisories will be made to all major media.

Please join us in this effort to bring a higher level of respect to our nation's forests.

You can sign on by Emailing

On the Shalom Center Website, in the section on "Healing the Earth," there are a set of Talking Points on saving the forests; the text of the Forest Scientists Open Letter to the President (April, 2001); and The New York Times article about their letter.

Thank you for your help in this venture.

To sign, just return this email with your name, your religious affiliation, plus address, city and state to: Thank you.

If you could also pass this Open Letter on to other clergy and invite their signature and further circulation, that too would help immensely.

Thank you, and God bless you all in this effort to bring common sense and respect to our nation's public forests.

— Fred Krueger