Myths and Facts
About the Environment --
Part IX: Deforestation

Myth: Old-growth forests are vital to oxygen production.

Fact: Old-growth forests contribute little to oxygen production. Typically, in temperate climates, mature trees and forests, like all living things, metabolize more slowly as they grow old. Consequently, they add little to carbon dioxide absorption and oxygen production.

Myth: All old-growth forests in America will be wiped out within twenty years.

Fact: As of 1993, there were 13.2 million acres of old-growth forest left in America -- old-growth defined as forests containing trees over 200 years old. Eight million of these acres were totally protected in national parks and wilderness areas, and can never be harvested. Furthermore, the harvesting rate for the remaining 5.2 million acres of old-growth forest is approximately only 1% per year.

Myth: Only 10% of the old-growth forests once present in America still exist.

Fact: It is impossible to determine how much of the old-growth forests have been harvested. However, the proposition that 90% of these forests have been harvested is absurd -- this assumes that all forest land was, at one time, "old-growth." Fires, windstorms and the like have ensured that our forests possess trees of various ages and species.

Myth: We are currently losing trees at an alarming rate.

Fact: We are actually gaining trees. Average annual increase in the size of forests exceeds logging by 37% per year.

Information from Environmental Overkill by Dixy Lee Ray (Regnery Gateway, 1993).

Issue Date: August 20, 1996

Talking Points on the Economy: Environment #30, published by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct NE, Washington, D.C. 20001 Tel. (202) 507-6398, Fax (301) 498-1301,, http://www.nationalcenter/

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