Reasons For Deforestation

Top Reasons For Deforestation

There are a number of reasons for deforestation. Not all of them are bad, and some are even based on good intentions. It's fair to say however that most reasons for deforestation are at best short-sighted, and are usually the result of attempting to achieve short term gains.

One could say that ignorance is one of the main reasons for deforestation. This is often the case in developing countries, where the lasting effects are not necessarily well understood. The United States is not blameless in this respect. When Europeans first settled in North America, the forests seemed endless, which was understandable given the relatively small population at the time, and the fact that most of the population was bunched up against the Eastern seaboard.

There are still areas in the United States where old growth lumber is being cut and forests are being clear cut to support the constant requirement for timber, to keep loggers employed, or both. This isn't all bad, as we've learned to manage our forests better, and have also learned to replant after we cut and clear.

Agriculture Is A Prime Reason - One of the main reasons for deforestation in the world is an increasing need for farmland as populations increase. Some governments give people land to clear for small farms. Small farms, at least those which prosper, often have a habit of becoming larger farms. Another thing can happen is, if proper agricultural practices are not followed, new farmland can soon become sterile. The solution? Abandon the now used up land, and clear more forest for a new farm.

Population pressure and the need for crop land and cattle ranching account for a great deal of deforestation in the Amazon region of Brazil, and in some Southeast Asian countries as well.

Deforestation isn't always done with timber sales or the development of small farms or large plantations in mind. In regions where fuel is scarce, trees are cut for fuel or for charcoal. There are a number of countries, one being the Malagasy republic (Madagascar) where burning forests to produce charcoal has at times gotten out of control, and the country as a result, has become largely deforested.

Nature Plays A Role Too - Not all the reasons for deforestation can be traced to humans.  Nature plays its part on occasion. An excellent example, still very apparent, is the damage done to the nearby forest when Mount St. Helens erupted. Thirty years later, the forest is recovering, but still has a long ways yet to go. Forest fires consume hundreds or thousands of acres annually. Some fires are caused naturally, some by humans. Another cause, currently a big problem in some of our Western states, is the pine bark beetle, which over the past few years has killed large swaths of evergreens.

Other Reasons - This list can go on. Mining, especially open pit mining, often takes place in forested areas, and the residue from processing the ore taken out of the ground sometimes poisons large areas, making new growth difficult to impossible. Forests also need to be cleared to gain access to mining areas. Highways are built to connect cities. While building a highway is not usually considered to be one of the major reasons for deforestation, the highway, once completed, opens up vast tracts of forest to logging or mining activities. Power lines often cut through forested areas, and dams and their reservoirs can take away large areas of forest permanently. Towns and cities have a tendency to expand, gobbling up more and more land as they do so.

At least we've learned or are learning the effects of deforestation, most of which are not all that good if we allow out forests to become too small in area or in some cases disappear entirely. Sometimes the clearing of forests is a necessity, but in most cases it is still done in the interests of short term goals and profits, without enough thought given to the potential longer term effects.