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The West 2000 Page 10
|and a myriad of services and goods provided by nearby communities.
No other industry has been more dramatically affected by federal policy changes.
An estimated 132,000 jobs were lost or eliminated within five years of action, or inaction, taken by the Clinton administration after listing of the spotted owl as an endangered species in 1990. Standing economies in several northwestern towns collapsed and were not replaced by promises of tourism or technology training. In California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana alone, 318 wood mills were closed between 1989 and 1999. Nearly all of them were in small towns dependent on the mills for their economy. The direct loss in jobs was over 35,000. The indirect losses to the local economies has not been calculated.
Perhaps most importantly, however, more than four billion board feet of a completely renewable resource was withheld from production, resulting in continued overgrowth, fuel loading and insect infestation in the forests, and indirectly leading to increased harvests in Third World nations where methods of reforestation are either not utilized or unknown. Unrenewable rainforests on far less stable ground are still being destroyed in response to global demand for wood. As such land is cleared, it is used for grazing to meet other global demands, suggesting environmental losses that are unnecessary and unintended by American producers.
|Forests still cover about two-thirds of the area that was forested when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. About 307 million acres of forest land have been converted to other uses since 1630 mainly to agricultural use. More than 75 percent of this conversion took place in the 19th century. After 1920, agricultural production increased per acre, cropland area stabilized, and so did forest land area.|
|Because the loss of jobs in the timber industry had its greatest
impact on skilled middle-aged workers, even a return to harvesting
levels of 1990 would require a substantial period of retraining the work force.
An ecological disaster of worldwide proportions awaits in the meantime.
What was raised from the land in the West frequently went to feed
those who were extracting what was regarded as its greatest wealth.
America found a vault of treasure waiting there as the industrial
age began. Much more than most Americans realize is still there,
and still being produced by an industry as essential to the next
century as it was to the last.
the nations Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
As of 1997, there were 355,000 Americans reported to be directly
employed in mining. They were among the highest wage-earners in
U.S. industry, averaging $44,000 a year. Industry estimates are
that an additional five million Americans, including government
employees, earn their income from mining production. The rate
of occupational injury among miners is lower than that of employees
in hospitals, hotels, or retail outlets.
|Although the West today still lures prospectors, mining operations
exist in all 50 states, producing materials from sand to exotic
isotopes, so much in such variety that it is difficult to calculate.
The value of non-fuel mining in the United States in 1997 was estimated at $39.5 billion, with the highest value in products used for construction, agriculture and manufacturing totaling $27.1 billion. Total production of metallic minerals such as gold, zinc, iron ore, and copper was valued at $12.4 billion in that year. Coal production was nearly $20 billion.
As with all production from natural resources, the actual values of mining are spread throughout the economy, producing about $525 billion a year according to the industry, or about 7 percent of