What Are the Pros and Cons of Clearcutting?

Advantages of clearcutting include the ability to manage forests economically, the creation of sunny spaces for sun-loving plant species, and the development of forage habitats for deer, elk and wildlife. Disadvantages include the disruption of existing ecosystems, the unsightly appearance and increased risk of erosion.

Clearcutting as a way to manage tree stands is a much-debated topic that offers both subjective and objective viewpoints. Supporters argue that clearcutting is no longer the same as deforestation. Forests that are clearcut are thinned so that the best trees are taken and the smaller trees are left behind. Clearcutting allows foresters to replant species that are best adapted to clearcut areas where there may be extensive undergrowth and shrubs. Clearcutting also provides foresters an economical and sustainable way to manage forests while at the same time creating pastures, farmland or habitats for wildlife that feed or grow on sun-loving shrubs and grasses.

Opponents of clearcutting suggest that the method increases erosion because fewer trees are able to take up excess water from streams and underground aquifers. Although clearcutting still allows trees to rebound and grow back, the process takes as long as 45 to 50 years for the trees to develop fully and become valuable for foresters again.

Clearcutting is not the right forestry technique for every type of forest. Landowners and foresters must still consider soil viability after cutting, the quality of current trees and how the method affects streams and other bodies of water.