I teach in a small logging town in Oregon. In past decades, corporations like Boise Cascade and Weyerhaeuser destroyed millions of acres of watersheds, fragmented forests, and used "cut and run" techniques, caring little about workers and their communities. Then the logging industry spent millions of dollars building the public perception that Spotted Owls and environmentalists were trying to destroy the livelihoods of workers. As a result, even broaching the subject of logging in our local high school is seen as sympathy to environmental zealots rather than a logical step in reaching sustainable forestry techniques.
The New York Times recently exposed the American Petroleum Institute for trying to create "junk science" curricula to downplay global warming and discredit the Kyoto Protocol. The Institute - along with the American Coal Foundation and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers - helped fund a module on energy for Project Learning Tree, an educational program funded by the American Forest Foundation.
Learning Tree teaches that "managed tree farms" are forests. Children learn timber jargon, such as board feet, cruising timber, and silviculture. It leans heavily toward the utilitarian approach, as if forests are nothing more than fiber farms. When Learning Tree is challenged to explain their glaring omissions, they state that concepts such as fragmentation or dangers of herbicides may be too intense for children to learn.
In the K-8 module, terms like clear cutting or monoculture are rarely mentioned. How can that be? When its funders are the most notorious clearcutters on earth (Sierra Pacific, Weyerhaeuser and Pacific Lumber) it's not hard to come up with the answer.
While there are some good ecological activities, the slickness of the materials and their sheer volume (the K-8 module is more than 400 pages long) can lead teachers to believe that this is the end all to forest education. Here's where large sums of cash (from the very deep pockets of the timber multinationals) have crafted an illusion too good to be true.