In what state officials call their most ambitious effort to restore a state park's natural landscape, commercial loggers have been allowed to virtually denude the island of its blue gum eucalyptus trees, sweet-smelling giants that plant biologists say were well on their way to crowding out native plants before the logging began.
Since November, 64 acres of eucalyptus have been cut down, chopped up and floated away on a barge to a paper mill that has reduced the trees to pulp and sold it to Japan to be made into paper. In all, more than 25,000 tons of eucalyptus have been cleared. More than 12,000 trees, many of them towering more than 100 feet, have been downed, and hundreds more will go before the project is finished this fall.
David Boyd, the resource ecologist overseeing the clear-cutting, readily acknowledges that some parts of the island are, for the moment, a mess. But Boyd says what visitors are seeing now is needed before the island can be restored to something approaching its look of 200 years ago. It was then that Europeans discovered the island and began drastically altering its landscape.