again.... like i said, a clearcut is not a clearcut.....
is not a clearcut. To compare either slope of the Montana Rockies, or the Pacific NW's cascades and coastal range to eastern US hardwoods is comparing apples and oranges. Two different systems entirely. Like trying to compare steelhead streams of the Pacific NW w/ those of the great lakes.
topography, soils, growing conditions, precipitation, species (trees and wildlife) are totally different. Don't blame you for not liking what you saw in Montana. Given what I know of the area, it's safe to say you saw crap from both federal and private logging lands. As noted, the primary driver was producing wood fiber, whether it come out in the form of boards or paper or what ever, at the lowest possible cost for the greatest potential for revenue and profit. And the cheapest way to do that (surprise) is take it all at once. Fell it all and drag it or haul it to the road to be loaded up on a truck. And if you're a private landowning company who's only looking for the quick profit, don't even bother replanting or rehabilitating, just "cut and run" and sell it to the next smuch. If you're the federal government, The Organic Act, National Forest Management Act, and other federal laws require rehabilitation and replanting to restock that stand (that, however, didn't stop some morons from putting clearcuts where they never should have been...). That essentially describes every large privately owned timber lands in the Western US, and including some in the SE and East as well. And it would be fair to say that was a driver on federal lands as well up to the late 80's and early 90's.
But that is NOT what is driving what is being proposed in states such as Pennsylvania, NY, Vermont, and New Hampshire. First off, the driver is wood fiber production, it's diversification of a monotypic habitat that's no longer providing for species, like ruffed grouse (and white tailed deer, and Kirkland's warbler (ESA), among many others), brought about by a respected conservation organization. Second, it's happening in aspen forest systems that essentially regenerate BY stand replacement events. Before our meddling, it was by natural and aboriginal fire. Now, through cutting and harvest of patches or blocks of aspen stands, new regeneration can develop, increasing diversity to the habitat (and better for the above mentioned species and others). Infact, they find the aspen regenerating THE YEAR of the harvest. And comes back so think you can barely walk through it after only 5 years. Third, these are flatter, more gentle sloped, moister, deeper soiled, greater accumulated precipitation habitats then exist anywhere in MT. They respond to this kind of treatment, and have done so for a millenium. apples and oranges....
In regards to your comments - the vast majority of clearcuts, if you look across North America, DO reforest. When placed in forest systems that are abundant in deep soils, moisture, sunshine, and replanted w/ the appropriate species, do reforest, and do so in abundance. Even in Montana. IF they didn't, the Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, longleaf pine, quaking aspen, and even ponderosa pine, would be endangered species across much of their range, because there are few areas in the Eastern and southeastern US and western Oregon, Washington and California that haven't already been cut over, some times two or three times, with clearcuts.
In regards to your slash and burn example - the difference likely wasn't whether it was slashed and burned, but whether it was simply replanted, or more simply put in an ecosystem w/ to shallow of soils and dry a topography to take the stresses of total tree removal. For better or worse, and most times worse, nearly all clearcuts are/were burned. It's essentially required to get all the crap out of the way just so a seedling can be put into the ground.
I'm not saying I'm a fan of all clearcutting. Most of it I despise as much as you. But a series of small, total vegetation removal harvests, done to add diversity to a forested landscape, w/ consideration to other resource values (streams, listed species, species of concern, recreational interests, etc.), is a good thing, and is better than doing nothing at all...
Tie One On, and Tie Into One!!!