How many trees?

D. Braun dbraun at
Mon Feb 26 19:25:26 EST 1996

On Sat, 24 Feb 1996, Steve Shook wrote:

> D. Braun wrote:
> > 
> > Dear Jack:  [in responding to Jack Perdue's response]
> > 
> > You are wrong and know better.  Yes, trees go into paper--- where do the
> > logs come from to produce the "lumber residue"?  Also, primary forests
> > are a major source of fiber for pulp, both in North America and the
> > world.  
> Mr. Braun....What is a primary forest? Is there a secondary forest?  A 
> tertiary forest?  etc...  Are you talking about second growth forests?  Are 
> you talking about forests that have naturally regenerated (i.e., not 
> plantation grown)?  Are you talking about primary production versus 
> secondary production forests? Please be clear with your statements since it 
> seems that you are just simply avoiding the discussion.

Dear Steve:  As you know, the original post said "maybe none" in response 
to someone else's question about how many trees would be killed for a 
given amount of paper. Primary forest is forest that has been only 
lightly impacted by extraction of wood, medicines, food, etc.  I have not 
found a strict definition; this comes from the context of scientific 
papers and books.  The scale is important; a forest area as a whole might 
be considered primary, while a river-side patch of cultivated land would 
not be.  In the US, areas that have never been cleared by people are 
> > The combination of a reduction in old-growth logging on US public
> > lands, and whole-log exports from private lands has driven up chip
> > prices--- as you know. 
> This is true, but only in the short-term.  The high prices of pulp and paper 
> within the past six to eight months is attributable to an increase in growth 
> of global economies.  Trade flows for wood fiber (both solid and pulp & 
> paper) stabilized, as they always have in the past, within six months of a 
> major supply region reduction. Head over to the Forest Resources library and 
> check it out yourself...or check the Center for International Trade in forest 
> Products publications.

I never said prices were unaffected by demand --- I just did not mention 
it, along with other influences --- that was not my point.

> > Paper comes from trees.
> Jack never said that paper didn't come from trees.

Yes, he did.  He said "maybe none", in reference to trees, quite explicitly.

> > If we want to retain more primary forests, or grow managed forests on
> > longer rotations, for the benefits which flow from older forests for the
> > many utilitarian, cultural, and spirtitual benefits too numerous to list 
> > here, we must REDUCE, REUSE, AND RECYCLE.  
> Again, what IS a primary forest?  In addition, Jack never said that we 
> shouldn't reduce, reuse, and recycle.

I attempted to define "primary forest" above.  The strictest definition 
could be made by saying that true primary forest only existed before 
people came across the Bering Sea landbridge--- after that, one could 
claim that as forested areas were populated, they ceased to be primary 
forest.  However, this narrow view misses the point of the definition --- 
to identify forests that have been minimally impacted by humans.  It is an 
ecological definition, because it 
recognizes that successional processes, and the forests which develop, 
reflect the history of disturbances in a given place.  Therefore, an 
ecologist would want to know that a particular forest was subject to  
small scale shifting cultivation, farming hundreds of years previously, 
or a recent clearcut (which would be obvious). One could split hairs 
over whether someone cutting a pole for a lean-to 200 years ago renders, 
say, a 4000 ha. watershed in Montana non-primary forest, and call it 
"x", but that would be pointless.      

> > I can't resist, here are a few things we get from INTACT primary forest:
> > unique recreation, the highest quality water, the best salmon habitat,
> > drugs (e.g. taxol), a reserve of genetic material for silviculture, plant
> > and animal species which could eventually colonize managed lands if "new
> > forestry", which puts some of the structural diversity of old-growth back
> > into stands, is instituted more widely; and  a place of spiritual
> > recharge and even worship. (Readers--- more?).

Notice I said "intact" primary forest

> Yes, with selective harvesting and management we can get lumber, plywood, 
> composite panels, wood I-beams, laminated veneer lumber, hardwood veneer, 
> paper products, poles, rayon, ...............
> > Also, spare us from saying "we have more trees mow than we did 40 years
> > ago".  

You snipped the rest of my point. I was refering to claims that use this 
statistic (that is true) to try to lull the public 
into believing that our forests are in better shape because we have more 
trees.  As you know, there are more ways of looking at forests than 
stems/ha.  Are our east-side forests, the product of high-grading and 
fire suppression, "better" than historic stands that were 90% less dense?  
Is having the majority of moist-site conifer forest in the west in young 
stands, which are neccessarily higher in density, "good"? There are mnay 
ways of looking at this "more trees = good management" argument.   
> We do have more trees than 40 years ago...roughly 28 percent more on a volume 
> basis and 30 percent more on raw number basis.  These numbers are even 
> acknowledged by many of the environmental groups that pursued court 
> injunctions to stop timber harvests. (Citation: USDA, Forest Service, General 
> Technical Report No. 1993)

They are "even acknowledged" by environmental groups because they are 
true.  So what?

> > Trees do not equal forests--- this myth has led us to our current
> > biodiversity crisis
> What is the current biodiversity crisis in the United States.  It seems that 
> you are just spouting off without providing any support to back your claim.

Say what? No biological diversity crisis? Where have you been?  Did you 
perhaps read the regional forest plan (Option 9, as ammended)?  This plan 
sought to address the concern of many (not you, I guess) for the several 
hundred species acknowledged to be dependent on late 
successional/old-growth forest (LS/OG) in the PNW. Probably the only reason 
this plan got anywhere was because you could eat some of these species 
(genetic races of salmon), along with growing public support for preserving 
LS/OG for other objectives, ranging from biological diversity to recreation to 
flood control.

By the way, you probably have heard the phrase "you catch more flies with 
honey than vinegar".  Spare me the disparaging remarks, and allusions to 
me being ignorant and manipulated by "environmental groups", if you wish 
to be taken seriously; try attacking the argument and not the person.     

> > and a reduction in old-growth forest in the PNW to perhaps 10%.
> Perhaps?  Perhaps you should find out before stating statistics.  Your 
> credibility is fading fast.......... I believe I have read a paper and 
> articles by Jerry Franklin and Chad Oliver (both are very prominent 
> ecosystem management proponents, as you know David), that have your 10%  
> figure significantly greater.

As you know, this figure has been the subject of much debate, so I 
prefaced it with "perhaps".  All you have to do is go up in a plane; 
whether the figure is 10%, 15%, or even 20%, what primary forest that is 
left is severely fragmented.  Fragmentation impacts the functioning of 
old-growth forest,(or younger forest surrounded by non-forest, for that 
matter). As an example, a small patch of forest is more likely to be impacted 
by catastrophic disturbance, returning it to earlier successional stages; 
"weedy" species --- common sps that live in disturbed habitats -- 
displace the LS/OG dependent species; and the watersheds they are in , 
because they are mostly covered with recent clearcuts and young forests, 
function entirely differently as to the hydrologic cycle, producing 
higher peak flows, and less sustained flow in the summer, with definite 
impacts for fish.  

> > We have more trees, but the vast majority on managed lands
> > will never grow older than 50 years. We need to leave the rest of the
> > primary forest ALONE.
> Really?  Did you know that many of the Eastern Temperate Hardwood Forests 
> were once farm lands?  The farmers of the 1920s and 1930s defaulted on their 
> government loans, and the government ended up repossessing large tracts of 
> land that were later turned over to the Forest Service for management.  It 
> surprises me how FEW people actually know this (there are dozens of books 
> published that show "then" and "now" pictures of many of the Forest Service 
> lands east of the Mississippi).  Now we have situations in which individuals 
> do not want any harvesting to be performed on this sites that now do appear 
> to be "old-growth" (case-in-point is the Hoosier National Forest).

I'm from Connecticut, and got an MFS at Yale (1986).  Again, you just 
make yourself look silly assuming I'm ignorant. As to the individuals 
protesting increased logging in areas that appear to be "old-growth", try 
quoting one of these people refering to the forest as "old-growth". "These 
people", as you put it, may know that it has been logged, but has 
achieved mature forest characteristics that they value more than 
intensively managed, short rotation plantations --- and they have a valid 
point, given that this is public forest. Connecticut is heavily forested; 
I have known since I was 12 that the only old-growth there was one small 
patch of eatern white pine in Cornwall.  Even this area had grown from a 
field cleared in the 1600's --- so, it was not primary forest. 

> > Your propaganda will not lead us to a sustainable future based on a view
> > of the environment that is made up of ecosystems -- but only continue our
> > mistaken view that the environment is entirely made up of commodities
> > that can and should be targeted for consumption, of which some can be 
> > regrown, such as trees, and some which can not, such as primary forest.
> Jack was neither pressing against sustainability nor for the destruction on 
> "old-growth" stands of timber.  In fact, he's promoting harvests on managed, 
> second growth forests.

He did not call for either logging old-growth forests or promote harvesting 
managed second-growth.  The fact is, the timber industry, like any other, 
seeks to get raw materials as cheaply as possible, and make and sell 
products in order to make the highest profit possible.  It is up to 
society to reign in those activities which have costs that are not 
part of traditional economic models -- like the value of primary forest 
to the public over and above timber values on public land. The 
management of forest on private land that maintains ecosystem functions 
important to all--- like providing habitat for endangered species or 
buffers for salmonid habitat-- are examples of agreed on limitations there.

You might want to read some of E.O. Wilson's writings on biological 
diversity.  This biologist's point is that extinguishing species for 
economic expediency is short-sighted, an ongoing and worsening crises, 
and one which our descendents will never forgive us for.  We surely are 
inventive enough to find ways to live while slowing this extinction rate.
He makes these points (I am paraphrasing here) with credentials intact.  
He is a first rate taxonomist, and has worked extensively in the tropics 
where this crisis is acute. We can not find utilitarian justifications 
for each species --- and we know little about nearly all of them --- so the 
only rational course of action is to try to maintain as much biological 
diversity as possible.

In my view, this line of thought is not radical or extreme, but based on 
rational thought, reasonable, and pragmatic. In fact, it is the same 
basis for the advent of "new forestry" in the PNW, that strikes a 
compromise between the simplification inherent with traditional 
silviculture and the diversity of structure and function in old-growth 
forest. Some of the benefits could be (we have to watch this for a while) 
improved wildlife habitat, greater retention of on-site limiting 
nutrients, greater levels of on-site N fixation, reduced insect 
herbivory; as well as large diameter trees for sale, in the future when 
all of our old-growth will either be logged or preserved in reserves.

> >                 Regards, Dave Braun 
> >                 "You could look it up"
> Dave, take your own advice. Also, don't believe EVERYTHING you read from 
> extremist groups on both sides of the issue.

Again, you get nowhere with me by assuming that I read material from 
"extremist" groups. (Who are they, militias and white power groups?) I 
actually believe that the attitude that managing 
forest primarily for timber is an "extremist" view, because of its myopic 
focus and potential for harm to society, both now and in the future.  If 
that makes me an "extremist", so be it.  

> Regards,
> Steve Shook
> Center for International Trade in Forest Products
> University of Washington, Seattle
> woodlab at

p.s., I'm over in Wink 106 and am always open to friendly, respectfull 
debate.  However, I'm in a bit of a crunch until next quarter with my 

			Regards, Dave Braun

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