Old Growth

Don Baccus donb at rational.com
Thu Nov 21 17:14:36 EST 1996

In article <3294602D.462C at vgernet.net>,
Joseph Zorzin  <redoak at vgernet.net> wrote:

>The typical forester HATES old growth. He/she is brainwashed into the
>idea that old growth is "overmature" and should be managed because
>America's economy is dependent on cutting every last old growth forest.

That attitude is slowly changing, at least in some schools of forestry.
Much of our knowledge of the complexity of old-growth forest systems
comes from such schools, with the University of Washington being a
good example.  I've had the opportunity to help with bird point counts
in an old-growth canopy, part of a minor project making use of the UWs
Canopy Crane project devised by that school's School of Forestry (or
whatever they officially call it) and designed to increase our knowledge
of the specifics of the ecology of old-growth forests.

>Many but not all "environmentalists" think no trees should be cut or at
>least no old growth using such logic as- massive erosion will occur or
>numerous species will become extinct.

>They're both wrong (as I dodge to put on my flame proof jacket).

I think we're right about old-grwoth...

>There is so little old growth forest in America that if it all just
>vanished, it wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference to the forest
>economy except locally of course.

True in the lower 48, there's still a lot left in Alaksa...

>And- erosion after logging jobs almost never happens.

If you mean that erosion after logging operations almost never happens,
you are very much mistaken, and foresters as well as conservationists
know this.  You may mean that changes in forestry practice, which
have come about due to pressure from conservationists, have largely
ended the problem on our National Forests (where 300-foot buffers
are required on larger streams) and if that's what you mean, I'll
agree.  As long as you recognize that these changes came about due to
actions by conservationists.

>And- if any
>species still exists after the tremendous, rapacious, alterations we
>have already done to the landscape of North America, it's highly
>unlikely that cutting some old growth will eradicate those species.

Why?  It appears you're another one of these netizens who claims to know
a lot more about the ecology of old-growth forests and species dependent
on them than biologists.  Why should I take your word rather than that
of real live working biologists doing real live research in real live

In other words - I think you're wrong.  I've got science on my side.
You have nothing but your personal opinion.

>It's possible but unlikely.

This is a statement of belief.  You've not offered one shred of
evidence to support it.

>  So the key arguments of both sides in my not so
>humble opinion are full of hot air.

Actually, there's not as much disagreement over forest ecology between
timber companies and conservationists as you might believe, despite
posturing by timber lobbyists.  There's a great deal of disagreement
over whether or not we, as a society, ought to care if we lose the
old-growth dependent component of our biological heritage.  That's
why the industry worked with the last Congress to get legislation
written that would make timber production the primary purpose of
our National Forests, rather than multiple-use.  They seek a value-shift
which mandates timber production as being more important than providing
habitat for wildlife.  The very fact that they've been pushing this
approach should make it clear that they've punted on the underlying
ecological issue (i.e. the old claims that "there are no old-growth
dependent species).

>The real issue is that some people like myself like old growth forest,
>pure and simple. We like the big trees for whatever biological,
>philosophical or whatever reason.

There's nothing wrong with the aesthetic argument.  I happen to
feel that 100% of our limited old-growth in Oregon and Washington should
remain uncut for essentially aesthetic reasons combined with the fact
that less than 10% remains.  I'll settle for enough being preserved
to assure long-term viability of various old-growth dependent species,

What I have difficulty understanding is why you reject the ecological
argument out of hand as being "full of hot air", when there's a bunch
of solid scientific research backing up that position.

>It's not a scientific argument to be
>debated. It's our political decision, like where to live or where to

Science's role in this is to help us understand the ecological
effects of various decisions.   Since many folks appear to take
these effects into account when choosing their own political position
on the subject, it is important to slam-dunk lies about the underlying
science.  Folks like Asher lie about science hoping to convince people
to take (in this case) a pro-harvest political view.

>And if through the political process we manage to stop the harvest
>of old growth- then so be it.

If we had allowed the old lies about old-growth, that liquidation would
not only provide timber but improve the forest (including for wildlife),
to stand unchallenged we'd be doing the electorate a disservice,
for they'd be basing their political position in part on disinformation.

>We have enough land in this country for both forest
>management and old growth if both sides stop being so selfish and using
>the wrong arguments.

OK, we have less than 10% of our old-growth left in Oregon/Washington.
Why is our goal to preserve this tiny percentage of the original selfish?
Many of us have been working on this issue for decades, and the argument
we get is always "you should compromise and let them harvest some of
what's left".  Indeed, until relatively recently conservationists only
argued that a percentage of the remainder should be preserved.  The
change in position - that all that remains here in the PNW should be
preserved - has occured because harvest has steadily dinimished the
amount left during the decades of this fight.

- Don Baccus, Portland OR <donb at rational.com>
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