Old Growth

D. Braun dbraun at u.washington.edu
Mon Nov 25 18:28:29 EST 1996

On Sat, 23 Nov 1996 larryc at teleport.com wrote:

> In article <3294602D.462C at vgernet.net>,
> Joseph Zorzin <redoak at vgernet.net> wrote:
> >I'm a forester myself and have even conducted clear cuts, but I love old
> >growth forests. 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.
> Then you need to use more accurate language.  There are lots of "old growth"
> forests in Oregon that have been logged one or more times.  "Old growth"
> simply refers to mature trees, normally about 90 years old for Douglas
> Fir.  There are plenty of "old growth" forests around that have been logged
> since WWII, but a 40 year old scrub fir wasn't worth cutting at the time.

Actually, no.  Using the more restrictive definition for old-growth (west
side, western hemlock zone forests), and excluding small fragments, there
were less than 1 million acres remaining in OR and WA in 1990, not in
reserves. See:

How much old-growth remains? p 243-251 In: Norse, E. A. 1990.  Ancient
Forests of the Pacific Northwest.  Island Press  327 p.  

This definition is based on set thresholds of snags, logs, and large trees
per/acre, as well as the presence of a multi-level canopy. See:

Old Growth Definition Task Group.  1986.  Research Note PNW-447.

This paper provides the following definition for Doug-fir old-growth, west
side (Cascades):

Live trees, 2 or more specie with a wide range in sizes;

Doug-fir: > 20/hectare, of trees > 81 cm dbh, or > 200 yrs old;

Shade tolerant associates: > 30/ha, > 41 cm dbh;

Canopy: deep, multi-layered;

Snags: conifer, > 10/ha, > 51 cm dbh and 4.6 m tall;

Logs: > 34 metric tons/ha, with 10/ha > 61 cm diameter and > 15 m long.

Certainly, these guidlines don't imply that primary forest (or partially
logged stands with many natural elements) are "worthless" for wildlife;
they are at different points on a continuum from young and simple to old
and complex, ecologically. Succession after a natural disturbance and a
clearcut, although somewhat similar, produces very different stands.

Lumping all mature forest together under the "old-growth" banner grossly
overestimates the amount of the oldest and rarest forest, habitat for
those pesky old-growth dependent species.  Guess whose interests this
serves? (Hint: the FS and BLM have long targeted stands with the biggest
most "decadent" trees first in laying out new clearcuts).  

Much has changed since 1990; the presidents Forest Plan put about 2/3 of
the remaining Late successional and old-growth (LS/OG) forest in Late
Successional Reserves (LSRs) which had remained unreserved. Unfortunatley,
salvage is allowed in the reserves.  

Of course, the fate of old-growth, or primary forest (never logged), as
well as the way lands currently under timber management are managed are
only concerns if one recognizes problems with the old approach of
conversion of all commercial timber lands to managed plantations.   

> You seem to be referring to wilderness areas, which don't need to be
> full of mature trees in order to be primal forests.  

True about waht is "primal" (primary) forest.

> >from an environmentalist forester (a rare species indeed)
> Nonsense.  You need to talk to a forester some time.  You'll have to
> pardon me for not believing you are one.  You sound like some kid who
> set chokers for a couple summers.
> Forestry is a highly technical profession.  Foresters manage forests to
> meet their management goals.  If the goal is high fiber production, then
> genetically engineered monoculture, brush suppression and aerial 
> fertilizer are appropriate tools.  I've seen Boise Cascade plantations 
> 20 years old that are taller than natural forests 50 years old.
> OTOH, if the management goals are wildlife habitat, multi-cropping from
> mushroom production and recreation, then other practices come into play.
> What we need to do is determine what the management goals will be, then
> shut up and let the foresters do their jobs.  They are quite capable of
> meeting any realistic goals we set. 

I can't agree more.  However, continual political meddling has prevented
the FS from actually implementing the NFMA, ESA, and stated ecosystem
management policy properly. Its kind of hard to not meet politically
driven timber targets, and also ask for funding for management needs.
The enviros, the responsible ones, pressure the politicians to follow the
laws on the books, as a start.  Because these are implemented using
scientific information, more basic, longterm data is needed on how forest
ecosystems function--- part of the new ecosystemn management approach. The
last Congress tried to cut research funding severely, while seeking to
wave or roll back multiple-use management and environmental regulations. 
That's no way to manage our forests.

		Dave Braun 

> -- Larry

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