IUBio Biosequences .. Software .. Molbio soft .. Network News .. FTP

why so few hardwoods in the PNW?

Don Baccus dhogaza at pacifier.com
Sat Aug 8 01:34:02 EST 1998

In article <6qggsn$g9v$1 at nnrp1.dejanews.com>,  <dwheeler at teleport.com> wrote:
>In article <MPG.1034fe454daf3d4698970b at news.teleport.com>,
>  larryc at teleport.com (Larry Caldwell) wrote:
>> In article <35C97FEB.E092D7F1 at forestmeister.com>,

>> No, on the *average* our old growth forests are about 100 years old.
>> Some protected groves are older than that.  Of course, since we have
>> started vigorous fire suppression in the last 50 years, our forests have
>> gotten a lot older.  At least the ones that haven't been logged have.

Cites, please. Larry, if you're going to spout industry bullshit, at least
tell us who is feeding it to you.

>> Prior to modern fire suppression, the PNW had fire storms of biblical
>> proportions on a regular basis.  A half a million acre forest fire was a
>> common thing.

No, it was an UNCOMMON thing, unless you were Lazurus.  

>> All the doug fir forests are fire regrowth.  Doug fir won't reproduce
>> under a shade canopy, so you either have to burn it down or cut it down
>> to get a doug fir forest.  The true old growth forests in the PNW are
>> spruce and cedar, which are almost all within a narrow belt about 40
>> miles wide near the Pacific coast.

This takes in most of the Coast Range, of course.  So you're saying that
most of the old growth forests occured where most of the wet, westside
coniferous temperate rain-forest is found.  Tautology.  Fire suppression
in the Cascades has only been effective since the 50s, and that was
limited (fewer roads, less money).  It is curious to me that we could
alter the timber-friendly second growth to conservation-friendly old-growth
in such a short perios of time, with the transformation escaping the notice
of the foresters involved.  

If large tracts of old-growth are recent, human innovations how do you
explain the fact that there is agreement on the fact that nearly all of
our pre-industrial old-growth has been cut, and that the extent was large?

Industry and conservationists and the USFS all agree on this.  Only Larry
claims otherwise.  Industry agrees so strongly that in the 1940s - before
effective fire supression - they invested heavily in mills to harvest this
fantasy forest.  Indeed, they've fought tooth-and-nail to protect that
investment by arguing we should liquidate what remains.

>Sorry Larry. On Vancouver Island it does regenerate when an old-growth (5'
>diameter) tree is removed. Old growth have considerable canopy width, and
>removal of even a single tree *can* create conditions suitable for natural

And this accounts for much of the species mix in these forests, where you
find Doug Fir occuring in scattered patches or in individuals in mixed

>> Yes, they do grow fast.  A doug fir forest is about done growing in 100
>> years.  By 120 years, fir no longer grows any taller, and the rings get
>> pretty narrow too.  While a 20 year old tree is putting on half an inch
>> to an inch a year diameter, a 100 year old tree will only grow a
>> sixteenth of an inch a year.

This greatly depends on just where the tree is...but coastal dougs do
grow very fast, I've seen second-growth timber with 1/2" plus annual

>I have observed differently at Vic Em's Tie Tree Farm outside of Oregon City,
>Clackamas County, Oregon. Here Vic took overstory trees 120-150 feet tall
>out, which allowed spindly, understory Douglas fir to suddenly spurt. One
>stump I saw had about 12 rings per inch diameter before have canopy cut, to
>3-4 rings per inch, or less. Thus it makes little sense to clearcut such
>areas when the understory trees (already 30-50' tall) fill in so quickly
>afterwards. BTW, Vic manages this tree farm mostly for telephone poles. When
>I saw him last, he had just dropped precisely a 120-foot pole, managing to
>basal prune several trees ti 40 feet at the same time. Not bad for someone
>who then had just celebrated his 78th birthday.

And if he taught you all you know about the ecology of our native forests,
celebrated 78 years of unfortunate ignorance.


- Don Baccus, Portland OR <dhogaza at pacifier.com>
  Nature photos, on-line guides, at http://donb.photo.net

More information about the Ag-forst mailing list

Send comments to us at biosci-help [At] net.bio.net