Peripherals pay for forests

truffler1635 at truffler1635 at
Fri Nov 5 13:21:06 EST 1999

In article <#yLpF93J$GA.352 at cpmsnbbsa05>,
  "Christopher Erickson" <chrerick at> wrote:
> To comments on the definition of sustainable:
> 1) A good working definition should also address economic issues.
Agreed. But be sure to include _all_ of the usages those forests
provide, i.e. habitat, water, carbon sink, recreation, and all the other
aspects that the forest service currently is saddled with. The basic
problem with 6 billion people on earth is a finite forest resource, with
_far_ too much pressure on extractive resources. Economics at the
expense of healthy forests is _not_ sustainable. And I have yet to see
anything coming out of the Republican-controlled Clinton Legislature
that even approaches sustainability: it is merely political bickering
over who gets the most of the resource.

The problem with politics is that it has little to do with science. A
group of politicians would try to create pi as 3. Politics is the art of
compromise, NOT science. Placing forestry in the realm of politics is as
sure to elminate forests as placing forests off-limits to management.
> 2) Is sustainability defined at the micro level (e.g., at the plot, or
> forest level) or at the macro level (e.g., ecosystem, world). If we practice
> sustainable forestry in Oregon, thus limiting the supply of timber from the
> Cascades, and this causes customers to substitute timber from the much more
> environmentally sensitive area -- is that sustainable forestry?

I don't know. But who says that timber from the Cascades is less
sensitive than other areas? It there actually any science to base this
opinion on? In terms of biodiversity, a single square food of soil in
temperate forests (such as the Cascades) has been shown to be
biologically more diverse than a hectare of tropical rain forest.

At this time, it makes more sense to be considering alternative products
from forests: truffles, mushrooms, burls, branches, non-tree plants,
water, carbon sequestering, recreation, aquaculture, etc. Example: a
tree farmer nearby planted nearly 600 acres of trees. The purpose: to
protect his water supply which feeds about 6 acres of ponds in which he
grows trout. For every acre of surface area in these ponds, he expects
to receive $100,000 per year from fish. The trees are a long-term crop
that he hopes even his children's children don't have to touch.

Such options are admittedly not for everyone in every case. But there
_are_ options.

Another example: given an option to harvest his Christmas trees or grow
truffle-bearing trees, Paul Bishop Sr. opted for the later. After we
learned how to grow truffles with his trees, some of them have produced
over 1 pound a year. Those truffles may be worth $200-500/lb this year
(providing we find any during this exceptionally dry year). At that
rate, irrigation of truffle-producing trees is a definite economic
possibility, since the stand historically has produced between 300 and
1300 pounds per acre per year. Truffles in this particular stand yeild
crops from September through June of most years. There are at least 10
species of truffle which have been collected on the property, and
another 50 species of other hypogeous fungi which are just now starting
to have value as ectomycorrhizal innoculant.

I have been contacted by other people in other countries as well about
mushroom cultivation in conjunction with intensive forestry. Ignoring
fungi in forestry is like ignoring those annoying green things on plants
called leaves. If the only resource from forested land is timber, it is
time to diversity. Check up on other biological, medicinal, botanical,
food sources from your trees.

This is not a new idea. I first read about it in J. Russell Smith's Tree
Crops, which was published about 1930! How many nut orchards are present
in the US as a result?

By diversification of forest products, foresters insulate themselves
from price variations of one year to another; you increase tremendously
the number of potential income sources at any given time; trees become
more than just "board feet", but "board feet" remain a long-term option
at all times.

Which makes more "economic" sense: harvesting an 80-year old Douglas fir
for a potential income of $1500, or harvesting truffles from the same
tree for 60 years at 1/2 pound per year and $200/lb (60x.5x$200=$6000)
which _still_ leaves the landowner with a tree worth $1500?

I'm once again reminded of what Paul Stamets said in one of his talks to
the Oregon Mycological Society (paraphrased because I didn't have a tape
recording going):

"In my hand I hold 1c worth of sawdust (alder, maple, hardwood, mostly
"weed" trees in the PNW). From it is fruiting $10 worth of shiitake
mushrooms. Which is more valuable?

Daniel B. Wheeler

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