Forester VERSUS, or Forest AS, Environmentalist?

Joseph Zorzin redoak at
Sat Feb 5 05:44:36 EST 2000

POSTED IN SAF NEWS LIST AND FORWARDED TO alt.forestry and bionet.agroforestry

"Samuel J. Radcliffe" wrote:

> Jack,
> Thanks for your comments. It seems to me that Leopold was saying you can
> be EITHER a group A forester OR a group B forester. He seemed to suggest
> that one was blind to the perspective and methods of the other. My point
> is that one can be BOTH group A and group B, depending on the needs and
> circumstances. This draws directly from my beliefs that (1) without
> humans, there are no values -- "value" is a human construct; (2) humans
> value timber and they value natural environments, and they tradeoff
> these values against one another just as they tradeoff all other
> consumption choices; (3) intensive silviculture on a portion of the
> landscape is the most efficient way to produce timber while at the same
> time reserving a larger acreage for less intensive forest uses, i.e.,
> it's the best way of getting more of both.

Exactly. Some forest land should be intensely managed- plantations if you will.
Other forest land less intensely managed- maybe a careful silvicultural operation
every 15-20 years. Other forest land very lightly managed- just for aesthetic or
forest health reasons or to encourage certain species. Other forest land should be
left as wilderness and old growth. Probably most foresters agree in principle- but
disagree on how much in each type. Since currently so much land is MISMANAGED - if
we converted all that mismanaged land to the middle of that spectrum- we could
reduce the amount in the plantation type while increasing wilderness and protected
old growth. We could have it all. This concept was carefully thought about also by
Eugene Odum in an article in Nature back in '69 called "Strategy of Ecosystem

> Why does group C worry about the A/B balance? Because the group C
> forester recognizes that both the cabbages and the natural environments
> are legitimate values, that neither has an inherent superiority as a
> management paradigm. Leopold obviously disagreed. He clearly felt the
> group B approach to be superior, in almost a spiritual way. I think a
> large part of my disagreement with him stems from our fundamental
> philosophical disagreement -- he believed that "nature" has a value
> apart from what humans think about it. This suggests a human/nature
> "cleavage" which I also reject. There are thousands upon thousands of
> pages written by professional philosophers on these issues. I can't hope
> to compete with them (or at times even understand them all), but this is
> the way I think about the world. Call me a utilitarian -- I can take it.
> I want to be clear that I am thinking of the group A forester as one who
> maximizes timber production, but does so in an environmentally
> acceptable way. What is "acceptable"? That's decided by our maze of
> professional standards, laws, markets, legal and political processes.
> It's a dynamic concept -- what was acceptable yesterday may not be
> today.

And where does the high grader fit in to this spectrum? In some sections of the
country- high grading is the most common form of logging. High grading is another
form of "maximizing of timber production" for the short term. I don't worry that
much about type A foresters; there will never be that much intensive forestry to
worry about- in most places- and at least with type A forestry, some forester is
involved and thinking hard about all these issues even if maximizing one or two
variables. It's the high graders that we have to worry about. Shall we call the
high grader, Type "D"? Or Type "X"- in order to emphasize that Type X should be
eradicated- in order to increase the other 3 types. Lets fight to make extinct the
subspecies "homo sapiens high grader woochuckus". <G>

> Because of this fundamental philosophy, I don't see the group C forester
> as a schizophrenic. I can manage a portion of the land base in a highly
> intensive way, and manage a different portion as pure wilderness. Being
> able to do both competently, to me, is the hallmark of a model
> professional forester.

I couldn't agree more. And if we got rid of the high graders- we'd could have more
low, medium, intensive, and no management styles. The SAF should make ending high
grading a priority mission by vigorously fighting to have forester licensing in
all states- AND to require a licensed forester to be RESPONSIBLE for all logging
jobs- which doesn't necessarily mean that all trees to be cut should be marked,
although I think that's the best way, but that a licensed forester, and nobody
else, bears the responsibility- a fiduciary responsibility to the ownership, a
responsibility over the silviculture, responsibility with respect to all state and
federal laws, responsibility to the public that the project won't be an eyesore to
the public. All other professions have fought for and won similar battles to put
their kind of professional in charge of activities that should be restricted to
their kind.

The forestry profession continues to overlook that fact that so much logging goes
on with no forester at all. We can all argue about forester education and training
and land management philosophies- but a BIGGER issue is that foresters are not in
charge of all logging. This is an issue that the "leadership" should tackle as the
primary problem of forestry in North America.

Excuses are made by many- who claim that this can't be done- excuses by people who
have fat paychecks with retirement getting close and who are too timid to alienate
the high graders- such people don't belong in "leadership" positions. To solve the
high grading problem, the current leadership of forestry- nationwide- in academia,
in government, in business- should have the guts to step up the bat- and address
this issue- be courageous enough to do  your duty- or be mature and honorable
enough to step out of the way and let others do it.

> ...Sam
> Jack Clifford wrote:
> >
> > Sam:
> >
> > I was hoping that someone else would respond. Noone did, so here's my best
> > shot at this subject.
> >
> > I feel that Leopold's point was that Group "A" foresters were concerned only
> > with timber production; that their viewpoint was _agronomic_. Group "B"
> > foresters, while also concerned with timber production, recognized that many
> > other values, monetized and non-monetized, were produced by the forest
> > landscape and that these natural environmental values had to be considered
> > in management decisions. Admittedly, the degree of consideration would vary
> > with land ownership and management objectives.  He proposed that group "B"
> > foresters were beginning to operate within the framework of a land ethic -
> > an ethical basis for managing forested lands.
> >
> > I have several critiques of your group "C" construct:
> >
> > 1. Both "A" and "B" groups are concerned with timber production. This is not
> > the essential difference between them. Remember that Leopold was a graduate
> > of the Yale School of Forestry, Supervisor of the Carson National Forest and
> > Deputy Director of the Forest Products Laboratory. We can safely assume that
> > he was well aware of the value of the timber resource and the need to
> > maintain an acceptable level of harvest and bring the forest into
> > regulation. The difference between groups is in the degree of control one is
> > willing to attempt to exercise in growing the forest and harvesting its
> > timber. An agronomist assumes total control of inputs to a field of
> > cabbages. A forester deals with a landscape, or a natural environment, where
> > man's control  is limited. It should also be noted that Leopold's essay,
> > written in the 1940s, predated the current political squabbles about the
> > environment. A forest may not be pristine, but it's more natural than a
> > field of cabbages. I'm also confident that Leopold recognized the gradations
> > of man's influence on the natural landscape that result from management.
> > Notice that he used soft terms, such as "considered"and "worries", rather
> > than hard-edged terms like "rejects" or "disallows"  .
> >
> > 2. The worry of group "C" foresters about the balance between group "A" and
> > "B" concerns, or the arrangement of "A" and "B" type acres on the landscapes
> > only makes sense if we are talking about goods or products. As pointed out
> > above, Leopold is talking about the ethical "come from" of forestry
> > professionals. In this context, let's consider your statement that "a
> > natural
> > environment' is no better or worse than a field of cabbages, it's just
> > meeting a different human need". I suggest that forests are not cornfields,
> > or cabbage patches. If you think there is no essential difference, you are
> > in group "A." There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you equate
> > forestry with agonomy.
> >
> > However, a group "B" forester would not be comfortable in a professional
> > situation where forest land was treated as only the base for "cabbage"
> > production. This is a human value choice; a matter of ethics.
> >
> > 3. Where does this leave the group"C" forester? It looks to me like they are
> > left in professional schizophrenia. As an ethical choice, the way in which
> > we consider land is a value judgement.
> >
> > Society's values will be reflected in the political process and through
> > economic choices. If foresters want to be effective in contributing to
> > society's dialogue, we must be clear in our professional values. I propose
> > that ethically, the answer is "A" or "B", but not "C."
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: Samuel J. Radcliffe <SamR at>
> > To: SAF <saf-news at>
> > Sent: Tuesday, February 01, 2000 9:44 AM
> > Subject: Re: Forester VERSUS, or Forest AS, Environmentalist?
> >
> > > Here's my take on Leopold's A-B "cleavage":
> > >
> > > Group C foresters understand that every piece of ground is different,
> > > ecologically and economically, that not every acre can be managed as the
> > > group A or group B foresters would prefer. Group C foresters worry about
> > > the proper balance between group A and group B concerns, and the
> > > arrangement of A-type acres and B-type acres on the landscape. Group C
> > > foresters are concerned about natural processes and the non-market
> > > values of the forest, but they also understand that values wouldn't
> > > exist without value-ers. Therefore they recognize that both A-types and
> > > B-types derive from human values, that the human vs nature premise is a
> > > false dichotomy, and that the fundamental problems are human vs human
> > > conflicts that contain elements of science, economics, and politics.
> > > Group C foresters might "grow trees like cabbages" on the acres they
> > > manage, but they understand that doing so relieves the pressure on other
> > > forests to be managed
> > > "as a natural environment", and they do so with the intention of growing
> > > continuous crops of "cabbages" in the future. Other Group C foresters
> > > might treat the forest "as a natural environment" on the acres they
> > > manage, but they do so with the understanding that the act of management
> > > itself, and the external forces on the forest, ensure that their forest
> > > is not in fact a "natural environment", and that a "natural environment"
> > > is no better or worse than a field of cabbages, it's just meeting a
> > > different human need.
> > >
> > > ...Sam, Group C Forester
> > >
> --
> Samuel J. Radcliffe
> George Banzhaf & Company
> 225 East Michigan Street, Suite 210
> Milwaukee, WI 53202
> --
> Voice:   414-276-2062
> Fax:     414-276-5206
> E-Mail:  SamR at
> --
> _______________________________________________________
> Follow the U.S. presidential race on our Politics list!

Joe  Zorzin
Massachusetts Licensed Forester #261

Member of Forest Steward's Guild

More information about the Ag-forst mailing list