[saf-news] What can we agree on? Redux

Joseph Zorzin redoak at forestmeister.com
Sun Sep 10 16:35:52 EST 2000

jim coufal, 1998 President of the SAF wrote:

>     Thanks to all who responded.  I was obviously naive in thinking people
> would agree or disagree without the chance for comments and dialogue
> (caveats and specifics).  There was some concern about the phrase "highly
> productive."  It wasn't intended to mean every site should grow x board
> feet, but rather that the site was productive for the particular kind of
> ecotype it represented.  Even "poor" sites can be degraded.
>     I also recognize that the devil is in the details.  But there needs to
> be some context for the devil to detail within.  The Seventh American Forest
> Congress operated that way, starting with broadly conceived vision
> statements, then working to more detailed principles.  I'm not surprised
> that no one took me to task and recognized the statement as the 3rd ranked
> vision statement at the Congress, with nearly 90% of the attendees agreeing
> with it. I'm not surprised because I don't think the results of the
> Congress, with some exceptions, have been "used" in any productive way.
>     If you're willing, let's try two more statements to talk about
> agreement.  The first follows directly from a major thread of this website:
>     1.  High-grading forests is always bad practice.

Yes, it's always bad. It's bad ecology, it's bad economics, It never is in the interest of the
landowner or anyone else. We all know it's common. Almost everyone will say something bad about it.
But, then what is really important is - just how big a sin is it? And what are we going to do about?

For some, it's a minor sin- or as the Catholic Church would say- it's a "venal" sin. Nothing to get
too bent out of shape over. Some foresters never see it. They teach or work on some large corporate
or public forest where they may not see it. They only hear about it, like hearing that some people
live in ghettos or don't have medical insurance. They aren't exposed to it. The reality of it has no
effect on THEIR well being or economy. It's not THEIR problem.

For others, like Karl Davies and myself and others, it's a huge evil- what the Church calls a
"mortal" sin. People should be hung for it. We see the damage to the ecology and to the economic
well being of the forest owner. And, if it were not allowed, those of us who don't do it would
personally benefit by having the opportunity to earn a modest fee practicing silviculture. It's very
difficult being a consultant, much more difficult that working for a large private enterprise or
government. When we see the evil of high grading and are personally impacted by it as citizens of
this damaged planet, with social concern for injured forest owners (including of course the public
who own public land and never see profits from THEIR land) and as we watch the high graders become
far richer than ourselves- those of us who understand that we are free to express ourselves without
being afraid of being called ranters or "unprofessional"- are going to do so- in an aggressive and
revolutionary way as needed. I bitched about this stuff and many other forestry issues for a quarter
century in this state and was absolutely ignored. Politeness will never fix this problem.

>     The second comes from a set of "Forest Stewardship Decision Principles"
> I developed for my personal use.  They take the form of two statements,
> followed by a "conclusion" or premise.  Agree or disagree with any or all
> parts of it.
> I. Biological & Social
>     1. Forest management must be based on sound biophysical and
> socioeconomic principles.
>     2. Neither biophysical or socioeconomic science, nor nature itself. are
> certain. There is disagreement  by reputable practioners over the same
> facts, and there is much we yet need to learn about the science, economics,
> and values of forest management. We operate at some level of uncertainty in
> all our decisions.

Absolutely. There is no single correct way to manage a forest, other than following the policy of an
ENLIGHTENED forest owner after giving that owner the full array of options with full explanations of
the consequences- ecological and economic, as well as we are capable of. I very much indeed believe
in landowner rights- but ENLIGHTENED landowners. I claim that at least here in the Northeast where I
see it- most private forest owners are not enlightened in their multiple options by those who
propose to harvest/manage their land.

It goes without saying that our methods will differ. I doubt that Karl Davies and myself would full
agree on how to mark a stand or how to carry out any other forestry practice. But, we do think very
hard about this- about the knowledge and concerns of the ownership and about the full ecological
implications of our work and very much about the economic basis for our decisions. The forests
around here are so complex, this cybernetic thing called a forest has so many variables many of
which we don't comprehend, that our work is part science and part art.

Meanwhile there are a lot of loggers and foresters who don't think of these things at all- they
simply make the decisions that are in their personal short term interest. And, this includes public
foresters too. This is a fact, it's reality, and it's not fun for some to talk about if they
consider real and virtual gatherings of foresters to require polite tea party behavior.

>     3. When the risk of action or non-action is perceived to be high in
> relation to impact on people or the land, we must act with a caution that
> maintains fuiture options.

Hmmm..... good question, because I'm not sure what you're talking about. <G> I suspect that you are
really getting at something here, not the obvious referral to mere options in the field. Your
questions is actually a very good political  question. The action or non action you are talking
about could be the actions or non actions of "authorities" such as regulators and law makers and
corporate officials- the big decisions. Sure, whatever decisions they make will have a great deal of
impact on both the land and all the classes of people involved with land and those decisions should
be taken seriously to maintain future options. But, such care need not cause paralysis- which is too
often the case. Real leadership must make decisions and move on. That's what George Washington and
Abe Lincoln did. They alienated some people- that's what REAL leadership does in difficult times
with major problems. It's a necessity to make that transition. Then everyone will adjust- just like
all the evolutionary changes on the planet for millions of years. At some point, the time arrives
for the big change- the tide turns.

Here in Massachusetts, our Dept. of Environmental Mgt., Bureau of Forestry Director, Todd Frederick
wrote that requiring a forester to prepare cutting plans on all harvests is REVOLUTIONARY
(http://forestmeister.com/global-online-essays/duh-director.html). That's failed leadership. When
out Chief Forester spoke to the US Senate
(http://forestmeister.com/global-online-essays/archey-senate.html), representing all the state
forestry leaders of the nation and referred to all timber harvesting as silviculture, forestry, and
forest mgt. when we all know that this simply isn't true, thus attempting to impact national
policies of the EPA through deception, that is failed leadership. When Harvard issues a Vision
statement that is pychotic in its absence of contact with reality as we working foresters experience
it, that's not leadership. That the SAF, the NASF, the ACF all march in lockstep, all having the
same policy statements on their web sites, that's not leadership. All that just shows a Soviet
mindset of a backward profession grasping for their personal benefits, not fighting for the
advancement of the forestry profession and the well being of forests and forest owners.

>     Have at them, if you will.

Don't mind if I do. <G>

> Jim

Joe  Zorzin
Massachusetts Licensed Eco Forester #261

My new high grading web site, a picture is worth 1,000 rants!

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://iubio.bio.indiana.edu/bionet/mm/ag-forst/attachments/20000910/d7f251d7/attachment.html

More information about the Ag-forst mailing list