Objectivist ignorance about the environment

Larry Harrell lhfotoware at hotmail.com
Sun Jun 13 10:34:55 EST 2004

"dstaples" <dstaples at livingston.net> wrote in message news:<10cn2efojgs6t0a at corp.supernews.com>...
> "Josh Halpern" <j.halpern at incoming.verizon.net> wrote in message
> news:Vjuyc.25453$TR1.7591 at nwrddc01.gnilink.net...
> >
> >.
> >
> >
> > I've added a group, bionet.agroforestry, where there is hopefully more
> > expertise in these sorts of question, however, I should note that old
> > growth forests can be pine and evergreen dominated, so your
> > statement is somewhat of a non sequitor.  My general impression
> > is that the ecology of old growth forests is very different from replanted
> > plantation forests and even from the regrown forests that are typical of
> > the northeast.
> >
> There is a famous expression in forestry, "it depends".  Plantation growth
> is not like old growth, it is grown for fiber, and the rotation is generally
> shorter than the time for tree maturity.  However, if a plantation is left
> alone, or better, managed, it can become old growth with associated ecology.
> Will it be exactly the same as what was here 300 years ago, probably not,
> but old growth never the less.
> Short take on a long story.  Texas was cut over stump pastures by the
> 1920's, it was replanted by the Triple C boys.  1990's saw a push to save
> the "wilderness and old growth" in Texas from harvest (heavy beetle
> infestations, needed to be thinned, or lost timber) wilderness areas were
> identified, only to prove to be old age plantations.  Complete with
> endangered birds (Red Cockaded Woodpeckers), and other critters (cats).
> Environmentalists went home with egg on their face.
> Old growth forests can be monocultures just like pine plantations.  Old
> growth in the south was southern yellow pine in burning areas, and hardwood
> in the wetter areas.  The pine was so heavy as to have a complete crown, no
> sun on the ground, no understory, no brush, and reportedly "You can see for
> hundreds of yards through the woods".
> Obviously, I am a southern forester, your mileage may vary in other parts of
> the woods.

Southern forestry can be quite ugly for a few years after harvest.
Westerners would be appalled at the "damage" done in southern
clearcuts. The great growing conditions quickly cover the exposed soil
and forests do grow back at an amazing rate. The thicker clay soils
seem to repel and drain water very quickly and hold up to logging
pretty well. I did see some examples of where past cotton farming
punched through a thin clay layer and some serious erosion occurred
(20 foot deep and narrow gullies!) In the West, logging is often
stopped when it rains.

I've also seen some of those middle-aged pine stands that are starting
to show some old growth characteristics. However, those weedy hardwood
species still populate the understories. Thankfully, the USFS has
generally stopped harvesting big hardwood trees in the bottomland
stands. One can only imagine what those major streams and rivers
looked like before the cotton farming transported soils into

Before the "old growth" issue can be settled, it first has to be
defined. Mostly, "old growth" is defined by diameter or age. Diameters
are more easily quantifiable than age but, that definitely changes by
region and species. A 22" dbh pine in the Black Hills is as old as a
60" dbh redwood, sometimes. I'm not for liquidating our old growth
but, I'm also not for locking it away. Modern logging technology can
"pick and pluck" individual trees with very little impacts on the rest
of the forest. I might be going out on a limb <G> but, there's no need
to cut any of those ancient "legacy trees" (40"+ dbh) that are
essential to a functioning ecosystem. With all the unhealthy forests
across the nation, there's more important work to do than to "high
grade" our remaining old growth reserves.

Larry,       eco-forestry technician

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