Forestry 101 – Agree

Let me begin by saying that my intended field of study at the University was Forestry Management. But having said that it was forty five years ago and I’ve moved into other areas. The fight between conservationist and the Forestry Service have always been in conflict over this issue. Many other departments and societies have chimed in and numerous studies and intellectual papers have been written on the subject. To date there is still no resolution. The timber giants want what they can get, and the population is moving into every nook and cranny it can find. Management of our limited resources is vital to its health and continued success. You can’t allow millions of acres to be destroyed without trying to minimize that destruction as in doing fire control, which requires thinning and management by knowledgeable people.

The major conflict exists between, in my opinion, three major areas. Letting nature tend herself, put forth by the tree huggers and conservationist. Having managed forests to prevent fires and perpetuating the forests. There are also the timber industries trying to satisfy the population’s huge appetite for wood products and their bottom line.

In our studies the concern for a healthy forest often ran up against the major, and the new at that time, field of the up and coming science of ecology. Lumber companies were clear cutting, or stripping whole sections of forest, denuding the slopes which created erosions and massive slides and destruction. The field of forestry was to prevent this wholesale ravaging of our land and restore these areas. They also tried to help with the healing process as well as the education of these companies, and people in general, for the protection of this finite resource. Conservationist with its limited data was attempting to prevent the other two from doing anything at all. They put forth that nature is a better steward than we ever could be.

If the forest is a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees the forest floor has a very heavy carpet of dead and decaying debris. Only in those areas with plentiful rain can the decomposition break down and accelerate this process. Most forest with conifers has extremely poor soil and support little undergrowth except those plants that can survive in such acid conditions. In dryer climates the break down of material is a very slow process. Layers of needles over years of deposition, along with layers of silt sifting over it, can appear to have a solid floor. In fact, fires have been know to rage just under the surface of loose packed material and burn for months afterwards. Sometimes it resurfaces several weeks after the major conflagration is extinguished.

Some Pine trees require fire in order to germinate and assist in deposition of seeds by breaking open the wax sealed cones. This is true for a range of different environments which need it to help promote new growth.

To my knowledge the Forestry Service has never been an advocate of total eradication of all undergrowth and rotting material, nor do they want to indiscriminately go in and take out whole areas of old growth. While working with the service in summer jobs it was geared to take out only the oldest trees, maybe several in an acre. We did controlled burnings which helped those species that needed it, and prevented the type of conflagration that we see on the news, the out of control roaring blaze that destroys everything. When man competes for space and desires to be in the midst of this he will always run a risk. Fire brakes and elimination of the combustibles that fuel these fires is only good sense, while at the same time becoming good stewards of our resources is even more important. That is why the more information we have and the increased education of the populace will be more beneficial in maintaining our forested areas in a more natural manner. Some natural fires are let burn and are controlled as they are able.

It is sort of like the guy who mows his neighbor’s yard, or waters his flowers for him while he’s away. It serves us to be a good neighbor and steward and try to live with our environment rather thnt ravaging it for the sake of progress, or out of fear. You weed a garden to maintain its health, why not the forest. It can take hundreds of years for a Great Northern Red Cedar tree to rot away. We can salvage old timber for our use without damaging the new. Small fire brakes along large stands are used to manage and haul out trees that are selectively chosen by the forester while acting as access to fight fires that might occur.

If you were to look in old growth pine forests you find that old, damaged, trees that have come down have taken out many of its neighbors and leave small openings of grass and brush which is beneficial to wildlife. If you’ve ever been in old forests you find few species of brush or grass that are able to flourish there. Deciduous forests have a variety of wildlife and more to offer, but these areas are fewer than you think. Pine stands, planted or otherwise, can be a cash crop for land owners that couldn’t grow anything else. Creating a grass oasis by taking out certain trees, for animals, helps to diversify the forested areas. Everyone comes up a winner.

Wise management of these areas is vital to the future of them. There is only so much land that can be set aside with our rapidly increasing population. Some timber companies have come on board and replant what they take out as they go. In some areas the government requires it. With the help of all the players, I foresee varied and healthy forested areas for our great grandchildren to explore, and know what beauty there is in such a simple thing as a tree.