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Is paper good or bad for forests? Why or Why Not?

 
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Surely I'm not the only person wondering how the idea of "sequestering" carbon by planting trees got started. Didn't we all learn about the carbon cycle in school? The way it's talked about now makes it seem that it's been repealed by climate alarm. 😕
I know first-hand that harvesting big trees is a lot harder (and more dangerous) than harvesting smaller ones. But the big ones can yield useful lumber and reach deeper to bring up more nutrients. A mix seems optimal for wildlife but perhaps more challenging for loggers.
 
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The depravity of the American Forest has simply paralleled the depravity of the average American's Finances.

Years ago, landowners who had woodlots saved them, as they were considered "money in the bank", and indeed if a landowner needed some quick cash, they could do some logging, and make a little money. It was not a lot of logging, because people did not need a lot of cash, just enough to get over the job lay-off, or a new baby being born, or a health issue that put them in the hospital.

That is no longer the case.

The land has been given to the next generation of landowners, and they are in financial straits. 85% of American's are BROKE...not in need of a little cash, broke, and living pay check to pay check. When they get their hands on this forest land, they are not just cutting a little wood, and saving the rest for a rainy day, to most, it is POURING out now, so they not only cut the wood, they cut it hard. Couple that with equipment now that is better suited to take wood faster, and it is just being gobbled up.

But this is not really greed. People do silly things with their finances for sure, but when 85% of the country is broke, it says there is more afoot. It comes in the form of high property taxes. It comes from laws that protect insurance companies, lending institutions, and lawyers instead of consumers. In short, it has become almost scientific to figure out the best way to glean every dollar from a consumer. Then everyone wonders why American's are broke?

There are a few wood lots here that I have never seen harvested in my 45 years of life. I can think of (2) places where that is the case. Of those two places, one has flagging tape about it meaning it was just surveyed, meaning some sort of new ownerships took place. It will be harvested in the next year I assume. It is most likely a next-generational transfer, and the kids will soon log it off.
 
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Tereza Okava wrote:It's a great question, and one that is not simple.
I work in this area, and see a lot of random (and often biased) data thrown around about how planted forests (the only source of paper in this this country) are recovering deforested areas, controlling hydric cycles, creating jobs in job deserts, etc.



Tereza Okava wrote:
On the other hand, what is the alternative?



i think the answers could be simple.

"the only source of paper" does NOT have to come from trees.
tree free paper was the standard norm for thousands of years before the invention and adoption of using wood pulp for paper.

imho, wood is not a suitable material for paper, and it's use as pulp should be abandoned completely.
there are HUNDREDS of other plants that are better suited as paper fibers, and more minimal in acreage to grow enough pulp.
much easier to make paper with these fibers, and so no chemicals are needed to process them, such as with wood...

some other great options are waste fibers, leftover fibers from the production of food crops, rice straw, flax, even banana leaves make s a far superior paper than wood pulp, with far less processing and toxic yuck.

save the wood that's harvested for wood crafts, furniture and building uses, harvest the forest sustainably clearing smaller trees and selectively harvesting for the health of the forest, as a priority.

now i see, people are probably not going to agree with this, so i do think paul's got a good suggestion, at least only use "junk" poles and other smaller undesirable wood for pulp. thats the kind of wood thats good to remove from the forest, importantly for the forest fire risks, and it also clears the way for lots of new growth on what's left after a truly *sustainable* harvest.

 
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Leila,

No doubt, there are plenty of materials that can be used for paper aside from wood.  Just off the top of my head, cotton and hemp (not marijuana) are easy options that come to mind.

I want to be careful to not make this a cider press post, so I am going to phrase this as gently as possible and I humbly request that we keep this non-cider pressy.  If this thread requires a response that is more appropriate in the Cider Press, then I will make a companion thread.

So the thrust of the question (and this is a question, I honestly don’t know the answer) is if it is better for land, wildlife, and nature in general to have areas (some very large areas) set aside for regular harvesting every say 7-10 years.  

Undeniably, I would love to see those currently privately owned lands be allowed to grow into a true forest by planting an annual fiber crop that requires only 1/10 the land and is healthy on the soil (hemp comes to mind).  But doing so would render those private lands unproductive/unprofitable and they (I think, maybe I am wrong) would be sold for profit which would most likely involve commercial construction, permanent clear cutting, paving over the surface, excavating, and general destruction of the productive land itself.

With this thought in mind, I am forced to wonder if the tree fields are more ecologically healthy than having no wood pulp production, and the land permanently denuded.  Again, this is a question and not an assertion.  I hate seeing clear cutting, but at least the trees grow back (the property owners have a vested economic interest in making sure that they do so).

In the end, I am forced to wonder if the current arrangement is better than the alternatives and again, I just don’t know.

Please remember, I don’t want this to go Cider Pressy, but if that is the only way to discuss this, I will make a parallel thread over there.

Thanks,

Eric
 
leila hamaya
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ok, apologies if i wandered off topic, to me this is the answer.

it's not one people seem to be jumping onboard with - stop using wood as paper fiber entirely.

on topic - my answer and opinion is current paper making practices are very BAD for the forests, no matter what short term benefits may be on the table.

i would like to see a truly sustainable logging industry, much smaller and done always with the health of the forest in mind as the highest priority. i do believe we can have enough wood products, use wood in sustainable ways, AND have healthy forests.

i just dont believe i have seen many people do this, it involves a HUGE reduction in logging, and a HUGE shift in the methods of logging- it takes more time and gives less profit. but what it does give us is long term healthy forests, and thats worth more...
 
Eric Hanson
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Leila,

I don’t think that you were off topic.  I was making those statements for the general readership as a way to damp down any potentially upsetting comments and just to as always, keep things smooth and civil.  You, Leila were fine.

But let me counter with another illustration/example.  Let’s limit this to 10 acres for simplicity.

A hypothetical landowner owns 10 acres of fast growing white pines that coppice very well, but he does not live there, these acres provide him income.  He makes his money via pulp sales to the local paper mill.  Each year he clear cuts off 1 acre and hauls it off to the mill.

But a new technology comes along.  He can now plant hemp on 1 acre and get the same annual income.  He has neither the time nor inclination to grow more than that 1 acre per year.

On first glances, this is great!  One harvested acre and 9 that can grow, mature, heal and generally become real forest.

But not having an appreciation for wild lands and the 9 acres only being an economic burden to him, he sells the other 9 acres to high density housing, a strip mall, complete with parking lot, and few if any of those trees survive.  And in fact, this whole original 10 acre tract of wooded land is essential gone and few if any trees remain.

This is where I run into this dilemma:  would the more efficient crop (hemp) be better or worse?  I honestly don’t know, and given the example I just gave, I have to seriously wonder if our present highly flawed paper crop system is better than the hemp (or whatever) crop that would replace it.

Leila, understand, I love my woods and eagerly want to replace lost forest land.  This dilemma runs through my head,

Eric
 
Travis Johnson
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The math gets kind of goofy...

Here in Maine, we can cut 1 cord of wood per year, per acre, sustainably. A cord of wood, will net you about $60 after trucking and getting it out of the woods (skidder costs, chainsaw, fuel, etc). My property taxes average $29 per acre, so I have to cut at least 1/2 cord per acre, per year, just to pay my property taxes.

But that is based upon averages. A person could never cut 1 cord per acre, per year on a physical acre of land. What really happens is, a person cuts 10 cord of wood, over 10 acres of land, every 10 years. That means a person has to have a significant woodlot to make it all work because it will be at least 10 years before he can rework that 10 acres again. And 10 acres just makes for easy math, it is spread out over something like 50 cord of wood, over 50 acres, every 10 years. So really it requires something like 600 acres in order to be able to log sustainably.

But having 600 acres would also mean having a $18,000 a year property tax payment. That means a person would have to log 300 cord of wood every year, just to pay his property taxes. But what about feed for your family? I can only cut 10 cord per day at most, and remember 5 cord of it is consumed in property taxes. That leaves me with $300 per day.

Do you know how much physical work it takes to cut wood? I can make a lot more money per day working at a shipyard, or climbing cell phone towers, or just about any job. $300 a day is not much. It is nice because I am home with my kids, get to see my wife every day for lunch, etc, but I am not making much money doing it.

So why not do something else, like clear the wood off, and then farm the land instead? Other forms of farming pay far better in terms of money made per acre. The work is a lot more intense than just watching trees grow, but the money made per acre is a lot more too.

I have a lot of woodlot, over 3/4 of my acreage is in forest, but $30 per year, per acre...it is not a lot of money. It is not worth keeping it in forest.

 
leila hamaya
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ah, ok, i see.

and yeah -i do hear your point.
it's not so much that i disagree, but i have a different perspective. i guess i see the whole thinking as compromising too much....like almost a lesser of 2 evils kind of thing...but we have more than 2 options. it's not just - tree farm or strip malls/mcmansions.

who was the smarty pants who said the thing about certain problems needing to solved on a different level than what created them? i think that would apply here.

and when you get into the details and specifics of what's involved, it does get very complex, lots of interrelated particulars.

but in my opinion the whole premise is a bad idea, should not have built up to the epic proportions it has, and so we should take immediate steps to dismantle it and start figuring out a better way.

better to just accept that now, and get on with it!

again, i KNOW that this is an unpopular opinion. i know...people are not just going to hop on board with this.

actually it's quite possible that if it is the case of....land that is privately owned now and managed primarily for harvesting pulp...is instead turned into neighborhoods...maybe that is actually a better potential for the lands to have better management. your average person does enjoy and use their yard in ways that are not always bad.

yeah we gotta get people off the cides and such...but even the most determined yard owner with an army of landscapers spraying small amounts of herbicides here and there is not the significant problem.
these types of things are small, compared to the healing power of the land to regenerate itself. 2 guys with some saws are never going to get to the point of

people on their own just arent able to wreck the havoc that large scale machinery and large corporations are able to do.

so maybe...just maybe....putting the land into the hands of small landowners and encouraging non toxic landscaping practices is better than forest mismanaged by companies growing monocultures of trees for profit.

i think the happy middle road is humans interacting with the land in healthy ways, managing forests for the health of the forest, AND for their own use.
i can say for most people thats through the medium of small land holdings, their own land, where they have that relationship, and even if they stumble by our standards, are looking to do right by their little corner of the world.
 
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I'm guessing that if you took all the large tract, wooded land in Maine, Wisconsin, Michigan, etc and broke it up into the ideal size for private ownership and required someone to live there and offered it for free, most of it would go untaken.  These tremendous chunks of wooded land are often fairly remote.  If they're sold off to people for hunting properties, that might be a solution for private ownership and management.  Maybe.  If it was free I might take a chunk if it was within two hours.  Maybe.

 
Eric Hanson
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Leila,

I think you see my point, if not agree with it.  And that’s totally fine.  Yes, to a very real degree, I am making a case for a lesser of two evils.  I can’t say I exactly like my own proposal.  This is just the sticky situation we presently have.

Eric
 
Travis Johnson
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Mike Haasl wrote:I'm guessing that if you took all the large tract, wooded land in Maine, Wisconsin, Michigan, etc and broke it up into the ideal size for private ownership and required someone to live there and offered it for free, most of it would go untaken.  These tremendous chunks of wooded land are often fairly remote.  If they're sold off to people for hunting properties, that might be a solution for private ownership and management.  Maybe.  If it was free I might take a chunk if it was within two hours.  Maybe.



When we tried to sell our homestead this summer, that was what we ran into. They liked the house, liked the fences, liked the barn, liked the sheep, liked the view...liked everything...no complaints from anyone on the place...except it was just too rural.

???
 
Mike Haasl
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Yup.  If you want cheap wooded land, look in the upper peninsula of MI.

80 acres with a mine and rock cliffs but dicey access $50K
61 acres with good road access and power at the road $40K
 
Eric Hanson
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Mike,

But is the 80 acre parcel located on/near an old strip mine?

Eric
 
Mike Haasl
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It appears to be a mine shaft.  
 
Eric Hanson
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Mike,

Interesting!  And scary dangerous!

By me there are occasionally plots of land that open up that are exhausted strip mines.

It positively hurts to see land destroyed for an open pit coal mine to go in.  But after the damage is done it can be a perfect place for a certain breed of adventurous Permie.  The land is bizarre, I hesitate to call it soil.  But it can be markedly improved, the deeper pits flooded (they will eventually fill with water anyway, pioneer plants will colonize quickly and in a few years some actual wilderness might actually grow back.  

Eric
 
Travis Johnson
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Mike Haasl wrote:Yup.  If you want cheap wooded land, look in the upper peninsula of MI.

80 acres with a mine and rock cliffs but dicey access $50K
61 acres with good road access and power at the road $40K



Katie and I bought 160 acres adjoining our farm in 2013 for $50,000.

I'll never be able to cut all the wood off the land that we got because by the time I get to all of it, its grown back. The area I am cutting now I logged in 1994, again in 2008, and then now in 2019.

I honestly thought we had finally reached every acre last year when we logged some pretty far-flung locations of the farm, but last year while out looking for mineralization I found a section we have yet to get too. It is 2 miles back in the woods, so we never get there. By never, I really mean never, we started logging this farm in the year 1800 and the fact we have not got to every acre yet with axe or chainsaw says quite a bit. It is just by the time we do, the trees that are easier to log have grown up, so we go back in, and cut the areas; the ones that are closer to the road.

In all, logging is about a 10 year rotation for a given area. I started logging when I was 15 years old, and now I am 45 and I still have plenty of trees to cut.

It is strange how it works. The more you cut a woodlot, the faster the trees grow. And that is true of clear cutting; the trees really grow, it just takes 35 years for the trees to be of size enough to log for a market. But if you leave what the foresters call "sizable regeneration", you got a huge head start. You can actually see this in the rings of the trees; them getting bigger when the area was logged, competition was removed, they got more light, and they grew. I do not worry about having trees to log in the future, but I do worry about having a market in which to sell them.

This is a picture of that Old Growth Forest we have not logged yet. At 2 miles out as a crow flies from the nearest road, it is pretty safe. A skidder is only efficient up to about 1/2 mile, and maybe a mile if it has good wood and makes consuming so much fuel to go back that far for it, worth it.



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