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Sustainable forestry question

 
MJ Solaro
Posts: 131
Location: Bellevue, WA
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I understand that the state of Washington practices sustainable forestry insomuch that they only harvest 1.1% of the forests every year. In other words, for every one acre of forest harvested each year, there are approximately 99 growing elsewhere.

But is this really all that is required in order for forestry to be sustainable? I know that last month there was a lot of noise about some forestry methods, such as clear-cutting, that were employed by Weyerhauser, and whether they contributed to some of the massive flooding and mud slides experienced in Lewis County in general.

I also have heard about sustainable forest management, and this being a fundamentally different principle from sustainable forestry. It seems sustainable forestry is more about making sure we can continue to produce the resource (in other words, don't screw up the soil, water, or seeds or you'll short your supply), while sustainable forest management is more about the complete picture and impact on an ecosystem, and ensuring forests can continue to serve a broader purpose.

Does anybody know how far our state policies go? How far should they go?
 
paul wheaton
master steward
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Whelp,  it depends.

Sustainable forestry is a rich issue.  And it can be done really well (I think) while taking more than 2% every year. 

Can be.

As for clear cuts ...  I keep hearing from trustworthy sources that there are conditions where it is not only okay, but a really good idea.  I'm not convinced, but I'm trying to keep an open mind on it.

 
rachael hamblin
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Regarding clear cuts, what are the conditions where it is said to be a good idea?  And what are the sources you're hearing this from?  I haven't heard this before, I'm curious.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
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rachael hamblin wrote:
Regarding clear cuts, what are the conditions where it is said to be a good idea?  And what are the sources you're hearing this from?  I haven't heard this before, I'm curious.


As I said, I'm still skeptical. 

But .... for one really fantastic example, take a good look at sepp holzer, the uber permie of the world, located in the alps of austria.  Super steep land which he clear cuts, shapes and then plants with a diversity of trees.    That is one example.  But you need to do it right and in a timely fashion.

Of course, a lot of the folks that are leaning on the value of "the right kind" of clear cuts as an excuse to do the wrong kind of clear cuts, are mostly talking about the problems of the monoculture conifer forest.  You have a lack of diversity and the conifers (sort of) poison the land so a diversity cannot grow.  The clear cuts enable/allow diversity.  So not only more species of vegetation can be supported, but more species of wildlife.

As with many things, the real answer is far richer than what I can convey here. 

 
Dave Boehnlein
Posts: 294
Location: Orcas Island, WA
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I suspect that if time, place, and goals all line up right clearcutting can be the best harvest option in some places. For example, indigenous people in the Amazon have been clearcutting (or burning) areas for their villages for thousands of years. However, unlike the modern clearcut scenario they would let the land rest for a long time before returning.

This makes me think about how our human  goals play into it. While I don't think it is a good idea to hack into relatively intact ecosystems and call it Permaculture, I do think that it can be appropriate to clear land that isn't healthy, vigorous, and diverse to make room for establishment of a human settlement. For instance, if I were to live on 20 year old lava in Hawaii with 90 foot tall Albizias towering over me, dropping babies everywhere, and suppressing the native pioneers, I'd may choose to whack them so I could establish some food plants and not battle seedlings all the time. It's difficult to grow all the food you need in the shade.

In terms of general forest management, I also like the idea of doing small patches of clearcuts when seed tree, shelterwood, and single-tree harvesting methods are inappropriate. If you want sun-loving, pioneer species to establish themselves (or regenerate) you need to give them light. Therefore, doing a number of clearcuts that are one to three acres in size may allow that to happen, thus increasing forest diversity. This is also called "group selection".

Of course, I think that clearcutting on extreme slopes, in sensitive watershed areas, and on a grand scale are all pretty lousy ways to "sustainably" manage forests.

Either way, I think that, like any other tool, clearcutting has a place in the foresters toolbox to be pulled out when appropriate.

Dave
 
                                      
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paul wheaton wrote:
Of course, a lot of the folks that are leaning on the value of "the right kind" of clear cuts as an excuse to do the wrong kind of clear cuts, are mostly talking about the problems of the monoculture conifer forest.   You have a lack of diversity and the conifers (sort of) poison the land so a diversity cannot grow.  The clear cuts enable/allow diversity.  So not only more species of vegetation can be supported, but more species of wildlife.



I've done some small clearcuts for wildlife habitat improvement and diversity.

It is true that old forests begin to lack the diversity they once had, and that in itself changes an ecosystem drastically.

Our game commission here in PA has fenced in areas where no deer or elk can get into, and the diversity of species inside the fence is amazing compared to outside. All because the animals are not overgrazing it.

It's quite amazing what a little bit of chnage can do to a forest.
 
Susan Monroe
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Location: Western WA
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Original post:  "I understand that the state of Washington practices sustainable forestry insomuch that they only harvest 1.1% of the forests every year. In other words, for every one acre of forest harvested each year, there are approximately 99 growing elsewhere."

I love that term "sustainable land management" that our government uses.  It kind of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn't it?

Most of these are what are euphemistically called 'public lands'.  Our bureaucrats rent them out to logging companies for stripping, rent them out to ranches for overgrazing, and let's not forget the mining companies.

Basically, our resources are sold off to the highest bidder. The highest logging bidder goes in, systematically downs every tree, shoves the poorer ones out of the way, and drags the biggest ones out, walks away, and sells most of the timber to foreign markets.  Sustainable

I'm not sure who the people are who tell the logging companies that YES, they can strip all the steep slopes they can reach, and YES, they can clear-cut right down to the water's edge, but I strongly suspect that some people in control are being paid off rather handsomely.

Did you know that several of the rivers in western WA used to be navigable by large ships?  And do you know why they aren't now?  Silt.  All the topsoil that covered and protected our forests was washed down into the rivers.  The heavier stuff is still sitting in the rivers (silt) and the lighter humus is in the Pacific Ocean.  Logging companies protest all the time that their practices aren't what are ruining the rivers and the salmon populations. Yeah, sure, guys, we believe that because we're effing stupid.

Consider this justification for clearcutting:  "One of the biggest myths about clearcutting is that it creates more soil erosion and compaction than other harvesting methods.  In reality clearcutting is less damaging to site in terms of erosion and compaction, because you only disturb the site once during the life of the stand."

Did you get that?  "...you only disturb the site once during the life of the stand".  Around here, the life of a stand is about 30 years, so three times every century, the thin layer of humus and debris that has collected and composted under the trees is washed down into the rivers again.

Sustainable?  It must have another meaning to them.

Oh, they replant, do they?  And what do they replant with?  Could it be with Douglas Fir?  Mile upon mile of Douglas Fir? This is not diversity, so they must have another meaning for that, too.

Okay, students, what happens to very large stands of any kind of plant when a disease or major pest takes over?  And then what happens?  Mass aerial spraying of pesticides, which also wash into the aquifers. Many times, it doesn't work very well, if at all.  Oh, well, we can log it off and replant it.

Sustainable forest conservation is just an empty phrase. But, then, consider the source.

Sue
 
                              
Posts: 262
Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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I live within spitting distance of several different aged clearcuts--both private/timber co and blm, and I can say that they are NOT monocultured wastelands, devoid of topsoil, or dead zones. My land was cut of fir 70 years ago, with a handful of giant old oak and maple that were left, and then left to grow up again at it wished. I've got many old growth indicator species and old growth characteristics on that young 70 year old growth(including nesting spotted owls).

No I'm not a timber/forestry troll--just a person who's lived deliberately on my land, and observed very closely without agenda at what is actually on the ground. In fact I've been watching and walking two clearcuts across the valley for 8 years now. Both were replanted with fir, but retain the diverse mix of shrubs and deciduous species as well. In fact both are on fairly steep slopes, there have been no slides. Because the trees were cut and plucked up, and the ground left without scraping up slash, plenty of roots and living things were left intact to keep it all in place.

And for that matter go crawl around the Tillamook State Forest--that was the ultimate clearcut that was obliterated 80-so years ago(far more than any forest practices would do today). It's most certainly NOT a monocultured dead-zone. Nature is all about time and flux, we forget that.

I don't mean any disrespect to counter the clear cut=evil theory--just saying what's on the ground, observed over time, is quite a different thing. Even nature itself knocks down trees with fire and wind and death.

ETA--regarding forest health, I'd be willing to make a theory that fire suppression has had more impact on forest health than modern clearcut practices(as per the Oregon Forest Plan) by slowly making the soil more acidic through lack of alkalizing wood ash.
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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I've heard the argument that clearcuts in sort of 'ripped patterns mimics a fire but unless a prescribed burn of the field is done afterwards and at least some of the brush is burned, I don't see that being enough to fulfill a natural fires function.
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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Around here sudden down-forces of wind have been known to knock out fairly large stands of trees, which could be seen as simliar to a clearcut except for the different in that with a clearcut- the trunks of the trees won't return to the soil (and possibly the slash depending on the loggers method)

*later edit* Ugh, that statement makes me seem like I'm defending clearcuts, which I am not. Just coming up with ideas as to naturally occuring events that are similar, in the hope of discussion.
 
                    
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In California it's standard operating procedure for commercial lumber companies to clear cut the mature trees, poison any oak trees so they won't coppice back, plant whatever hybrid fast growing pine they want, and then use herbicides to control any of the first/second succession understory plants to sustain their new industrial tree farm.  Even if this were happening to "only" 1.1 percent of the forests a year, I couldn't call it "sustainable forestry."

Here's what this looks like , three to five years after the fact.  This is the property bordering our western boundary (the living conifers are ours).  Took these pictures during a wild fire last summer, hence the a-bomb looking smoke plume in the distance. 
 
Paul Cereghino
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Try:  Maser,  Chris.  1988.  The redesigned forest.
I suspect you'd have to read a lot to have a truly informed opinion.

You may need to be more precise in your research into the inadequacy of regulation.  Management of State lands is different the state regulation of private lands is different then federal management of lands in the state.

DNR regulates forest practices on state lands, justifying their standards under an HCP or Habitat Conservation Plan.  http://www.dnr.wa.gov/AboutDNR/Divisions/FPD/Pages/home.aspx

The state fish and forest laws passed in 1999 in response to federal salmon listings have been a big driver, as was the Timber Fish and Wildlife Agreement of 1989.  The focus has been on protection of aquatic ecosystems.

Northwest Natural Resource Group is working under Forest Stewardship Council certification
http://www.nnrg.org/nw-certified-forestry

Vashon Forest Stewards have an interesting model of local stewardship and milling.
http://www.vashonforeststewards.org/

There is a difference between a tree farm and a 1200 year old forest stand.  A 90-year-old stand will provide some functions and not provide others.  It is probably also important to think about cumulative effects as much as the effect of clearing a single patch.

Some ecological functions are provided at a landscape scale rather than the stand scale.  Natural fire regime is important to understand.  I think Wyldthang may be spot on about fire suppression... but maybe less so W. of the cascade mountains (at least until we dry out some more...)

I have looked for but not found any robust modeling of the Chehalis floods.  I understand there has also been development related floodplain constriction that may have affected flood levels.

I suspect that we don't actually know exactly what we are doing out there when we treat forests like crops.  No question there are plenty of big ugly brutal clear cuts with roads failing and washing into the creeks at taxpayer expense.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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large areas of forest were clear cut in our area and then replanted immediately with small trees..problem is they took ALL of the full size trees.

the bear, deer, elk, owls, etc..had no where to live and hunt..so they came here..to our property..as we plant a LOT of trees here.

don't really much mind them as long as they behave..however i feel that it would have been better than clear cutting had they left wildlife avenues from woods to woods for the animals of full size adult trees.

i am totally against the clear cutting..and you know all those little baby tree seedlings..what is to keep the animals from eating them all cause they are starving?
the sun burns up the ground, the soil gets overwatered from the snow and rains..etc..
 
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