Thinning is sometimes an appropriate forest-management activity, but it isn't the only one. Clearcutting may also be appropriate, such as when restoring high-graded forests of shade-intolerant species, or when creating openings for elk and other species that depend on a variety of cover types for forage and shelter.
However, thinning projects offers an opportunity for environmental groups, the timber industry, land owners, and public agencies to focus on one area of agreement and thus rebuild the trust that has been lost over the years -- by all sides.
Thinning seems like the most balanced approach to forest management yet. Sometimes it seems like the loggers want to continue to mow the forests where big trees are left, and some enviros want to keep the woods untouched forever everywhere. Thinning seems like ok middle ground, especially with some biomass energy generation. Opening more of the Deschutes National Forest (where I live) to firewood cutting would also help clear the forest of dead and down trees. Removing such wood would help reduce fire danger and promote larger tree growth.
Ps nice to meet you David.
It was great to meet you, too. Bend did itself proud at that meetup. Thanks for the comment.
Thinning is an effective method of forest manangement that accomplishes many goals. Since we have populated the planet and are consuming tremendous ammounts of all resources including its forests, it only makes sense to manage them on a sustainable basis that thinning is a part of. Small timber and bio-fules are inherently low-value and costly to selctively harvest, transport and process however, especially if using equipment and methods that were designed to harvest high value logs with great size and associated costs and impact. Not only is acceptance of forest operations neccessary to allow us to funtion as a society rather than importing all of our vast consumption and ignoring the real impacts, we must also deveop and acccept new methods and tools to do so. I've found it quite do-able, appropriate and enjoyable.
I grew up in the midst of the forest in the Oregon Coast Range. The land ownership around my family farm consisted of Siuslaw National Forest, Georgia Pacific (then Timber Company, then Plum Creek), and some smaller industrial and private party owned lands. I remember the heyday cutting of the 1980s and early 90s, and saw the logging companies build up their equipment (bigger expensive machines) to cut down the ill-managed National Forest along with the needy industrial forests.
With the environmental movement, much of the National Forest cutting activities halted... to me this was good and bad. It was good because the loggers cutting the timber off the national forest were being subsidized by public lands. On the down side, too much of the forest management was halted, and now there are many stands in the Siuslaw that need to be thinned -- but the funding isn't there and these forests are waiting for the next "Tillamook-level" burn.
I think the financial motives of the logging companies need to be balanced with the environmental costs. But, I don't agree with Josh (Cascadia Forest Alliance) that we just need to restore forests and leave them alone. The National Forests were set aside as forests, not as parks or Wilderness areas. If we don't cut timber in well-managed forests in the US -- we will get our forest products from other parts of the world (sending the jobs there as well), and we will be blindly destroying other ecosystems instead of being able to sustainably manage our own resources. (Boreal forests in Canada or Russia for example -- which take many times more years to grow to the same size as a the 80-year old "baby old growth" that Josh was mentioning).
One of the earlier guests mentioned that some large trees such as the ponderosa or lodgepole pines were being affected by moisture stress and insect infestation. I understand that there is a clear need to manage these forests to minimize the potential for catastrophic fire, but what would thinning look like across the scale from very "unhealthy" towards "healthy" forests? If a stand is dominated by large, insect-killed or large standing dead trees, wouldn't thinning amount to more than just selective removal of understory trees as presented in the old growth examples? At what point does thinning turn in to traditional harvest through patch cuts or clear cuts?
Here's the best case scenario for the future of thinning and stewardship contracts:
1. Healthier forests
2. More jobs in logging communities
A big win for all! It may not be perfect now, but it's a great start. I say let's keep working on these contracts, refining them, litigating them, letting the market sort them out.
Right in Portland's backyard are two examples of the problems with thinning:
1) "Stewardship contracting" is a specific type of contract being used on National Forests and Bureau of Land Management. It allows the agency to use the money from the sale of logs to be used for restoration work like creating fish habitat. Congress has jumped on this as reason for continuing to fund this restoration work. The result is that the cause of much of the habitat destruction in our national forests, logging, is now also being considered the answer. In Mt. Hood National Forest, this resulted in a $1 million increase in funding for logging in 2007. In the meantime funding for restoration and other forest needs like recreation continued to stay low.
2) Thinning is simply logging fewer trees than clearcutting. The compaction of the soil, the drying of the forest floor through canopy removal, and the infrastructure (roads) needed for thinning has dramatic impacts on the land. Every winter Oregonians watch as forest roads collapse into our streams, and these roads have no preference for if they are transporting thinned trees or clearcut trees. Instead of discussing "how much logging can we get away with," shouldn't we be discussing how to protect our clean drinking water from these forests?
Alex P. Brown
Bark-defenders of Mt. Hood National Forest
For examples of damaging thinning see the Oregonian story on the Annie's Cabin Timber Sale: http://www.bark-out.org/content/article.php?section=news&id=398
And the most recent road collapse in Mt. Hood National Forest: http://www.bark-out.org/content/article.php?section=news&id=421
Paul Harlan is way off based in saying that old growth forests have been managed for 10,000 years. "Management" by Native Americans is much different than management by rotation forestry of European Americans. Don't believe that current old growth forests need any management on the west side!
Just to clarify, it wasn't Paul Harlan, it was Paul Beck that stated that the Native Americans had managed these forests for 10,000 years. We're not talking traditional rotatation forestry either. Your belief is based on your vision of these "old growth" forest reaching a condition and staying there. They are not static and very few are in a structural condition they would have been in had native management regimes continued. My contention is there are no unmanaged forests in the Pacific NW. It has been Smokey the Bear for the last hundred and fifty and the original inhabitants before that. Paul
The gentleman who responded that "Native Americans managed forests through fire" is mostly wrong. Some did, some didn't. In some places, like the Willamette Valley, Native Americans did use fire to manage forests, in other places they didn't. If all Native Americans had manage all forest through fire, how does he explain the pictures from the 19th century that document tree stumps 30 or 40 feet in diameter. I think it takes rather longer than 200 years for trees to get that big.
Actually the overwhelming evidence is that the first inhabitants of North
America did indeed manage by fire with mixed results. Sometimes they created small underburns...othertimes large stand replacement fires. Suggest you look at "1491" by Charles Mann or any of the work by Carles Kay. If you want something closer to home find a copy of Ken Carloni's work on the Umpqua.
I would be very intersted in any documentation, photographic or even something of a first person anecdotal nature of any tree in Oregon at any time approaching 30 feet in diameter. I've seen some amazing things in 50 years of wandering the woods but that would be truly humbling.
A recent opinion piece by our current guest, William Barton, from the Statesman Journal:
To Paul Beck: Native Americans may have conducted some past forest management in the region, but did they build a vast network of roads and haul out logs en masse using mechanized equipment, leaving mostly smaller, more vulnerable trees? I'm not sure it's quite the same thing. Stands that have been logged and poorly managed should be thinned as necessary, but the wholesale inclusion of stands that have remained relatively undisturbed for centuries wouldn't look much like a focus on forest health. It would look suspiciously like past efforts to get out the cut.
Please see comments above. Native Americans did manage the land, to think otherwise is simplistic at best, ethnocentric at worst. No they did not build roads but they had a extensive system of transportation and when biomass encroached on their ability to travel the forest, they "fired" it. The roads that we as recent land managers built are a reality, good or bad that we have to deal with. We can maintain, alter to lesson thier impact, decomision (close), obliterate (remove), or we can ignore them and let nature takes its course. The latter will have consequences on the watersheds that will impact the land for generations beyond ours. We need to deal with these roads and because congress is unwilling to do so in the appropriations process we need to find a mechanism that will. Stewardship may (may) be that mechanism.
I listened to the conversation again and there was no discussion of wholesale inclusion of anything. I'm not suggesting it and neither did any other panelist. I am suggesting that if younger stands because of exclusion of fire or harvest would benefit from fuel reduction then if (if) an older stand were over stocked because of exclusion of fire, it too might benefit from the same treatment.
Thanks to Emily Harris, Ethan Lindsey, and OPB for covering the important topic of collaboration and stewardship in land management, especially as forest policy and technologies change. Redefining Stewardship, a new publication from Resource Innovations and Ecotrust, tells the stories of four communities in the Pacific Northwest that are creating collaborative approaches to the restoration of public lands and the revitalization of rural communities -- including Lakeview, which was discussed in depth on the show. You can find a free download of the publication at http://www.ecotrust.org/publications/redefining_stewardship.html
Oregon Solutions, an organization based at Portland State University, has helped to bring consensus around this issue in Lakeview. This collaborative approach guides the process in bringing different groups to the table to come up with a solution. The public / private collaboration under the Oregon Solutions process has been really key to making the Lakeview Biomass project successful. The declaration of cooperation leading to the project is here - [url]http://www.orsolutions.org/central/lakeviewbiomass.htm[/url]
Paul Beck's argument seems to be that since native Americans underburned the forests, therefore he should be given the unfettered right to clearcut and bulldoze them. We've seen the results of that approach. No thanks.
Thinning, carefully done, can mimic natural processes like low-intensity fire, but certain elements in the timber industry do not want that.
Clearcutting does not mimic fire in any way. Even at her most angry, mother nature never wrecked the soil with a mess of roads, nor removed all the complex structural legacies that remain after severe fire.
Let's more forward with careful thinning, not backward with more clearcutting and high-grading.
Once again please see references above in regard to the burning/management practices of the original inhabitants of North America. To call all of these burns "under-burns" is a belief and is not supported by the evidence.
"Thinning, carefully done, can mimic natural processes like low-intensity fire"....your quote and I couldn't agree more. My point is that a stand of trees of any and all age classes may (may) benefit from this "thinning, carefully done".
No one including myself talked of an "unfettered right" to clear-cut. This entire discussion has been about thinning.
Not sure what your point is with the pictures...but let?s talk about them anyway. The first shows a large Douglas Fir that appears to have the fruiting body of a Fomes Pini fungus (conk) near the top of the picture. Not a highly sought after item for sawmills. It will make a nice home for a cavity nester like a Spotted Owl or Paleated Woodpecker though. The tree on right has a large scar (lightning or bumped by a windfall) where the bark is missing. This bark is what protects the tree from fire. The tree directly behind the person is by all appearances healthy and a likely candidate to replace the large tree in a hundred years or so. The tree all the way in the rear....the one that is leaning will be on the ground after the next heavy snow storm weights it down enough. It will be home to any number of terrestrial species. Hopefully it will not bump another tree on the way down. (see tree front right) Is one of these a good candidate for removal? Who knows from this narrow vantage point? There might be a 100 acre clear-cut behind the photographer or there might be a thousand acre wall of material that if ignited would consume all the trees in the picture. Who knows? Let?s go look. I think it's worth a mature discussion.
I'll skip the middle picture...
The third pictures inclusion is a great one to talk about. This picture appeared on the front page of the Seattle Times (correct me if I'm wrong) on about the 6th or 7th of December 2007. Does the picture look strange to you? That is because; as I understand it, it was taken with a fisheye lens and then electronically enhanced. Trust me, the landslides were bad enough looking without the distortion but I personally would have rather dealt with something a little more realistic and unaltered. The distortion makes it look like a volcano. There are no volcanoes in Pacific County Washington. These landslides occurred after a 100 year (500-1000?)storm event that dumped 14-20 inches on the Willapa Hills of South West Washington. This land is owned and managed by a private land company based in Federal Way, Washington. It is not within 50 miles of the Olympic National Forest. It is not within 80 miles of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Oh yeah and it isn?t a thinning project. Wasn?t this conversation about thinning? Wasn?t it about managing our National Forests? This picture has nothing to do with any of the individuals, companies, or organizations involved in the discussion at hand. I am not sure of the purpose of its inclusion other than shock value. It is shocking, I agree but it has nothing to do with the conversation. It is a distraction.
I will end as you: ?Let?s move forward with careful thinning?. Paul
Forest thinning must be considered in a larger context.
There are two challenges to bringing our best efforts to wise forest management. The first is re-establishing trust and establishing a true community of land stewardship in the western US. In this effort, pilot projects, involving a diversity of stakeholders are a key.
The second is relearning how the natural forest systems actually work. Our culture has lost touch with how ecosystems function, including appropriate human interaction with forest plants and animals, and the role of natural disturbances.
I am a retired silviculturist, the guy who advises where to thin, clearcut or leave alone based on the stand conditions. I worked on the Mt. Hood National Forest for most of my career, spending much of it responsible timber for the Bull Run Watershed.
The fellow who called in talking about drinking water gave misleading information about drinking water coming from the Mt. Hood. Most of that drinking water comes from the Bull Run watershed. The Bull Run has been off limits to logging since the late 80's or early 90's. No clearcutting, no thinning, no nothing. If a person has to mislead the public to make his point, you can't trust his input and he should be ignored.
The people I worked with at the Forest Service were generally sincere, dedicated and honest in their input as we planned timber sales. We all wanted to do the best job possible, given the direction and constraints within which we worked and the conflicting backgrounds we represented.
And for the record, no one ever told me I should log a particular stand, no timber company ever approached me to influence my decisions. My input to the teams planning timber sales was all based on my experience and judgment.
Clearcut decisions were based on stand conditions and on existing Forest Service policy. Clearcuts were often modified to accommodate wildlife, fishery, water quality, visual impact or other resource needs.
Do I sound defensive? Your damned right I am. One of the last sales I worked on was the Enola Hill sale, on the north side of Hwy 26, above Rhododendron. We were slammed and sued by environmental groups but we prevailed in court as they hysterically cried over how it would look, then protested on the site when logging began. But as you drive down Hwy 26 today, if you know where to look, you can see part of one small unit, but you might confuse it with natural openings that are in the area. And with all the harassment we got from environmental groups, they rarely gave us any worthwhile information. But they sure did increase the cost to the taxpayer.
Sure we sometimes made mistakes. The only way to avoid mistakes is to do nothing, which is a mistake in itself. But in general, we did a damned good job.
The Clackamas River provides drinking water to a variety of municipalities south of Portland and, unlike the Bull Run watershed, public lands in the Clackamas watershed is still subject to logging by the Mt Hood National Forest and Salem BLM. I am surprised a professional such as yourself who worked on the Mt Hood NF never learned this. During major storms there is a noticeable spike in water pollution, not just in the river, but also in our drinking water. Did you ever experience that muddy taste in the water after big storms? You can thank the government for the landslides the spill from clearcuts and logging roads.
Youse TOL guys and guyettes are competicating with the Lympies for my rapt attentions so I'll prolly not be lissning ner pontificating as much as usual, and prolly ter yers undoubted combined reliefs. Heh!
That's my loss, not yours. Just thought I'd check in.
Great topic. Decent show, but too little time to get into how complex this issue can really be. Ultimately, the statements and reactions of panelists and others commenting are based on personal values. Sorry Alex (BARK), there just isn't much science to support many of your positions. Mt. Hood National Forest is managed for multiple uses as you know. In our national forests there are wilderness areas, late successional reserves, designated roadless and primitive areas (even though some are indeed roaded) riparian and critical habitat block outs, etc. - so many overlays that prohibit ANY active, timber extracting management - all of this in addition to other federally managed administrative units - National Parks, National Historic Monuments, National Recreation Areas, etc., that prohibit logging. So where is the multiple use on our federal lands? Why is it so evil to extract small volumes of timber consistent with a thinning, restoration or, God forbid, regeneration plan?
If you study your science, Alex, you'll notice that clearcutting vs. thinning have totally different biological objectives (duh, logging fewer trees than clearcutting?). Clearcutting aims to start a forest stand over. Nature does this via fire, and/or insect and disease induced mortality. Sure, clearcutting as we knew it hardly mimicked these events by removing much of the structural complexity that results after a natural cycles, but some of the more progressive forest scientists of their time came up with solutions related to snag, green tree and CWD retention, that have since been adapted as state law (at least in WA). Improvements such as variable density retention are even embraced by some of our industrial forest managers. But the goals of thinning range from maintaining growth rates on the trees that are retained (vs. allowing them to slow as they do at later stages) to accelerating conditions that are more old growth like. This process happens naturally as stands pass through what many refer to as the stem exclusion stage of stand development - the weakest trees die due to density and competition related stress, while the strong prevail. So why not accelerate this stand maturation process and the emergence of old forest characteristics by mechanically removing trees that are at one stage or another of succumbing to natural processes, if we can conduct such a removal in a minimally invasive way through low impact logging methods, followed with road obliteration or maintenance, etc? Why not promote local jobs, use of local wood products, and some connections to the forest that go beyond your weekend hike to gawk at big trees and lament our current epidemic of nature deficit, obese city kids that don't know a Douglas fir from a western hemlock?
Comments are now closed.