OPB: Franklin & Johnson “Ecological Forestry” Includes Tree Sitters

During his most recent comment, greg nagle requested a discussion on O&C Lands, and particularly the Wyden proposal and the SW Oregon tree sitters, as an apparent way of avoiding further discussion on Eugene-based eco-terrorism. Naturally, the sitters are also Eugene-based. They are protesting a BLM timber sale in accordance with the recently-released Wyden Plan,  featuring “ecological forestry” — a forest management model devised by university professors  Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson, failed parents of the earlier “New Forestry” model and 1/2 of the “Gang of Four” Spotted Owl and Clinton Plans for Northwest Forests proponents. Those plans, and their consequences, have been discussed elsewhere on this blog.

The American Forest Resource Council came out in opposition to the Wyden Plan in part because it: “mandates the use of forestry principles developed by Dr.’s Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin — The Pilot Projects where these principles have been used were limited in size; treated very few acres; focused on restoration forestry and weren’t sustainable in drier forest types. They were also litigated by environmental groups, so there’s no reason to believe this won’t continue without legal certainty.”

http://www.orww.org/Awards/2013/SAF/Wayne_Giesy/Giesy_Plan/AFRC_Newsletter_20131127.pdf

The following re-post demonstrates the accuracy of the latter concern, as described by Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) and environmentalist’s regards (according to the Comments video links) of “Norm ‘n Jerry science.” The link to the original post is here:

http://earthfix.opb.org/land/article/tree-sitters-dont-buy-logging-designed-to-mimic-na/

The Comments are worth reading, too, and not just for watching the video links — particularly (to me) one that was just posted as I was writing this — and already one of my all-time favorite blog Comments:

Merryl Eng
• 24 minutes ago

I am Joshua Eng’s Mom. It does not look safe. for him to be sleeping & living in that. tree he needs to come home & get a job where he can his bills & not family who cannot afford it pay it for him

Tree Sitters Don’t Buy Logging Designed To Mimic Nature

Dec. 23, 2013 | OPB
  • Stationed on wooden platforms and rope lines 100 feet in the air, members of the group Cascadia Forest Defenders are protesting what they claim is a clear cut of native forest. The logging is part of a pilot project designed to mimic nature. credit: Amelia Templeton
  • The White Castle timber sale near Roseburg, Ore., by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has pitted environmentalists against forestry professors in a new debate over the management of Pacific Northwest forests. credit: Amelia Templeton
  • Ground camp: Josh Eng, right, prepares to climb up a fir tree with fellow protesters (from left) Brian Garcia, Shannon Wilson and Kate Armstrong. The group is protesting a plan to log at the site. credit: Amelia Templeton
  • Kate Armstrong climbing up to tree camp. She and her fellow Cascadia Forest Defender protesters are concerned about a plan to log 120-year-old forests on O&C Lands. credit: Amelia Templeton
Stationed on wooden platforms and rope lines 100 feet in the air, members of the group Cascadia Forest Defenders are protesting what they claim is a clear cut of native forest. The logging is part of a pilot project designed to mimic nature. | credit: Amelia Templeton | rollover image for more

MYRTLE CREEK, Ore. — Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management sold the rights to log a small grove of Douglas firs to a private company called Roseburg Forest Products.

Roseburg bid more than $1 million for the trees, and planned to start logging this fall.

Then the tree sitters showed up.

Stationed on wooden platforms and rope lines 100 feet in the air, members of the group Cascadia Forest Defenders are protesting what they claim is a clear cut of native forest. But the scheduled logging is also part of a pilot project designed by Northwest forestry professors to mimic nature.
The professors’ plan has become politically popular and is a key component of bills proposing new management for Oregon’s O&C Lands — a checkerboard of parcels in Western Oregon named for the Oregon & California Railroad that once owned them. Those on both sides of the protest say it’s potentially the first battle in the next big debate over how to manage Northwest forests.

The site in question, known as the White Castle timber sale, lies about 19 miles east of Myrtle Creek, at the end of a narrow gravel road curving up a forested ridgeline and covered with ice, boulders and fallen trees. The forest here started growing 120 years ago after a fire burned through this area, west of Crater Lake. It’s native forest, never been cut before, but it’s not “old growth” forest.

“When I first got here, I was so excited that I spent a good week or two, just in the tree. It’s wonderful,” said Josh Eng, a 29-year-old with a pointy, black beard who has spent much of the past nine weeks living on one of the tiny platforms.

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Josh Eng. Credit: Amelia Templeton.

Eng, taking his turn stationed in the tree, answers to the nickname Turtle when fellow protesters shout up to him from the ground camp. That camp includes a tent, a kerosene lamp, and a milk crate full of science fiction novels from the Eugene Public library.

“The books are extremely important because we have minimal entertainment out here except for ourselves,” protester Brian Garcia said.

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To reach Turtle and the heart of the group’s tree camp requires buckling into a climbing harness and using sliding knots called prusiks to climb inchworm-style up 100 feet of rope.

The wooden platform at the top is just big enough to sleep on. Buckets of food and water hang from the branches nearby. It rocks gently like a boat as the top of the fir tree sways in the wind.

“Yes, always keep connected. Two points of safety,” Eng said. He remains clipped in, even while he sleeps.

Watch: Tree Sitter Josh Eng Climbs To A Platform

This high up, Eng figures he’ll be very difficult to arrest. So far, he says, nobody’s tried to remove him from the tree. Or, rather, no people have tried to remove him.

“I do have a squirrel that kind of comes around at night, and yells at me and throws things,” Eng said.

Eng’s arch nemesis in this conflict, apart from the squirrel, isn’t necessarily Roseburg Forest Products, or even the BLM. It’s a pair of forestry professors: Norm Johnson at Oregon State University and Jerry Franklin at the University of Washington. The two have a long track record in conservation.

Kate Armstrong, a 21-year-old University of Oregon student and part of the protest, said they see the pilot project as a clear cut under the guise of science.

“I think that it’s a shame that they would call themselves scientists and call themselves conservationists or environmentalists who care about the forest, but who would put their names on such a bogus project that is so obviously to me just playing into what the logging industry wants to have happen,” Armstrong said of Johnson and Franklin.

norm johnson
Norm Johnson. Credit: Amelia Templeton.

Johnson, who said he knew White Castle would be controversial the minute he set foot there, has visited the protesters and said he’s taking their comments to heart.

“I could see how disappointed they were in me,” Johnson said. “Yeah, that’s hard.”

Johnson said this timber sale isn’t your grandfather’s clear-cut. The pilot project is a demonstration of something called a “variable retention harvest.”

“The approach we’re taking is trying as best we can to emulate the development of a wild forest,” he said. “We’re not trying to replace it with a tree farm. ”

Several years ago, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar asked Johnson and Franklin to help the BLM develop timber harvests that would be profitable while serving an environmental purpose. The professors drew inspiration from a wealth of new research, published in the years after the Mount St. Helens eruption, on the importance of so-called early seral habitat that develops after natural disasters like eruptions, windstorms and large wildfires.

In the variable retention harvest Johnson and Franklin developed, the largest, oldest trees on a site don’t get cut down. About a third of the standing and fallen wood is left untouched, while the rest gets logged. The site is largely allowed to recover naturally, with foresters replanting a minimal amount of species like fir, cedar, and hemlock. After a few years, a meadow of grasses and bushes and berries will start to grow in place of the forest.

“There are many creatures that like to live in openings. Say mountain bluebirds, or salamanders,” Johnson said.

This moment just after the destruction of a forest, when young trees compete with bushes and grasses for sun is called an early seral ecosystem. It can last for 30 years or more, until the conifers grow tall enough to block the light. Studies show as much of 35 percent of the landscape in the western Cascades used to be early seral habitat, but that’s now fallen to as little as 2 percent.

“The diverse early seral stage is actually rarer than old growth right now,” Johnson said. “We are very short of it.”

Johnson and Franklin’s idea: mimic nature, and create a few more rural jobs in the process, has proved popular with politicians. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has introduced a bill that would use Johnson’s technique to significantly increase the amount of timber cut on public lands in Western Oregon.

“We worked with the best scientists in the Northwest to make these harvests as ecologically friendly as we possibly could,” Wyden said in a recent press conference.

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Near White Castle timber sale on O&C Lands east of Roseburg, Ore. Credit: Amelia Templeton.

Johnson calls the harvest rate set in Wyden’s bill modest, allowing logging on 2 or 3 percent of the 2.6 million acres of the BLM’s O&C lands in the first decade. He says logged areas would be given roughly 100 years to grow back into forest.

“I would be less comfortable with it if the harvest rate was much higher,” Johnson said.

But the Cascadia Forest Defenders are not alone in criticizing the idea.

“Jobs, logs and early seral forest can all be attained without wrecking more mature forests,” Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild wrote in comments submitted to the BLM. “There is 20+ years of young stand thinning to do and significant new reasons NOT to conduct (regeneration) harvest in mature forests.”

Trees older than 80 years contain clearer wood of a higher value, though, said Scott Folk, Vice President of Resources at Roseburg Forest Products, which can be used in a wider variety of higher grade products.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says moving forward with the logging pilot project is critical. And it is in the process of closing road access to the ridgeline to try to force the tree sitters to move on.

“We want to be respectful of the protesters, and respectful of their right to protest the sale,” said Steve Lydic, Field Manager with the BLM in Roseburg. “But there comes a time when the timber sale purchaser also has the right to harvest wood they have purchased.”

Back on the ridge east of Roseburg, tree sitter Josh Eng says the fact that logging here could become a blueprint for other harvests on public lands makes him all the more determined to stop it.

“This is a very beautiful place. And it would be a real heartbreaking thing to see it go the way of a variable retention harvest,” Eng said.

© 2013 OPB

33 Comments

  1. “Kate Armstrong, a 21-year-old University of Oregon student and part of the protest, said they see the pilot project as a clear cut under the guise of science.”….. Does the angst and ignorance of a 21 year old trump the facts of science? She seems to want to have everything on every acre, with old growth dependent species living in harmony with early seral dependent species. Any decision made has harm associated with it, even when that decision is to do nothing. We need to use site-specific science, and I’m not buying the “whatever happens” strategy.

  2. thanks for posting all this Bob, lots to digest and I haven’t digested it all yet, but… First, I have to take issue with any contention that Greg suggested this topic as a way to “avoid” further discussion on “Eugene-based eco-terrorism”… First, because this truly is a forest management oriented topic, whereas the other really wasn’t and had perhaps run its course (including tangents, mea culpa, on GMOs etc…), so I thank Greg for the suggestion and thank you for implementing it. Second, because of the implied geographic guilt-by-association: these perhaps scraggly looking kids up in the trees are not eco-terrorists, by any rationale definition of that term, and it puts “Eugenophobia” in about the same category as “Islamophobia”, which is not a worthy attitude IMO. I haven’t read enough of young Ms. Amstrong’s comments to classify her perspective as “angst and ignorance” compared to the “science” perspective of an aging politician (Wyden). I don’t think she’s right to describe the so-called “variable retention harvest” as a clearcut, if she was quoted correctly, but I am a little confused so far about how this is significantly different than a plain old shelterwood cut, guess I’ll have to read up on it some more. I do agree with Larry’s point about the need to use site-specific science, which is one reason why project-specific EA’s (or EIS’s) are critical for responsible management, and why the attempt to bypass environmental laws and considerations (“legal fast track”) with generic and non-specific EIS’s is misguided.

    • thanks Gary, I was asking the same, I was not trying to avoid talking about anything but thought Matt had a good point asking what Jeff Luers attempt to torch SUVs had to do with our talks on forest policy. That discussion continues over there as we dissect the protester thinking on forests.

      What I was really trying to do was to get Andy to talk about what he thinks of the BLM proposals since my impression (?) was that he was supportive of increased logging. Since he always knows a lot on the issues, I am always interested in his views. He ran for country commissioner in Eugene but I was not there to listen to him on this topic.

      I saw that Matt was objecting to tarring all forest protesters with the eco terrorist label, a very valid point.

      If folks want to mull forest protesters, we can continue on the other thread since I do interact with them a lot and have opinions. But I will say it again, Jeff Luers and company were real outliers, few were as determinendly as dumb as him. And I do mean dumb. His friends will tell you the same.

    • Can somebody post a picture of what the harvest units actually look like.

      And does somebody know what percent of total volume is slated for removal on those units?

      And let’s lay off piling on young protesters, it is too much shooting fish in a barrel, we can continue that thread on the protester discussion. Pointing out the idiocies of the young is too easy for old farts like us, it does not reflect well on any of us although I do it a lot myself.

      I am interested here in forest practices and a larger discussion on the other BLM harvest proposals.

      • greg: I don’t have any maps or technical data, but I’m hoping they would be easy to come by online. On the other hand, I think it is important for “old farts like us” to point out their idiocies to our young — otherwise they’ll likely end up dead or dangerous or terrible parents, just like a lot of the idiots we grew up with. Maybe something like ourselves when we were younger and a little more immortal. Personally, I think it is really good advice to tell someone like Joshua Eng to listen to his Mom. She needs some reinforcement before Josh falls out of a tree or gets hits by a semi and makes things even worse for his family. In my opinion.

      • Here is about 78 photos of a Variable Retention Harvests (VRH) units that make up the Buck Rising timber sale (still being logged last I checked) https://picasaweb.google.com/112037980213765028264/BuckRisingUnits1And2Cut#5920273007004695746
        a few miles as the crow flies from the White Castle timber sale where the tree sit is located. Buck Rising is in the headwaters of the North Myrtle Creek watershed and the White Castle is part of the very headwaters literally of the South Myrtle Creek watershed. Both were part of the same planning process. Even “Norm and Jerry” have expressed reservations about their VRH being perpetrated in native indisturbed forest stands like the White Castle sale but obviously not publicly.
        By the way, there seems to be no talk about Wyden’s legislative proposal to remove the Survey and Manage provisions on the BLM O & C lands or the proposal to only require 2 Environmental Impact Statements for the 1 million acres of the so called “Forestry Emphasis” areas that would endure 10 years of timber sales without the possibility of legal challenge.
        If you want an EA I am pretty sure you can find one on the Roseburg BLM website.
        thanks.

        • Looks like a small clear cut of small timber. I guess it could of been thinned, but then it wouldn’t of opened up like they wanted it too. I think the Madrone trees and maples were cut down because nobody thought to do otherwise. I really didn’t see any major proplems in the photos, except the timber harvested was too small, for my taste.

        • thanks much for the pics, it sure is a lot to ponder but I hope others will post their views first. I really do prefer dealing with specifics such as seen in these photos.

          Are you saying this is a natural stand of fir? Pretty young looking, how many rings on the fir and cedar? They look about 35 years (??) regenerated after a clearcut. How those old madrone survived previous harvest I do not know.

          This is now a clear cut with a few left that I can;t imagine surviving long exposed like this. Calling it VRH is BS, it is a clearcut, why doesn’t BLM just call it what it is and not some BS eco term. I am not saying I am against clearcuts but I like my English straight.

          I do not assume that this is what Franklin is talking about since his units have more mixed age classes with much larger diameter old trees. (?)

          • Thanks, Shannon W:

            Very nice photos! It says they were by Francis E. Are you guys in AA, or is there another reason you want to remain anonymous? And why doesn’t Francis just go ahead and use her last name like she does everywhere else?

            I would say, based on these photos, that I think there were way too many trees cut at way too young an age and at way too small a diameter. If they are trying to grow timber, this is a bad decision. If they are trying to produce wildlife habitat, this is a bad decision. Too bad, but it looks easy enough to correct at some future time. Just a lot of wasted time and money putting this crop together, and then butchering it before it could reach any kind of biological or economic maturity.

            The main problem I see in the photos is the straight boundary lines between BLM and private property. So far as I know, the BLM checkboard landownership pattern is unique for forests, worldwide. I am also fairly certain that almost all BLM forestland in the US is contained in 18 western Oregon counties. It’s a national issue with entirely local consequences and unique management challenges — particularly so far as aesthetics, county budgets, and wind damage are concerned.

            • Problem is that most industrial forest land in western Oregon is now clearcut at age 40 or less. Yes? It seems the norm. I don;t like it but I am not saying it does not work for growing trees as a crop.

              I can understand why they preferred to cut the hardwoods since it makes it easier to clear cut the rest but it sure removes some ecological benefit.

              However those madrone will resprout quite well.

              And I do not see any problem with the intensity of thinning inside the riparian reserve, that seems an exaggerated concern.

        • shannon, please keep posting pics, with the 15 hour time difference here in Vietnam, it is hard to be timely in any replies on this blog but I do like to talk about actual landscapes and impacts.

          Be aware that responses usually peter out on any thread after first few days so many may not have seen your pics above.

  3. Thanks, Guy: I was reading a little bit into greg’s statement for purposes of “humor.” The Eugene observation was also a little whimsical, although Eugene has been well known in Oregon as a strategic center for forest activism for more than 20 years. The arrests for the eco-terrorism “family” members with strong Eugene ties a few years ago was not much of a surprise to many people. It’s worth watching a few of the videos they posted to see where they are coming from — maybe starting with the one produced and being distributed by a local Cottage Grove group.

    I don’t think there really is too much difference between “a plain old shelterwood cut,” New Forestry, and “ecological forestry” — mostly just depends on throwing in some Franklin-inspired “scientific” mumbo-jumbo about “legacy”, “fire regimes”, and “ecosystem services”, a couple of computer print-outs with a lot of acronyms, and a long reading list of pal-reviewed publications as a rationale.

    Franklin is well-known — and rightfully — as the “guru of old-growth”; Johnson was trained as a forest economist with a strong passion for politics, and a demonstrated capability in that arena. Neither one seems to know a lot about forest management, reforestation, forest history, or wildfire history — areas in which I have some personal knowledge and expertise — yet they both seem comfortable authoritatively discussing these topics in the light of “best available science.” And somehow actually integrating their theoretical perspectives into federal policies without real field testing or even much supporting documentation — other than more computer printouts, occasionally based on minor and/or rudimentary field research. In my opinion.

  4. Guy, I’m going to have to back Bob.
    I did about two seconds of Google Fu and wasn’t surprised to see Mr. Eng as an Occupier, from Harrisburg, PA, in the news walking from Atlanta to Chicago to protest the NATO summit. Now there’s a good expenditure of time.
    Our dear Kate shows up and the first hit has:
    “Now, after only ten months living at the Lorax, it is hard to picture Kate as the “lost freshman” she once was. She has become involved in Cascadia Forest Defenders, a grassroots organization that works to protect trees from deforestation.”
    She was majoring in Romantic Languages (I guess that’s more relevant than Ugoburudian Basketweaving) and “It was at an Occupy event that Kate first learned of the Lorax Manner, one of two student co-ops for undergraduate students.”
    Her plans now? “Her involvement led her to aspire to work in environmental law.”
    Turns out that just the other day, I checked out from the Lie Berry an Occupy movement pamphlet authored by Noam Chomsky — one of the things Noam tells his kiddies is that those of “privilege” will be the most influential in promoting the goals of the Occupy “movement.”
    So– I would say these kids are completely into the anti capitalist “thing” — and comparatively clueless about forestry, even when the point of comparison is the Norm and Jerry show.

    • Dave, it’s “Romance” languages, not “romantic”… you know, French, Spanish, Italian… Freudian slip maybe? I don’t know what “Ugoburudian” means, is it something made up to sound sort-of ethnic and therefore funny? Noam Chomsky, MIT professor, father of modern linguistics, more influential than you and I put together will ever be, but the logical connection to Ms. Armstrong’s knowledge of forestry… you lost me there. But really, everybody with a B.S. in forestry (not referring to you, but generally) claims to be an expert in forest science… anyone can get that degree in about 3 years (I know, I did), it’s not rocket science. I expect these students won’t have much trouble catching up (esp. with Sen. Wyden who has no forestry background that I can see).

      • “Rocket Science” has a lot more constants than forest management does! If you haven’t seen state of the art logging in thinning projects, you cannot be qualified to make claims about how bad it is for the forest. My ample experience in forests across the country has taught me that a “one-size-fits-all” approach cannot work for our National Forests. (I’ve always felt cheated, never getting any tree sitters on my salvage projects.)

        • Larry, I at least halfway agree with you (and by the way I know absolutely nothing about rocket science), including about the one-size-fits-all. What I would also agree with, is that silviculturists generally know the most about state of the art logging, and similar aspects of stand management. Though what they may know relatively less about are some other forest impacts related to harvest, such as terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, hydro, soils, fuels, basically all the other ‘ologies. And while I think foresters tend to be pretty good jack-of-all-trades practicioners (and would say the same about agricultural scientists), still nobody can know everything. It takes a village, to paraphrase Hillary. So if you’re saying that non-silviculturists aren’t qualified to participate in the forest health/management debate, I wouldn’t agree with that. Nonetheless, here’s wishing you many tree-sitters for the new year 🙂

  5. If this sale is like the other “Johnson, Franklin, BLM” pilot projects it is a marginal timber sale to start with full of dubious restrictions. I believe Roseburg Lumber bought both the one in Douglas County and Coos County. I think to show support tof the BLM’s efforts to sell timber, which of course they need. The sale in Coos County has not be awarded and is under appeal, I believe.
    If these sale cannot go through you can see that we are still going nowhere. They, the environmental corperations, also have Elliot State forest tied up and it all “second growth” that in the last 40 years has started to exhibit old growth characteristics. It doesn’t seem to make any difference how you lay out the sale, if it has older trees in it someone is going to protest it and the other environmental groups are going to back them up. Thats why I worry about Wydens plan, I can see all the new “Wilderness” areas coming into being and really nothing being done for rational forest management. Any new sales would just be appealed and protested.
    It will be interesting to see how all this thinning of young stands of timber that we are currently doing in our public forests turns out. Someday we are going to run out of trees to thin. Then what? (Plus I am not to impressed with the quality of products you can produce from young little trees)
    Will we ever be able to decide thats its ok to cut down older trees? Of course my opinion is that there is no difference in cutting a young or old tree. The questions are just why are you doing it and what are you going to do with it. I think these kids don’t realize that the young trees will become old trees, a 120 years isn’t really that long of time. (I hope they enjoy the storm this weekend).

    • Thanks, Bob:

      I think the dual characterizations of Franklin & Johnson timber management proposals are captured exactly by: 1) “marginal timber sales,” with 2) “dubious restrictions,” as you point out. No way they can work on a landscape scale, and this is one time I’m in full agreement with the tree sitters, although probably for entirely different reasons. They don’t want to see our forests being actively managed, and I don’t want to see environmental sciences continue to be degraded by this type of hucksterism.

      Old-growth have been defined as trees (or stands of trees) over 200 years of age for more than 100 years. 120- and 160-year old trees used to be defined as “mature second growth” in much the same way that 80-year old trees were called “second growth.” Calling a 120-year old tree “old-growth” is like calling a 40-year old male an “old man”; likewise, calling an 80-year old tree a “replacement old-growth” is like calling a 25-year old woman a “replacement social security recipient.” Everyone has gone Animal Farm, and for some reason our politicians and public media are buying it. And this is where the urbanites (“voters”) get most of their information regarding forest management policies. In my opinion.

      If the collaborators on this blog think we need to come to some common decisions or agreements, then I would argue we need to start using the same definitions for common words. Note that in the Clinton Plan, for one example, there is much discussion in the main text of “seral stages”; in the Glossary, however, these “stages” are defined in terms of “age classes” — an entirely different definition denoting entirely different conditions.

      • It is interesting to consider the evolution in the aims of environmental groups. I haven’t documented any of this — I’m going by memory. Dates are approximate. Generalizations – exceptions abound.

        1980s: Old growth trees
        1990s: Old growth and mature trees
        2000s: Natural forests
        2010s: Old-growth snag forests (plus all of the above)

        The shift from a focus on old growth to old growth and mature trees was gradual, but a significant enlargement of forest types that, many groups say, need to be preserved or protected.

        • Steve, there are two factors that I can think of. The first, not so much moving the goalposts, but some environmental groups adapting a (sometimes) more successful game plan based on the existing goal posts. The FS itself put those goal posts in place, some examples in Region One in forests I’m most familiar with (most of these show up somewhere in the plan as some kind of standard):
          -Lolo NF, 1986 Plan, includes “procedures to Implement the Forest Snag Standard”
          -Helena NF, 1986 Plan, has standards for “snag-dependent MIS (management indicator species”)
          -Lewis & Clark NF, 1986 Plan, talks about “snag characteristics of old-growth”
          -Nez Perce NF, 1987 Plan, defines obligation to “provide management for minimum viable populations of old-growth and snag- dependent species by adhering to the standards…”

          etc., etc. Most of these relate back, directly or indirectly, to 1982 planning rule language regarding viable populations. So I would say, those are some of the goalposts. Game plan shift: when the FS hasn’t followed these standards in the plan, sometimes courts will frown on that, so there can be a handle there that more generalized language like “old growth” doesn’t necessarily provide.

          Second factor, to its credit the FS acknowledged the importance of snag habitat back in the 80’s, and formally committed itself to maintaining it. I think this also had the effect of raising public awareness of snags as wildlife habitat rather than just junk trees, and some forest plans even emphasize “informing the public about the importance of snags and other habitat components to wildlife species” (that’s in one of the above plans, I forget which). Of course, with a new forest planning rule in place, we’ll probably see a general shift in Forest Service game plan towards avoiding such specificity. I guess you could call that “removing the goalposts” (or to continue Dave’s football metaphor, maybe “I’ll just take my ball and go home” 🙂

        • Gil:

          Which Bob are you talking to? Personally, I have never witnessed “early-seral stage succession” in my life and am not sure it ever occurs the way I’ve seen it illustrated in textbooks (grass to forbs to shrubs to hardwoods to conifers to old-growth habitat, or something like that). Mostly, I’ve seen trees grow in age groups, not become established via some kind of succession.

          In many places in the western US, Indians used to maintain millions of acres as prairies, meadows, brakes, balds, and savannahs, where stable populations of various grasses, edible forbs, shrubs (such as huckleberries, manzanita and filberts), and hardwoods (a lot of oak woodlands) were maintained for food, fuel, weaving and construction purposes. This is where most of the native “early-seral” plants were located and where a wide diversity of wildflowers, pollinators, songbirds, small mammals, butterflies, ungulates, predators, and people lived and ate. Since then, most of this land has been covered with cities and towns, farms, shopping malls, reservoirs, highways and parking lots, pastures, and conifers (both seeded and planted).

          So far as the need for grasses, forbs, and shrubs go, I’d greatly prefer restoring — and maintaining — the meadows, woodlands, and berry fields to their early historical boundaries and components within current governmental holdings than I would like seeing the farms and towns taken out of commission. First things first, and it would create a lot of jobs and reduce a lot of wildfire risk and damage.

          If we were to rely solely on currently forested lands for increased amounts of so-called early-seral plants AND continue tree growth in the same locations, then we are headed down the regulated forest path you keep trying to lead us, Gil. If that were our only option, and continuing to assume we need more native grasses, forbs and shrubs (and I think we do, too), then I would go for a 120-year or so rotation on public lands, as outlined by Mike Newton in other discussions.

          So far as GTR-363 (Hall et al. 1995) is concerned, I am a huge fan of Fred Hall’s work with repeat photography showing plot-scale seasonal changes in vegetation for several decades in time and cite it regularly, including on this blog. I have always had trouble with his acronyms, but he was an agency scientist of the times and was pretty much forced to communicate in that manner. I think a similar problem might be occurring with his use of “seral” — he has a lot of agency coauthors, and they’re all being paid by taxpayers to talk the talk.

          What do you think, Bob?

          • BobZ

            I think that we are generally on the same page though I wouldn’t have a problem with even significantly longer rotations on federal lands in the PNW just as long as there was a degree of balance of tree species groups/associations/Forest Types appropriate to the sites and a balance of ages within those forest types over the landscape. I see that balance as necessary to provide for easy movement of plants and animals from a forest type that has reached an age not suitable for them to a nearby stand that is just growing into their prime habitat. To me it makes sense that this degree of mobility between stands provides more protection for all species including endangered species than having big gaps in habitat types because 300 thousand acres of a single age/habitat type suddenly ceases to exist because the forest is a single age class type and has now died out from old age or has grown into a different habitat type or gets mowed down again by beetles and or fire eliminating all forest types.

            Things are a little less complex in the south in that whether you plant or allow for natural regeneration, the trees, grasses, briars and woody plants jump up pretty quick all at the same time within a year of harvest so it is pretty much all tree age related. This early species diverse and rich period is just ages 0 to 12 or so years depending on the site quality and the plant genetics. So restoration isn’t something that we have to think about, it just happens. When I read all of the West Coast restoration angst, I just can’t help but think that the arguments over what baseline to restore to is over thinking the whole thing especially within the context of a regulated forest where new openings are created every year. Harvest by the appropriate means for the site and regeneration and get out of the way until it’s time for the first thinning.

            I am just reading the Nov. JOF PP 420-429 “Alternative Views of a Restoration Framework for Federal Forests in the Pacific Northwest”. Though I’m not through reading it, so far, DellaSalla, Chad Hanson et. al. have torn apart Franklin and Johnsons’ “Patchy, Variable Harvesting” approach with a lot of “maybe’s” and “could’s” and “possibilities” that would require monitoring every inch of the forest everyday forever with the only result being analysis paralysis. To deal with all of their “maybes” kind of makes me think that their only viable solution is to shoot all humans and everything will be fine. So far it looks like this could just be another case of the SAF pulling the rug out from under sound forest management by supplying those who oppose sound forest management the means to say even the SAF says we are right. But then I haven’t finished reading it yet so I may have to eat my sarcasm.

            Right now, I’m all for giving every SAF accredited Forestry school that wants it, 200,000 acres of nearby federal timberland and the charge to manage the lands anyway that they want as long as they obey all laws, BMPs, and provide for the long term health of the ecosystem and do it all with no government subsidy except to pay for an annual independent third party audit according to SFI standards. The agreement should be for a ten year period subject to renewal based on the audits and an annual report.

          • Here in western Oregon I have watched the trees grow out of the draws and eventually cover the areas that were once grass. (it may of taken 40 years, but trees are relentless here in western Oregon, cut them down and they just grow back up, eventually.) I have also seen some of it burn (thanks to the forest service and their fire policies) and turn back into grass. I don’t know who decided we need to make more grasslands in our forests when the forests seem to naturally just want to make more forests. Strange how we are always deciding what part of nature we like best.
            Maybe some people seem to need this as an excuse to allow logging. I personally don’t need an excuse to allow logging. I just think we should do it in such as way to protect what we have, keep the forests as green and mixed up as possible. I am not to impressed with the industrial forests, I don’t like monocrops, from an environmental and economic viewpoint, but you have to admit they are growing trees, these trees are protecting the landscape, keeping it cooler, sequestering carbon and are going to provide timber for the near future.
            My whole thing is not to waste what we have in our forests. Every year millions of older growth trees die, get blown over, burn or just fall over. I just cannot understand why we let this most valuable resource just lay there and rot. I can see leaving some of it, but not all of it. Espeically when it is my belief
            if we were to use just a small percentage of this salvagable timber we could invigorate our local economies, (and maybe our local forest service ranger district too, more jobs for the locals). I am not as concerned what happens in Medford or Eugene, I am more concerned with what is happenings in Powers and Myrtle Point.
            People think just because you have a timber sale you that the buyer is going make lots of money, compromise the environmment and exploit the taxpayers land, only if it was that simple. Can you imaginge buying a timber sale and being told that all the big valuable trees,(that you could make all kinds of cool stuff with), are going to be left and you get all the little trees?

    • My understanding it that the protests on the Elliot are over clear cutting of naturally regenerated forests over 90 years, not the 40 year old plantations, Please correct me if I am wrong. I was not aware that there was objection to cutting the youngest stands.

      I would prefer that they thinned those 40 year old stands but shockingly enough, I am not really opposed to clear cutting them with adequate stream buffers and other measures,

      • greg: My preference would be to thin the older trees in order to encourage the healthiest of them to become much older (i.e., remove a lot of trees at a fair profit while creating lots of jobs, healthier forests, more browse, and lesser wildfire danger), and thin the younger trees in such a manner as they wouldn’t become too sun-scalded, wind-, or snow-damaged, but would be better able to focus growth on key dominant trees most capable of becoming 90 years old. Maybe thin again once or twice in intervening years and/or adapt to salvage forced by bugs, wind, wildfire, disease, snow, or Global Warming. But I won’t climb a tree to make my point, or get much more than three feet off the ground without stairs, a ladder, or an elevator.

  6. This “Don’t mess with big trees” syndrome is not just a western disease . Here in Florida there was talk, a while ago, of a 16 inch diameter limit (maximum) – for longleaf and slash pine! Pretty soon the NF goal posts will be harvesting fence posts.

    Where have all the Pinchots gone? Gone to the graveyard, every one.

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