Healthy Forests

This is just a reminder that some of our forests are healthy, and need no management. This view from the Pass Creek area of the Salmon-Challis National Forest shows an idyllic scene that might be similar to the land of 400 years ago. This land is full of the kinds of wildlife people want to see returned to our National Forests. While I was there on assignment, I met a guy who wandered this rugged terrain, recording wildlife sightings. This thin and wiry guy was amazing in how he could gain and lose thousands feet of elevation, day after day.


12 thoughts on “Healthy Forests”

    • Bob.. no one really thought the forests were “doomed”. they are just dead, will fall, and sooner or later will probably burn up . The only things I’ve read saying forests may be doomed are about species in the SW. But we don’t really know that either.

      To hype their findings sometimes researchers claim to be finding things that are new, but either they aren’t new, or are contradicting previous research, which took a different piece of the elephant (“previous research found that elephants were large and round. We found that they are in fact, vertical and cylindrical in orientation).”

      • Sharon, if by “no one” you mean forest managers, you’re probably right.

        On the other hand, after attending years and years worth of forest health task force meetings, wildfire council meetings and other meetings here in Summit County, there was a distinct message that immediate, intensive and extensive human intervention was needed to “save” the forests.

        That’s the message that was getting out to the public and used to justify logging in areas where it wasn’t really needed and where the forest might have been better off without treatment, growing back (as Chuck’s research outlines) with more species diversity and less impact to the understory.

        There’s not much nuance in the term, “forest health crisis.”

        All that said, the headline probably wasn’t the best I’ve ever
        written 🙂

        • Bob, I would be wary of “forest health crises”. Not because they don’t exist and can have very bad outcomes for people.. picture Chestnut Blight. I don’t think Nature cares if we have chestnut or tulip-poplar.

          But because generally in wildlands there is little we can do that is affordable, and relatively sure to work to keep targeted trees from dying. But we can reduce fuel loads and change fire behavior and we can reestablish vegetation when we decide it is worth the investment.

          Now that is a general statement, but in specific places, thinning has worked to make ponderosa pine more healthy and resistant to beetles, cutting trees in southern pine beetle infected stands has helped, people are keeping back Asian Longhorned Beetle. What these actions have in common is a lot of commitment, investment, and some knowledge that they will work to achieve outcomes. I could be wrong on this but there are a variety of forest health and invasive species problems that are not tackled at all, so that is the context where I am saying “generally”, like “most” of these health problems we will just have to deal with the aftermath.

  1. I’ve spent a bit of time in that area. Pass Creek is very scenic. Down the same range to the south east many of the lower elevation Douglas fir stands are so deformed from missiletoe we nicknamed them poodle trees. There are slopes down near Arco which nothing but these infected trees on 90% slopes with shallow rocky soils. 150 year old trees with an diameter of 14 inches. Not much you can do with those stands but wait for a fire. But I’ll agree that Pass Creek is a nice area.

  2. Sometimes we define “forest health” anthropocentricly. Some dog hair thickets don’t need to be managed either. Nature is messy. A “healthy forest” will, ney must, contain numerous dead and unhealthy trees.

    For instance, Cherry (1997) states:
    “The black-backed woodpecker appears to fill a niche that describes everything that foresters and fire fighters have attempted to eradicate. For about the last 50 years, disease and fire have been considered enemies of the ‘healthy’ forest and have been combated relatively successfully. We have recently (within the last 0 to 15 years) realized that disease and fire have their place on the landscape, but the landscape is badly out of balance with the fire suppression and insect and disease reduction activities (i.e. salvage logging) of the last 50 years. Therefore, the black-backed woodpecker is likely not to be abundant as it once was, and continued fire suppression and insect eradication is likely to cause further decline.”
    Cherry, M.B. 1997. The Black-Backed And Three-toed Woodpeckers: Life
    History, Habitat Use, And Monitoring Plan. Unpublished Report on file
    with U.S. Department Of Agriculture, Lewis And Clark National Forest,
    P.O. Box 869, Great Falls, Mt 59403. 19 pp.

    • I would HIGHLY suggest you look at a range map of the bird, bud! There is NO lack of habitat where they actually live, as well. Also, embracing 62,000 square miles of dead forest is just wrong. Let’s ask the public if they love their dead forests!

  3. Nice pic Larry….and nice collection of pics on your site too Bob. I really liked that dramatic bristlecone shot.

    I do, however, have to take some exception to some of the words and concepts in Larry’s photo caption.

    For starters, many of us don’t need a reminder that some of our forests are “healthy” and “need no management.” Of course, by “management” I assume Larry only means “management by man/woman” and not “management” by nature.

    Perhaps, as Larry wrote, the view in the Pass Creek area of the Salmon-Challis National Forest shows an idyllic scene that might be similar to the land of 400 years ago. How do we know that scene might not also appear as it did 1000 years ago? Or 2000 years ago? Being lucky enough to live in the Northern Rockies I have to say that photographed scene looks pretty similar to many other vistas in this region. Maybe the geology is a little different, or a few tree species here and there, but it’s pretty similar. I am, though, sort of surprised that nobody has chimed in claiming that the forest viewed here needs to be “thinned.”

    I also was sort of curious about Larry’s statement, “This land is full of the kinds of wildlife people want to see returned to our National Forests.”

    So, breaking this down, what Larry is saying is that this picture scene of a national forest that is “healthy” and needs “no management” is also “full of the kinds of wildlife people want to see returned to our National Forests.” I will say that most National Forests in the northern Rockies are full of the kinds of wildlife that not only people want to see, but also the native wildlife that was present historically. Sure, there are some exceptions, but for the most part, the National Forests in northern Rockies still contain a pretty full compliment of wildlife species. The region is also home to some of the largest chunks of Wilderness and roadless lands anywhere in the lower-48. Likely that’s not just a coincidence.

  4. Hmmmm
    Assumptions…… assumptions…..assumptions. Always assuming that a middle-of-the-road viewpoint has ulterior motives. Sure, it’s real easy to be against clearcutting and high-grading. However, I’m seeing more and more that those of us willing to compromise are being attacked, probably because we are more convincing and believable to the general public. The eco-party line fights those evil “C-words” of collaboration, consensus and compromise.

    Can’t people just enjoy a pretty picture and take my words at face value?

  5. Hmmm…..that’s a pretty defensive comment there Larry. For starters, you aren’t being “attacked.” And this non-existant “attack” has nothing at all to do with collaboration, consensus and compromise. My comments have everything to do with responding to your picture and the words you choose to associate with that landscape picture. I simply decided to take your words at face value and then use my experience, knowledge and understanding of landscapes in the northern Rockies to share my perspective as well. Thanks.

    • You constantly attack those involved with collaboration. Did I say that you attacked me in this particular article? Of course not! Again, you’re filling in blanks I have left empty on purpose, in this particular posting. I extend an olive branch and this is what I get, eh? You assume my words mean something other than what they say.


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