Federal forestlands would benefit from Oregon rules: Op-ed In Oregonian

From the Oregonian, here.

By James E. Brown, Hal Salwasser and Ted Lorensen

Managing some of the federal O&C forestlands more like private forestlands, as is supported by Oregon’s Reps. Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader, would produce a better set of environmental and economic outcomes than is currently the case.

Oregon’s 29 million acres of diverse forests have four general emphases of management: multiresource, reserve, wood production and residential, based upon forest types, ownerships, policies and locations. About 60 percent of Oregon’s forests are federal. In combination for all ownerships, acreage planned to be managed under wood production, multiresource and reserve emphases are about equal, but in practice, because of litigation and other factors, the majority of federal lands have a reserve emphasis. Ensuring that more of the O&C lands — once owned by the now-defunct Oregon & California Railroad — are managed with wood production or multiresource emphases would restore the balance of outcomes intended under the Northwest Forest Plan and O&C Act.

Our federal lands are no longer economically sustainable, and local communities are impoverished because of that. Because of the chronic severe fire suppression costs, the basic infrastructure on our federal forest is no longer being maintained, and resource values and lives are being lost in catastrophic wildfires.

In comparison, Oregon’s approach to regulating and promoting forest management on private forestlands under the Oregon Forest Practices Act and the statewide land-use program is economically sustainable. While no single metric can evaluate the success of forest management, research from paired watershed studies demonstrates that modern forest practices maintain water quality and protect fish and fish habitat. Timber growth and harvest on private lands is in balance, and reforestation is excellent. Wood-production forests sustain family-wage jobs and provide increased revenues to local government. Timber harvested in Oregon is high quality and produces lumber that is economically competitive with other regions of the world. This helps avoid importing wood from parts of the world that have poor forest practices and also minimizes the substitution of less environmentally friendly products, such as concrete, steel and plastic.

Oregon’s approach of both effective and economically efficient forest practices is essential for sustaining forestland. “If it pays, it stays.” Loss in forestland value in California and Washington has resulted in significantly more conversion of private forest to non-forest uses than in Oregon. As an example, 25 percent of working forests in the Puget Sound area were converted to residential or commercial development between 1988 and 2004. In contrast, as of 2009, Oregon had 98 percent of the forestland that was forestland in 1974.

Forestland conversion is especially counterproductive to sustaining fish. Data for fish habitat from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife indicates that “the highest rearing potential among land uses was on private industrial forest land. … Urban and agricultural lands had the lowest capacity. … Federal and state forest land had a moderate capacity.” Private forestland support for salmon recovery has contributed to populations that again allow for the harvest this fall of wild coho in a number of streams, many with a majority of private forestlands. It is not logical that we could have such outcomes for fish on Oregon’s private forestlands if forest practices regulations were inadequate.

As the O&C lands are addressed and claims are made to prevent much needed management change, we urge you to dig a little deeper to find the facts about Oregon’s forests at the Board of Forestry’s website.

James E. Brown is a retired state forester. Hal Salwasser is a professor and the former dean of the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. Ted Lorensen is a retired assistant state forester.

Note from Sharon: It’s interesting to me, how Oregon’s Forest Practices regulation has been targeted by some in this issue about federal land management.

59 thoughts on “Federal forestlands would benefit from Oregon rules: Op-ed In Oregonian”

  1. Yes, one only needs to tour the State of Oregon by small aircraft to fully appreciate how the Oregon Forest Practices has benefited the landscape of our great state. It simply makes one sick!

    • Jerry: Where are you from? I have lived in Oregon my whole life and know the landscape intimately. It’s beautiful, with the possible exception of the ugly burned portions with standing snags — those have mostly been added during the past 20 years and ARE kind of sickening.

      I don’t know what your motives are, but maybe you should return to whatever city or state you were raised in and tell people there what a sickening place Oregon is. Those of us who actually enjoy our forests, rivers, mountains, prairies and deserts are pretty sick about even hearing this kind of bunk and nonsense for whatever reason it’s being slung around.

  2. The line of argument about conversion of forest lands is a red herring at best.

    While Oregon has a devastatingly weak Forest Practices Act, it also has dramatically stronger land use regulations than California and Washington, which have already proven to be relatively effective in keeping productive forest land as forest.

    The fact that, “In contrast, as of 2009, Oregon had 98 percent of the forestland that was forestland in 1974,” is a direct result of effective and appropriate regulation, not a result of allowing unsustainable harvest practices like large clearcuts that run straight across headwaters streams.

    • Thanks, Kevin, for the rational response. I doubt our Forest Practices Act is actually “devastatingly weak,” however, having been in the reforestation and tree farming businesses for much of my adult life — and hunted, fished, hiked, and photographed for all of it. It’s an excellent set of rules and regulations, despite your perspective, and has done us very well over the past three generations of residents. I will admit it is outdated in several regards, though, and now is probably a good time to revisit it. But to say it is “devastatingly weak” is more than a little hyperbolic and tends to discredit the rest of what you have to say.

  3. I am not a forester, but a couple of the authors’ statements seem worth questioning to me.

    I’m glad the authors recognized that “no single metric can evaluate the success of forest management,” but the authors imply that “reserves” do not also provide “multiresources” the public values in our federal forests, as recognized by Congress: water, fish, wildlife, recreation, and wilderness. Surely many of the “reserves” provide these resources.

    Not everyone agrees Oregon’s forest practices “maintain water quality and protect fish and fish habitat,” and the mention of catastrophic wildfire seems aimed at emotional fears just as much as ads showing images of clearcuts are intended to provoke emotional responses.

    Oregon’s federal forestlands don’t appear to be in danger of conversion to residential and commercial development, so the authors’ example of “working forest” conversion in the Puget Sounds does not seem applicable. I assume those “working forests” were private lands, not federal lands.

    Finally, the authors state that private lands have the “highest rearing potential” in Oregon. This may be true, because in general federal lands are often at higher elevations than private forests, and streams at higher elevations usually have more natural and man-made barriers that would diminish rearing capacity. However, O&C lands are scattered at various elevation levels, so blanket statements about all federal lands’ rearing capacity do not tell us much in the context of proposed O&C legislation. The authors imply that managing O&C lands as private lands will increase their rearing capacity, but fail to list all the factors that influence rearing capacity at a site-specific level. The authors do not acknowledge the scattered nature of O&C lands, natural and man-made barriers on streams, or the benefits of cool, clean water flowing from higher-elevation federal forests for humans and fish in the face of potential temperature rises.

    • John- I don’t think that they were doing that (assuming that rearing would be better on the O&C lands). Here’s exactly what they said.

      Forestland conversion is especially counterproductive to sustaining fish. Data for fish habitat from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife indicates that “the highest rearing potential among land uses was on private industrial forest land. … Urban and agricultural lands had the lowest capacity. … Federal and state forest land had a moderate capacity.” Private forestland support for salmon recovery has contributed to populations that again allow for the harvest this fall of wild coho in a number of streams, many with a majority of private forestlands. It is not logical that we could have such outcomes for fish on Oregon’s private forestlands if forest practices regulations were inadequate.

      Their paragraph opener is simply that forestland conversion is to be avoided for fish benefits, and that forestry is preferable to urban and agricultural uses.

      I don’t think that following Oregon forest practices would actually impact the “benefits of cool clean water flowing from high elevation forest land”. Are you asserting that it would? What specific part of the Oregon regulatory framework do you feel would cause that, compared to current federal management?

      • My point was the authors’ “forestland conversion” statements are misdirection. What is the point of the paragraph before the one you copied and pasted, contrasting Puget Sound with Oregon? It implies some risk of forestland conversion to O&C lands if we don’t increase harvest on them somehow. The O&C lands are not, to my awareness, in danger of being turned into urban or agricultural uses. Even if Rep. DeFazio’s bill was enacted, O&C lands would remain “forestlands,” although many of them would be more heavily harvested. So why is discussing “forestland conversion” helpful to readers? Unless the bill talked about land exchanges the authors are worried about, but that the authors failed to mention in their op-ed, the “forestland conversion” discussion only clouds the issue.

        I’m glad private forestlands are assisting in salmon recovery. Like I noted, private lands are often lower elevation with fewer natural and man-made barriers on streams, which likely increases their rearing capacity. That does not mean higher elevation federal lands and stream stretches do not impact salmon habitat. Down woody debris, shade, and relatively sediment-free water that occur or originate on higher elevation stream stretches play roles in downstream conditions. Oregon’s state forest practices allow cutting much closer to streams in many instances than the Northwest Forest Plan’s Aquatic Conservation Strategy. Some might argue there is no impact of such small riparian buffers to fish and fish habitat, but others would strongly disagree. It depends on who you ask.

        • John: I completely agree with your last statement regarding fish and streamside buffers. My research has shown that in the 19th century fish were typically abundant in many western US streams — the same places in which NO buffer was present. Woody debris, riparian vegetation, etc., seems largely irrelevant regarding numbers and quality of fish. This is a belief system, for some reason, not a biological fact. Mike Newton’s work in the western Cascades comparing water quality and fish numbers between areas that had been clearcut to water’s edge to those in which no cutting had been done showed that fish seemed to prefer sun over shade. Columbia River fish runs east of the Cascades and most lakes would also seem to support such an idea.

          In my research I have systematically analyzed hundreds of thousands of acres of forestland that had been surveyed by government land surveyors between 1854 and the early 1930s and found a significant amount of riverine vegetation consisted of camas fields and grasslands prior to white occupation, with direct conversions to other crops and pastureland thereafter. Field observations and documentation since then have shown that relict plant associations support the survey data and interpretations.

          Fish don’t need trees, melting glaciers don’t need shade, and a bank of exotic weeds don’t produce enough bugs for streamside vegetation to have much effect on fish. Those things seem certain, yet we persist in wanting “buffers.” What is the real reason — or does one even exist?

          It is a different topic, but it seems to me that much of the hue and cry for riparian vegetation has more to do with erosion of private lands than it does with fish. Much like spotted owls being used to stop logging practices by those who oppose logging, fish have been used a a surrogate for those who don’t want to lose property during winter floods.

          This last bit is conjecture on my part, of course, but the fact remains that no one has ever shown that streambank vegetation has much of anything to do with water temperature or fish numbers — in fact, I have worked along streams that were being “protected” with willow plantings and exotic blackberries in which, via evapotranspiration, the streams were made dry! Trees and shrubs suck a lot of water out of the ground, and small feeder streams that used to run across old pastures and had fish in them, have become intermittent or even eliminated because of too much vegetation.

          • You say, “the fact remains that no one has ever shown that streambank vegetation has much of anything to do with water temperature or fish numbers.” Again, it depends on who you ask. Many, many folks would disagree this is a “fact.” Your observations are interesting, but a long list of peer-reviewed scientific literature can be produced that reaches different conclusions. You might personally pick apart each individual study or article for use of modeling or other reasons, but other researchers have reached different conclusions than you and based their conclusions on something.

            Here are a few published studies and articles that recognize the relationship between riparian vegetation, stream temperature, and fish habitat:

            R.L. Beschta et al., Stream temperature and aquatic habitat: fisheries and forestry interactions, Steamside Management: Forestery and Fishery Interactions, Univ. of Wash. Inst. of Forest Res. Contribution No. 57, Seattle, WA (1987).

            T.J. Bjornn and D.W. Reiser, Habitat requirements of salmonids in streams, American Fish. Society Special Publication 19, Bethesda, MD (1991).

            J. Dunham et al., Influences of temperature and environmental variables on the distribution of bull trout within streams at the southern margins of its range, N. American Journal of Fish. Management, 23:894-904 (2003).

            B.J. Hicks et al., Responses of salmonids to habitat changes, American Fish. Society Special Publication 19, Bethesda, MD (1991).

            D.A. McCullough, A review and synthesis of effects of alterations to the water temperature regime of freshwater life stages of salmonids, with special reference to Chinook salmon, USEPA Tech. Report 910-R-99-010, Seattle, WA (1999).

            R.D. Moore et al., Riparian microclimate and stream temperature response to forest harvesting: a review, Journal of American Water Res. Ass’n, 41: 813-34 (2005).

            Sample paragraph from Bjornn and Reiser:

            “Stream temperatures can be altered by removal of streambank vegetation, withdrawal and return of water for agricultural irrigation, release of water from deep reservoirs, and cooling of nuclear power plants. Unsuitable temperatures can lead to disease outbreaks in migrating and spawning fish, altered timing of migration, and accelerated or retarded maturation. Most stocks of anadromous salmonids have evolved with the temperature patterns of the streams they use for migration and spawning, and deviations from the normal pattern could adversely affect their survival.”

            • Hi John:

              Thanks for the citations. I’m familiar with Beschta’s work, but not the others. What Newton showed was that, yes, stream temperatures did increase in full sunlight, but then returned to a lower temperature in shade (not necessarily caused by vegetation), but that fish numbers and volume were greater in the sunny, clearcut areas. Lower temperatures also occur in deeper areas, night, and when entering larger, cooler streams. And fish swim. One reason fishermen know where to go and when in order to be successful. I could have probably used a better term than “much of anything,” but I’m guessing that streams small enough to be cooled by streamside vegetation are also small enough to be affected by evapotranspiration.

              And yes, I’m in full agreement that (many) others have had opposing viewpoints — mostly in the past 30 years — and yes, I do have a problem with how stream temperatures have been used to correlate to “healthy” fish populations. Where is that data? Other than models and conjectures, I’ve seen nothing in that regard. Too, shallower water is easier to warm and I think it is well known that streamflows can be reduced by riparian vegetation, as I described above. Then there are the river, lake, pond, ocean examples.

              The Bjorn and Resier observations regarding methods of altering stream temperatures are common sense and common knowledge. Please note that everything beyond that point is pure conjecture. I sincerely doubt the last sentence has any basis in fact. Stream temperatures, of course, change all the time and salmon have had millions of years to adjust to that reality. I think the authors are obviously trying to make a point, but “can leads” and “could adverselies” are pure conjecture. Very weird, don’t you think, that their title’s first two words are “Habitat REQUIREMENTS” [caps mine]? They’ve obviously got something to prove.

              • If you’re not familiar with any of the citations but Beschta, how do you know there is no data utilized by them in reaching their conclusions? How do you know they don’t take into account depth, time of day, or stream size?

                Over what period (time of day, point in spawning cycle, season of year) did Newton determine fish numbers and volume were higher in sunny clearcut areas? What was the size and depth of the stream? At what life stage were the fish? It seems there are a lot of factors to consider before determining fish like clearcuts better than uncut areas.

                • Hi John: I’ve been trying to get better citations for you, but am in discussions with the author regarding what he will allow to be released of work that is just going into peer review at this time. Once I figure out what he will allow, I’ll post it here (in a wider format).

                  For many years I was involved with watershed councils and did some research on salmon runs at that time and was familiar with much of the work being done on riparian vegetation, temperatures, and fish — even stuff going on at Mt. St. Helens after the eruption, which puts most clearcuts to shame.

                  There were a lot of holes in the research designs at that time, including types of thermometers used and where they were placed. Newton’s work was among the very best.

                  The main failing, though, was just like the paragraph you quoted above — some basic statements of facts and/or measurements, followed by a giant leap to speculative conclusions that had apparently been preordained.

                  And the determination wasn’t that fish like clearcuts better, necessarily, but more that they liked sunlight better (more food, and they are cold-blooded animals) and that riparian shade — or sun — only had minor and ephemeral effects on mountain stream temperatures in any instance.

              • John: Mike Newton sent me so much stuff on this that I will have to prepare a separate post. Probably be a few days from now.

                Here’s a good starter link on some of this research:


                Here’s some selected references:

                Newton, M. and E.C.Cole. 2013 Stream temperature and streamside cover 14-17 years after clearcutting along small forested streams, western Oregon. Western J. Appl. Forestry. In Press, March, 2013.

                Mattson, K. and M. Newton 2007 “Increased Biological Response with Forest Harvesting.” Society of American Foresters National Convention. Portland.

                Bartholow, J.M. 2000. Estimating cumulative effects of clearcutting on
                stream temperature. Rivers 7:284-297

                Beschta, 1987; Gregory et al, 1991; Johnson, 2004; Moore, et al, 2005; Gomi, et al, 2006 and others).

                Boyd, M. and D. Sturdevant. 1997. The scientific basis for Oregon’s stream temperature standard: common questions and straight answers. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. 29 p.

                Brett, J.R. 1956. Some principles in the thermal requirements of fishes. Quart. Rev. Biol. 31:75-87.

                Brett, J.R., Clarke, W.C. and J.E. Shelbourn. Experiments on thermal
                requirements for growth and food conversion efficiency of juvenile Chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. and Aquat. Sci. 1127. 29 p.

                Danehy, R.J.,Colson, C.G., Perrett, K.B. and S.D. Duke. 2005. Patterns and sources of thermal heterogeneity in small mountain streams within a forested setting. For. Ecol. Manage. 208:287-302

                Fuchs, S.A., Hinch, S.G. and E. Mellina. 2003. Effects of streamside
                logging on stream macroinvetebrate communities and habitat in the sub-boreal forests of British Columbia, Canada. Can. J. For. Res. 33:1408-1415.

                Gibbons, D. R., W. R. Meehan, M.D. Bryant.M. L. Murphy, and S.T. Elliot. 1986. Fish in the forest: large woody debris in streams: a new management approach to fish habitat. USDA Forest Service. Alaska region.Juneau. Rep. R10-FR-l. 20 p.

                Harr, R.D. and R.L. Fredricksen. 1988. Water quality after logging small
                watersheds within the Bull Run watershed, Oregon. Water Res. Bull. 24:1103-111

                Hawkins. C. P., M. L. Murphy. and N. Anderson. 1982. Effects of canopy. substrate composition and gradient on the structure of macroinvertebrate communities in the Cascade Range of Oregon. Ecology 63:1840-1856.

                Hetrick, N.J., M.A. Brusven, W.R. Meehan and T.C. Bjornn. 1998. Changes in solar input, water temperature, periphyton accumulation, and allocthonour input and storage after canopy removal along two small salmon streams in southeast Alaska. Trans. Amer. Fish Soc. 127:859-875.

                Ice, G. G., Light, J., Reiter and M. Reiter. 2004 Use of natural temperature patterns to identify achievable stream temperature criteria for forest streams. W. J. Appl. For. 19:252-259.

                Kreutzweiser, D.P., Sibley, P.K., Richardson, J.S. and A.M. Gordon. 2012. Introduction and a theoretical basis for using disturbance by forest management activities to sustain aquatic ecosystems. Freshwater Sci. 31:224-231.

                Leach, J.A., Moore, R.D. and S.G. Hinch. 2012. Estimation of forest harvesting-induced stream temperature changes and bioenergetics consequences for cutthroat trout in a coastal stream in British Columbia, Canada. Aquat. Sci. 74:427-441.

                Macdonald, E., Burgess, C.J., Scrimgeour, G.J., Boutin, S., Reedyk, S. and B. Kotak. 2004. Should riparian buffers be part of forest management based on emulation of natural disturbance? For. Ecol. Manage. 187:185-196.

                MacDonald, J.S., MacIsaac, E.A. and H.E, Herunter. 2003. The effect of variable-retention riparian buffers on water temperature in small headwater streams in sub-boreal forest ecosystems of British Columbia. Can. J. For. Res. 33:1371-1382

                Murphy, M.L., Hawkins, C.D. and N.H. Anderson. 1981. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 110-469-478.

                Pollock, M.M., Beechie, T.J., Liermann, M. and R.E. Bigley. 2009. Stream temperature relationships to foret harvest in western Washington. J. Amer. Water. Res. Ass’n. 45:141-156.

                Rutherford, J.C., Marsh, N.A., Davies, P.M. and S.E. Bunn. 2004. Effects
                of patchy shade on stream water temperature: how quickly do small streams heat and cool? Marine and Freshwater Research 55:737-748.

                Thedinga, J.F., Murphy, M.L., Heifetz, J., Koski, K.V and S.W. Johnson.
                1989. Effects of logging on size and age composition of juvenile coho
                salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and density of presmolts in southeast Alaska streams. Can J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 46:1383-1391.

                Wilkerson, E., Hagan, J.M., Siegel, D. and A.A. Whitman. 2006. The
                effectiveness of different buffer widths for protecting headwater stream
                temperatures in Maine. For.Sci. 52:221-231.

                Zwieniecki, M. and M. Newton. 1999. Influence of streamside cover and stream features on temperature trends in forested streams of western Oregon. W.J. For. Res. 14:106-113.

                  • Mike and Liz’s new stuff — which summarizes these selections and much more, including their own work — should be a real bombshell when it comes out. They are going right after the streambank regulations that had been developed from some of the earlier work that I have been discounting. I’ll summarize what they’ve been up to lately in the next few days and may add a few references to this list as well. This is cutting edge research and is generally supportive of the statements I made earlier. I should have some PDFs on a few of these as well that I can share after I get everything sorted and organized.

                    Mike is one of the most dedicated and scientifically rigorous people I have ever worked with, and I trust his research and conclusions with very few reservations (mostly writing style!).

  4. About the view from the airplane, it looks a lot different on the ground.
    I also think you should take into consideration that the private forest ground for that last 15 years has been producing 98% of the timber. When you concentrate all your harvesting on private ground rather than spreading out over the larger landscape the effects are evident. I think unfortunately most of the private ground is owned my multiple stock holders and managed by accountants who word to the people on the ground is, “more production, more timber.” (The incomes from these lands might even be supporting you.)
    New management ideas for the O&C lands are the result of desperation. The Northwest Forest Plan has been a social and economic disaster for our rural communities. It has also been a disaster for our private and public forests.It is time to do something.
    Reminds me of the government shutdown today, seems like its mostly over the affordable health care act, but just like the O&C act the opposition offers no alternatives, and doing nothing will just lead to more suffering and deterioration of ourselves and our environment.
    Oh by the way I haven’t heard yet, but maybe the Forest Service will be cancelling all projects due to lost of personnel. At first I thought maybe it meant free range.

    • “When you concentrate all your harvesting on private ground rather than spreading out over the larger landscape the effects are evident.”

      So are you suggesting that a legislative mandate for more timber harvest on O&C lands would result in fewer clearcuts or less harvest on private lands? That would be an interesting and perhaps welcome outcome, but the trade-offs seem severe. Plus, the effects of past heavy management on federal lands are still very evident in many places and certainly from the air.

      A question I’ve had for a while is whether private forests across the nation could provide the U.S. with an adequate supply of timber so that commercial harvest from federal lands to provide supply became unnecessary, and the focus on federal lands could truly be restoration work, recreation, habitat, and water. But without an economic incentive for private timber companies, that may or may not be realistic in current budget-crisis times – it’s unlikely Congress would increase the Forest Service budget to tackle more restoration work directly through agency personnel and equipment. And relying solely on private lands may shift too many adverse environmental impacts onto streams that flow through private lands and species that depend on private lands for habitat. I’m curious whether there is a source for such data (i.e., annual U.S. demand for timber/wood products v. available annual supply from private lands), since it sounds like we (the U.S. in general) both import and export logs from and to other countries, to make things more confusing.

      • Focusing preservationism on public lands could be just as bad (or worse) as focusing timber production on to private lands. “Passive restoration” takes a VERY long time to do anything, as we have seen that the “whatever happens” strategy doesn’t “restore” anything, in a short term window. We clearly do not have centuries to pretend that something good is actually happening.

        • Larry: Another problem is that it is very unlikely that “passive restoration” will actually restore a forest to anywhere it’s past condition, no matter how much time is involved. That’s simply a theoretical idea that can be readily modeled, but does not occur in nature in any forest in which people are present — at least none that I am personally aware of or have ever been told about. The anti-human let-nature-take-its-course fad in forest management has proven a predictable disaster, and the evidence is everywhere. Two of the key reasons for researching past local conditions in regards to restoration planning (the critical step most often avoided by our federal land planners and managers) is to determine: 1) those aspects of the past we mostly like want to replicate or maintain for the future, and 2) the role of people in establishing those desired past conditions.

        • I wasn’t advocating for preservationism. I actually suggested restoration work, and didn’t specify passive restoration, although that may be the most sensible choice in many locations far from roads and buildings. My references to timber companies, agency personnel, and equipment implied something more “active” might occur on certain lands. Exactly replicating some past condition may not be feasible and likely is not the goal of restoration, but restoring the function and resilience of certain aspects of ecosystems (useful word sometimes) is widely seen as necessary and prudent.

          No one I know that works on conservation issues uses the term preservationism. The terms “preserve” or “preservation” may have been used in the past to describe efforts to protect species, habitat, and landscapes, and to keep some areas free of much human development, but I think everyone now recognizes that forests, deserts, plains, rivers, oceans, and all other features of the earth are dynamic, not static. Allowing natural processes to prevail in some areas is not the same as expecting conditions to remain “preserved” exactly as they are at some given point in time. Nor does allowing natural processes to prevail in some areas make anyone anti-human.

          I don’t think the terms “preservationist” or “preservationism” further the discussion at this point, because they wrongly imply people still believe the earth is static and can be kept that way. We know that’s not the case.

          • Certainly, there are plenty of people out there who do, indeed, prefer zero management. Just take a look at the comments sections of major publications. Most of us want similar outcomes but, the differences are in how we get to those outcomes. We’ve seen that “free-range wildfires” cannot “restore” species compositions or tree densities to “natural” conditions. Those “preservationist” types think otherwise. Through active management, we CAN “restore” a great many things to “natural conditions”.

            • There are a lot of blanket statements made here. I’m guilty of that at times, too, admittedly.

              You state that “We’ve seen that ‘free-range wildfires’ cannot ‘restore’ species compositions or tree densities to ‘natural’ conditions.” Over what timescale are you considering? What studies show this, exactly, and were these the expressed goals of letting the wildfires in question go “free range”? In a previous comment you said “‘Passive restoration’ takes a LONG time to do anything” and “the ‘whatever happens’ strategy doesn’t ‘restore’ anything, in a short term window.” If that’s true, why should we expect to see immediate results from wildfires in relation to species compositions or tree densities?

              Again, my comment acknowledged a role for some level of active management. Have you determined that passive restoration should not be used anywhere on the National Forest System? Is active restoration realistic for the entire National Forest System, given infrastructure and funding constraints? I recall that you routinely advocate for site-specific determinations. Shouldn’t that be the case in deciding whether active or passive restoration is appropriate?

              Lastly, at the risk of sounding elitist (a commonly used loaded word used when discussing public lands matters on the internet), why does what occurs in the comments sections of major publications make the use of outdated labels like “preservationist” helpful to the conversation here, on this particular blog? From my reading and participation on this blog, it tends to attract a different mix of folks interested in these issues than the average online newspaper.

              There will always be folks that prefer zero management. I’d argue that’s a good thing – it keeps a balance to those on the opposite far end of the spectrum who would prefer that public lands didn’t exist and the free market dictated everything regarding our forests and streams, etc. Plus, folks that prefer zero management often remind us of why we care so deeply about these issues, reasons that can’t always be easily put into words but arise from some internal connection many of us feel to the earth. But it seems very few on this blog have advocated zero management of the National Forest System outside, perhaps, designated Wilderness and inventoried roadless areas. Similarly, very few elected or appointed officials or agency staff seem to be arguing for zero management. You equate zero management with “preservationism,” but that doesn’t seem to be that relevant to the discussion on this particular blog.

              • Of course, I am talking about a reasonable timescale, instead of the centuries it might take to re-grow a an old growth stand. When people advocate “letting nature take its course”, they also embrace the “whatever happens” strategy, which includes man’s mistakes and flaws. It doesn’t take a scientific study to prove that our forests are suffering. Wildfires cannot selectively correct for unnatural species compositions, and cannot selectively correct for size distribution or tree densities. It is much easier and quicker to accomplish via thinning projects.

                Of course, we cannot actively manage Wilderness Areas, and many of them do not need management. What is important is that the general public is educated about their forests, and how they should be managed. We need to show the public that “whatever happens” is rarely a good thing, and that this public ignorance of forestry needs to change. Funding really is a non-issue, because there really is plenty of money. The problem is that politics doesn’t want to loosen the purse strings. I prefer to think that “preservationist” is a very accurate term for those who don’t want ANY management. I don’t consider them to be “environmentalists”. We especially need to debunk those kinds of preservationists, and their kneejerk comments. They will resist all efforts to do any kind of beneficial management activities. Many of us have that “connection” to the earth, enhanced by the schooling we went out of our way to get. People like Chad Hanson are dedicated to eliminating active management, and that is a good reason to engage against those preservationists, in favor of scientific forest management.

                • “It doesn’t take a scientific study to prove that our forests are suffering.” But it sure would help convince more people if you have studies to back up such blanket statements.

                  I am glad that you think many Wilderness areas do not need management (I think).

                  But there are a lot of acres (even when excluding Wilderness) in the National Forest System. You say funding is not an issue if politics weren’t involved. But do you foresee no other other hurdles to actively managing the whole system? How many acres would you suppose should or could be treated annually across the whole system or even on a given national forest? How many miles of roads would need to be added to the road prism? Would there be no environmental trade-offs to the level of active management you would recommend?

                  It would be an interesting case study, to see how a certain area of forest changes in a “whatever happens” scenario over decades, or even a century. Perhaps such studies exist or are ongoing. “Whatever happens” might not be appropriate near developed recreation areas, homes, and other infrastructure (the WUI, if you will), but it seems a stretch to say it is “rarely a good thing” across the whole National Forest System. As you’ve pointed out, site-specific determinations would be more appropriate to reach those conclusions.

                  Chad Hanson doesn’t appear to want zero management. His website says:

                  “Our goal is to ensure ecological management of our National Forests by ending the federal timber sales program and eliminating its system of perverse economic and political incentives that undermine science and threaten native wildlife and forest ecosystems.”

                  He wants ecological management. He might want to end the federal timber sales program, but he isn’t saying “zero management.” Are there no flaws in the federal timber sales program that could be changed?

                  You talk about “preservationists'” kneejerk comments, but are those really occurring that frequently on this blog?

                  • John, Thanks so much for all your comments, which I think are spot on. You are correct regarding some of Larry’s statements and lack of scientific studies to back up some of his assertions. That’s been occurring on this blog for years.

                    “You talk about “preservationists’” kneejerk comments, but are those really occurring that frequently on this blog?”

                    Bingo, John. The real question is are such comments really occurring that frequently anywhere? Seems to me that Larry is a little bit like this guy.


                    • One only has to look at the comments like those in the LA Times articles to see how many people want “nature to take its course”. And yes, I do see that no-so-thinly-veiled insult, Matt. That seems to be your default last-ditch response here.

                    • Larry, Please provide us with evidence of such monsters, opps, I mean, comments and commenters. I’d like to see if the evidence matches up with what you are claiming all the time. P.S. Larry, your words and actions bring about the insults, veiled or not.

          • John: The word preservation may seem outdated to you, but the very concepts you describe — including “resilience” — are at the heart of that word. When the environmental movement adopted the word “conservation” instead of preservation, many of us were upset with that deception; or, to be kind, Animal Farm alteration in terminology. Although you might think people don’t “believe the earth is static,” most of our ESA and NEPA regulations and many of our courtroom decisions are still based on that concept. Sure, we “know that’s not the case” — but the very core of Botkin’s book is that there is a sharp difference in what we know and what we believe, and much of our legal system and much of the science that dominates forestry, fisheries, and wildlife biology still operates under the old beliefs.

            Right now we have twice the returning chinook in the Columbia River than was predicted only a few months ago by our “best” agency scientists; that is either 50% accuracy or 100% error, depending on how you divide the numbers, and both would be graded “F” in a classroom. The same thing is true of our climate models — 100% failure. I think you’d enjoy Botkin, he explains why that is, and it has everything to do with the points you are making.

            • I think the definition of “conservation” is broad enough to encompass all the nuanced connotations people assign to it, so deception seems a stretch. “Conserve” can mean “protect” as well as “use carefullly or sparingly,” according to online dictionaries. I don’t have a dictionary from the 1950s or 1960s to see if “the environmental movement” brought about a change in the list of definitions.

              The ESA and NEPA give agencies quite a bit of discretion within their frameworks. NEPA is procedural, not substantive, so it does not dictate any particular environmental outcome. Which specific provisions or regulations do you suggest need to change to take into account the dynamic nature of the earth and its many features and processes? Could there be consequences to changing those provisions or regulations that would actually lessen protection for imperiled species and result in further population declines, local extirpations, or extinctions? Does Botkin’s book point out specific statutory provisions and regulations that he thinks need to change? If so, that would be interesting to read.

              It’s good news that the fall chinook run is as large as it is. It’s still a lot smaller than it was historically (pre-Bonneville dam and heavy commercial fishing) and most of the returning fish are hatchery-raised, not naturally spawned, but I suppose desiring historical conditions is unrealistic and might raise contention in this thread, given all the dynamic talk.

              • Hi John: I was a stamp collector when I was a kid and was 8 years old when the 1956 3-cent Wildlife Conservation stamps came out, and I added un-postmarked versions to my collection. That was also the same time as the Agricultural Act of 1956, which created the Conservation Reserve Program. Forest and Soil Conservation stamps came out later and were 4-cents each. At that time it seemed pretty well understood that conservation meant “wise use,” with the emphasis definitely on “use” — and in a manner similar to Pinchot’s 1905 “Use Book” quote that I cited in an earlier comment. The debate was still between Pinchot’s “conservationists” and Muir’s “preservationists.” That’s what I was referring to, not modern nuances or re-defintions of those terms. And why I used the “Animal Farm” reference, and why I think the term has been hi-jacked for political purposes.

                Regarding historical chinook numbers, you may be interested in a “peer-reviewed” paper I wrote more than 15 years ago regarding historical salmon runs in Oregon, and that I have linked on this blog in the past:


                Mostly, these days, I think the differences between a salmon born in a hatchery and a salmon born in the wild are about the same as a baby born in a hospital or a baby born at home. They’re still the same animal, either way. Also, please note that I did my salmon research under Ben Stout and Dan Botkin. His book would be an excellent read for you as it examines the very basis of many of the policies we have been discussing. Plus, I’d be interested in your comments.

              • I really think that we need different terms to describe the difference between those who want forests preserved, and those who want active management. As Bob says, “conservation” has, and will always mean non-wasteful use of resources. You seem to want to lump those people together. When Hanson talks about “management”, he means the larger bureaucracy, and not the actual lands. Remember, that Hanson was labeled by the Sierra Club as too extreme and “shrill” for their views. When he sues to “save” dead trees along roads, is THAT called “conservation”?? Luckily for America, many “preservationists” have been converted to “conservationists”, seeing the forest realities through increased education and observation.

                • There are those that think forests can be cast in amber. Too many.
                  As for the timescale, let’s keep in mind that honest science is recognizing the anthropocentric history of the vegetative landscape.
                  In other words, the timescale of history is one in which humans could see the results of actions taken, positive or negative, in their lifetimes.
                  Classic example in Oregon is Tillamook. Burnt flat, actively intervened, right? So, what happens 60 years later? The enviros want to turn an artificial forest into “wilderness” with A-37 or whatever it was.
                  Thank goodness they failed.

                  • Agreed. Looking back into the early 90’s, I guess we could have left that 300 million board feet of dead trees out there, in the woods, on my old Ranger District. Anyone want to tell us the advantages of leaving all those millions of dead trees out there? The Tahoe Basin is a perfect example of that, and we’ll continue to see the increased fuel loading that will enhance any new wildfire ignition.

                  • Hi Dave: Good to see you here! I planted my first trees in the Tillamook Burn as part of my Grant High School sophomore Biology class field trip from Portland in 1961, and my Dad filled my first doe tag in the Burn in 1962 while the rest of my family visited the Seattle World’s Fair. The observed changes during my lifetime has been, as you say, phenomenal. Recent attempts to tie Tillamook plantations into wildlife habitat and “critical” salmon requirements have been ridiculous, but successful on many fronts. The conifer have put a real damper on the mice, vole, and deer populations during that time, and I think there were more fish during the 1933-1951 “6-year jinx” years than there are now. I’m guessing far fewer songbirds, carrion eaters, wildflowers, berries, and butterflies, too. So much for facts when you’ve got a bridge to sell.

      • Hello Friend (if I may)
        Has it ever occured to you that there is a possibility to use solely private forestland
        Al we need to do if find a technolgy where we increase the yield of lumber to double todays yield.
        At first you might think this is crazy because thisis a win-win solution for everybody
        First the concept of the general public woould be recoved and it would be a good example for the environmentalists who believe that they are the only ones who know how to carefor our forests.
        This innovation is called the Hollow Beam MENT OVER TEN YEARS OF R+D PLUS
        U$ 7.1 million in investmentg and made by the Innovator He thought that obtaianing a yield couble as obtained today would be an unbeatable proposition,but he was dead wrong because this solution was antiquated and not as modern as the possibility we have today to inspect the interior of the log before processing using devices generally used in Medicin.
        As I look to the extend of the R+D in this research mostly with goverment money and the Conference they are programing shortly really amazes me when compared to the Hollow beam
        The only explanation I have is that innovations have to be set on the market not before its time
        but exactly at the time that corresponds. So I guess I will have to be patient and wait.
        But the problem is that each year we loose 10 billion dollars (aprox) If we just consider the total
        pine lumber produced in the US and Canada.
        Would appreciate comments on this subject it is possible that I am wrong!!!!!!
        Pablo Korach
        Engineered wood proucts

        • Pablo: Two (serious) suggestions, if I may:

          1) Can you provide a drawing or other method of describing your “Hollow Beam” technology? It is difficult to understand what you are talking about, much less commenting on it, without better information.

          2) Do you have access to Word or some other software that has spellcheck and some form of grammar check? It is very difficult to understand what you are talking about with so many misspellings, typos, and broken sentences. The meaning mostly comes through, but with much difficulty, and that can be easily corrected with an inexpensive and easy to use program. Word works well for these purposes, as do several others. If you have been working on a project with several million dollars invested, you need to buy a program for about $50 so you can better describe what you are doing in English.

          Good luck!


    • The question should be can Canada keep supplying 30% of our supply. The MPB epidemic…and other factors…make it look like half of that is going the way of the dodo bird within 5 years. Higher lumber prices can mean longer salvage life for dead Lodgepole….but the wall will be hit.

      Can private make up the 15% of total US supply that will disappear…at the same time “housing starts” do pick up (I’m assuming there will be a pick up…as there is a huge backlog of demographic demand)? I’m no expert…but I think private forestry, as in industrial forest lands…has about hit the glass ceiling of maximum productivity. The average age of Weyerhauser harvest is 50 years…which puts those trees as planted in 1965. I’m assuming they were fertilizing back then…perhaps there may be a yield increase from better “seed Genetics” that probably became en vogue in the late 70’s. Of course there is always the bane of forest productivity…the small woodlot owner. Higher prices may shake some them loose.

      We’ll be having this “USFS can cut more” debate again within five years. If the outraged reaction to higher gas prices is any indication of ALL our glutinous generations, who use much more natural resources than the “greatest generation” (while fantasizing they don’t), I’m gonna guess there will be a bigger push to cut more on USFS lands….while at the same time reducing fire hazard. Hey! A win-win out for all. Time waits for no one.

  5. Derek: Here in western Oregon a 50-year old tree is huge. My crews and I planted several thousand acres of trees for Georgia-Pacific in Lincoln County in the 1970’s. When I went back to see how they were doing about five years ago, they had already been clearcut and replanted. They were 25 to 30 years old at the time of harvest and had never been fertilized — what we used to call Site 1 and Site 2 ground. We also precommercially thinned several thousand acres during those years that had been aerially seeded in the 1950s and 1960s. Those areas had been clearcut, too. The plantations were so-called “super trees,” but weren’t genetically much different than any other trees in the neighborhood — mostly better site prep, better quality seedlings, and top quality “micro-site” density planting (which we learned from Weyerhaeuser) by my crews. It was supposed to be a 40-year rotation, but Plum Creek bought GP out and liquidated whatever they could to make payments — same thing GP did in the 1950s when they first got the land. Just like corn, only a lot slower between harvests and a lot more deer and elk because of the browse. Salmon and trout seemed unaffected. Cougars seemed to like the more abundant deer and elk populations and responded accordingly. I had no problem keeping a full freezer for my family.

    • Derek and Bob

      The standard loblolly pine sawtimber rotation age in the south for industrial timberlands is around 28 years with two prior thinnings at around 16 and 21 depending on site index 🙂

      • Always fascinated by Southern forestry Gil. WEnt through the Ouchita in Ark. 8 years ago, and being a THEN naïve westerner thought to myself, “Hmph…the logging here doesn’t impress me much.” And then found out that the Ouchita harvests MORE timber than any national forest in the country! THAT’s what I get for taking a “scenic byway” LOL.

        Weyerhauser’s (I’m a stock holder) rotation in the South is 30 years. But back to the above…would you agree that “industrial” forestry has about “topped out” as far as production increase/acre goes? My point is…I don’t think “private” is going to ride to the rescue during the next “timber famine.” I was reading up on Alabama’s harvest awhile back…and they mentioned that Alabama harvests about 95% of the sustained yield. Now that’s what I call forestry. Canada and the South rode to the rescue during the spotted owl famine…but who’s gonna rescue us from Canada’s timber famine? Germany…Finland…Russia?

        The “small private woodlot” owner may…but I know in Montana…and I suspect the PNW…that the “small private” landowner has been the ones supplying the “non-industrial” timber industry there for the last 20 years. So I’m not thinking that’s gonna be a big player.

        What drives housing starts? Awhile back I was enlightened to the fact that simple demographic drives it. The US population grows at what…1%/year (it’s still the country to immigrate too)…but that’s enough to crank out 2 million housing starts /year. That is…unless the 20 something’s wanna still live at home after getting married and having kids. With our wonderfull economy…that might be the case. I saw on PBS’s “Macneil/Lehrer”
        the other day that 90% of the “jobs created” in the last year are “part time.” Gee…I wonder why(being non-politically facetious here).

        Never-the-less…the longer it takes for the economy to improve(it will…maybe with regime change)…the more British Columbia’s lodgepole rots…the more China will want to live like enviros here do today. Could be a perfect storm. I find it ironic that the 15% of timber that will disappear with Canada’s demise…is about 8 billion board feet…which is just about the “decline” of USFS harvest in 20 years. And I hope I don’t hear some enviro claim that “it’s time the US lived on less resources”….because recent history sure hasn’t borne that fantasy out. I guess all the hippies grew up to be Republicans.

        I can see Democrat polls saying, “hey, we can accelerate USFS timber harvest by thinning out forests to reduce fire hazard AND produce more timber to lower housing costs….a WIn Win thang….now…what to do about those pesky lawsuits by the fringe element.” As we all know…policy in this country is driven by knee jerk reactions to the perceived crisis of the moment by politicians who just HAVE to be seen finding a solution. I call it “solutionism.” LOl. Hence the pendulum swing.

        Anyway…enough musings. But I would like to know your and Bob’s and any others opinion if the “private” forests can “take up the slack.”
        Bob….I’m always fascinated by the “growth rings” of the PNW forests.

  6. There are a wealth of examples in the comments sections of LA Times articles. Here are a few examples on just ONE page!

    “If there was only one acre of unspoiled land left, a GOPer would come along and either cut down all the trees, drill for oil, mine for minerals, build a cookie-cut­ter housing tract or open it to hunting. Is there anything that the GOP can’t keep their slimy little hands off of? Anything?”

    “We MUST log those forests to the ground in the name of fire prevention, then pave over the area and build skateboard parks!
    That will put an end to the fire danger and give millions of uneducated, umeployed youth something to do!”

    “The GOP will not be happy until the poor starve to death, federal parks and forests are destroyed, and guns are in the hands of every man, woman, child, dog, cat, and parrot. It’s the American way!”

    Some people support their partisan politics, at the expense of our forests. That includes BOTH parties.

    • Larry, these are interesting comments and all. Seems like a commenter or two doesn’t like the GOP. Fair enough…..

      But I fail to see anything in these comments that indicates the comments are from “preservationists” (whatever that even means) or that the comments support your claim that: “One only has to look at the comments like those in the LA Times articles to see how many people want “nature to take its course.”


      • Well, then, you can go and find those comments on your own. No one else is doubting that my claim is true, regarding comments in the LA Times. I did see several more specific examples in other articles (which you can pursue on your own, Matt.)

        • Wow, Larry. I hope you take more responsibility in other parts of your life than you do for some of your words, actions and unsubstantiated exaggerations here on this blog.

          Once again, for like the 50th time on this blog, you fail to provide documentation and evidence to back up your claims…and then somehow try and turn the table on me.

          Please explain to me why in the world I should spend my time looking at the LA Times comments section to find “preservationists” (whatever that is) and let “nature to take its course” comments that you are so confident are all over the place…yet you can’t even find one to share with us here. Whatever, dude.

    • These comments on an L.A. Times article just seem like bluster and sarcasm to me – people venting online, probably anonymously (which is fine, by the way). Why give so much weight to these comments from other places on the Internet when the discussion seems more elevated here and less sarcastic (usually) and less partisan-focused? Why is the comments section for the L.A. Times the measure for what is useful terminology and dialogue on this blog here? Is the L.A. Times that widely read online specifically for issues related to forest planning?

      • I don’t find it helpful to ignore comments from taxpayers, even if they are not based in fact. My goal is to push the extremes back towards the middle. And, certainly, those comments are pretty extreme. You might (or might not) notice that I rarely endorse Republican forestry bills. It isn’t very useful to propose bills that have no chance of passing. It is better to cut through the partisan rhetoric, from both sides, to have flexible and accountable plans that rely on a compromise of varied sciences, in favor of “the greatest good”, for all citizens. Here in the Sierra Nevada, we don’t have a perfect “suite” of forest policies but, we are still moving forward, managing our forests for multiple values and multiple uses. Yet, there still are people who want to eliminate thinning projects, in favor of “whatever happens”. Well, that illegal campfire that ignited the Rim Fire was one of those “happenings”. Even as the fire was burning Yosemite, the crown jewel of the National Parks system, some people were claiming it was a good thing, while blaming all previous management as bad.

        Yes, it is important to me that the public is behind active forest management. I really don’t care if they look over our shoulder, to make sure we are doing what is right. In fact, I welcome it as a vehicle for further education.

        • There are always going to be folks on both extremes. Often the extremes are the most vocal, particularly online it seems. But most folks (taxpayers? voters?) seem to have already moved away from a “zero management” stance, so why keep using loaded words and labels that do not help bridge any divides that might still exist? Isn’t that one of the purposes of this blog – to bridge divides? Your use of terms like “preservationist” have an accusatory flavor. These are my personal thoughts and I’ll drop the matter after this, but the use of loaded words and blanket labels just turns me off and makes me less inclined to engage rather than dig deeper into a nuanced conversation about the merits of public land policies. If you want the public to get behind active forest management, one step might be to stop using terms like “preservationist” that further distrust and skepticism, rather than encourage dialogue.

          • Once we have addressed the “lowest common denominator”, then we can go on to the finer points of public land management. Here in California, we have Congress people who are against active forest management, and they were voted in by people who support “preservationism”. Yes, you can choose to attach anything you want to “preservationist”, but that is YOUR connotation. Additionally, preservationists do not desire to “bridge any divides”. I’m sure those people also have similar views against other political issues. I am certainly willing to compromise but, some people will not, and will go to court to keep away from any compromise. A BIG part of being a conservationist is a willingness to compromise. An open mind is all I ask for.

          • Okay, John, how about giving conservationist back to those who actually understand the word and let the dialecticians pick something more descriptive for themselves.
            Of course, that will never happen — just like global warming morphed into climate change.

  7. The reason for Forest Management is? Keep our forest healthy and green, water clean, bugs, animals, fish and birds happy. And to provide trees to cut so we can make something out of them and pay our bills. I am sure we all have bills to pay. (also because we like to make things from wood, its very user friendly)
    The timber industry isn’t evil, no more than Klamath – Siskiyou Wildlands is evil. Though you would have a hard time convincing each group otherwise. ( I still think kwild is kind of evil)
    When are we going to able to accept the idea that we can be really good forest managers and harvest timber. (and that the 9th circuit court doesn’t really know anything about the forests)
    I just hate to see those all those of dead trees that Larry has mentioned and that I see everyday, just rotting away.
    And every time there is a harvest plan, the FS has to try and prove that it is necessary to do for the good of the environment or necessary for some other reason.
    How about the idea we are going to harvest those trees to make money, because we all need some.
    (and to not harvest them is a great waste of resource)
    The idea that we would that we should not harvest timber from our pubic forests would be kind of like saying we shouldn’t produce fossil fuels in the United States. (and then take the oil wells we do have and set them on fire)
    And by the way we have a great road system in place in our National Forests and we should do everything we can to keep. (and stop closing them)
    It is so good in fact the only time we should we need to build any new roads they would be short temporary side spurs that could be decommissioned after use.
    Isn’t lighting fires in the Wilderness areas management? So how about some harvest management too?


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