Modern management needed to keep our forests thriving

An op-ed from a New Jersey newspaper, by a NJ forester (and SAF member):

Modern management needed to keep our forests thriving

This does not involve federal land, but the The Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area, where the “forest stewardship plan has been subject to acrimonious debate.” The idea is to provide a diversity of forest structure and thus a diversity of wildlife habitat on the 3,500-acre WMA. The same argument made by Professors Franklin and Johnson regarding the need for “ecological forestry” in the PNW.

Read the comments below the article for opposing views and a link to a 36-page critique of the plan.


9 thoughts on “Modern management needed to keep our forests thriving”

  1. Sounds like a great step forward. I refer to a management strategy that is focused on health and diversity of individual forest communities as “Natures Way”. The required step is to be able to recognize and treat individual communities. The scientist must develop treatment prescriptions for each community and then accumulate this individual prescriptions into a project. To gain acceptance requires clearly defined goals for each community, which requires acceptance with the potentially effected interests through up-front dialog.

  2. Thanks to Steve for saying at the bottom of this post “Read the comments below the article for opposing views and a link to a 36-page critique of the plan.”

    Here’s a link to that 36 page public comment on the plan from the New Jersey Highlands Coalition.

    Also, below are two comments I found interesting from Sue Jones Dorward:

    The comment about “can and must abide by 21st century environmental standards” is not true. The plan is exempt from the 2004 Highlands Act, Freshwater Wetlands Act, and Floodwater Area Hazard Control Act. The *only* thing it needs to follow is the *1995* BMP document. And they propose buffers as narrow as 25 feet, and 40 feet by a C1 stream, as opposed to the 300 foot buffers required by the Highlands Act. This is all very disconcerting.

    The scientists and ecologists from the Highlands Coalition’s Natural Heritage Committee, many of whom have PhDs, have picked apart the science used in the Sparta Mountain logging plan, which they describe as “cherry-picking” and omitting important findings. Their analysis of the effects on the many species of rare birds that are already present on the mountain shows that the logging would negatively impact many species whereas only a few would benefit. Also, the proposed buffers are very narrow (25 feet when the Highlands Act requires 300) and are not subject to any regulation. There is nothing in the proposal to measure baseline water quality, set standards, or monitor the waters. There are a lot of things wrong with this plan as proposed. In addition the DEP admits that the stakeholder process was flawed, and there was very little notification or input from any stakeholders. That is why all of this criticism is coming after the fact as opposed to having being addressed during the development of the plan.

    Seems like there’s more to the story that the SAF guy told the public. Also have to wonder how Professors Franklin and Johnson would respond/react to the comments from Sue Jones Dorward, and certainly the 36 pages worth of substantive comments from the New Jersey Highlands Coalition or the scientists and ecologists from the Highlands Coalition’s Natural Heritage Committee who apparently picked apart the science used in the Sparta Mountain logging plan, which they describe as “cherry-picking” and omitting important findings.

  3. “Many of these threatened species require young forest, forest openings, and otherwise disturbed forest in order to thrive.”

    I challenge someone to come up with a list of such species that amounts to “many.” (I know there are a few examples, like the golden-cheeked warbler.)

    In most cases, I think private land is a pretty good source of “disturbed forest,” and if the appropriate scale for a species is considered, public lands in the east should not require artificial disturbance for this reason. (Sometimes this argument gets raised for vulnerable species where the primary motive is actually to produce more habitat for game species on public lands to increase hunting opportunities.)

    Where there is little public land, 20 acres might look a lot bigger than it does in the west.

    • According to the Young Forest Project, “Young Forest is Essential for a Healthy Land
      More than 60 kinds of wildlife including mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects need young forest to survive. These creatures are slowly and steadily becoming rarer as the amount of young forest dwindles on the landscape.” I’d bet the number is more than 60.

      • “Some of these animals have been classified as threatened or even endangered.” I think “some” is closer to the truth than “many.”

        Thanks for the link, Steve. I had heard of the YFP, but hadn’t really taken a look at it. Some of it sounds like typical lobbying for logs: “Carefully sited and conducted, clearcut logging can mimic natural events like wildfires or windstorms – while yielding renewable forest products like furniture-grade wood, paper pulp, and wood chips that can be burned to generate electricity.” But I’m sure there are places where this makes ecological sense, and there are lot of non-industry partners who must agree.

        I would agree with this characterization of the solution: “Maybe the best way to gauge how much of our woodlands should be managed for this type of habitat is not through any estimate of pre-settlement acreage — but rather the amount of young forest needed to preserve rare and declining wildlife for our children and their children.” We just need to base this amount needed for at-risk species on sound science (instead of the spin this op-ed used).

  4. Interesting comments by laypersons. Let’s hear what wildlife biologists have to say about the matter.

    The summer 2001 edition of the Wildlife Society Bulletin (WSB), a peer-reviewed journal of the professional organization of American wildlife biologists, contained a series of 8 articles. These examined in depth the changes in habitat and wildlife populations that are resulting from current non-management of wildlands in the eastern United States.

    In that series, Trani (Margaret K. et al, WSB 29:423.424) states “Providing young forests contributes to the biological diversity of the forested landscape. The continued maturation of timberland in eastern forests will contribute to the decline and potential loss of some of these [disturbance-dependent ] species”.

    In the same series, “These newly created openings in the forest canopy will also provide nesting and feeding opportunities for disturbance-dependent non-game species such as the golden-winged, chestnut-sided and prairie warblers” (Hunter et all WSB 29: 440-455).

    In other literature, Hamel (US Fish and Wildlife Service 2000) and Pagan et al (Condor 102:738-747) point out the importance of early successional habitat to such “interior species” as the cerulean warbler and wood thrush that are dependent on extensive areas of mature forest. They suggest that managed disturbance has minimal fragmentation impact in largely forest landscapes as long as the forest cover exceeds 70% of the land base.

    In summing up the evidence presented in the WSB’s special edition, Askins ( Robert A.,Wildlife Society Bulletin 29 (407-412)) concluded that “…without active management we will lose some of the most interesting and diverse natural communities in eastern North America”.

  5. Here’s an important addendum to my just submitted comment and taken from the same WSB series. Something that we all can agree on?

    William C. et al, WSB, 29: 440-455) echoed the consensus of other biologist in stating “Allowing “nature to ‘take its course’ cannot restore the disturbance-maintained ecosystems present prior to European settlement. These conditions are likely lost forever due to the permanent loss of land to human development, loss of keystone species, disruption of natural process, and an ever increasing array of exotics.”


Leave a Comment