Maybe the term “clearcutting” means so many things to so many different people, that it’s not helpful in understanding people’s specific concerns with forest practices. Let’s go to a case we’ve discussed recently on the Colville. Here’s a statement in the KRCG press release that Matthew posted here:
The plan signals a significant increase in logging – including a large areas of clearcutting – as much as 25,000 acres per year across the 1.1 million acre Colville Forest and above prior recommendations.
Now, if we assume that the Colville will clearcut in the same proportions it currently does, FACTS shows (if my extraction is correct) about 90 acres of clearcuts since 2000. Those are in ski areas, rights of way and a rock pit. Those are not actually clearcuts in the timber harvesting sense, although timber was probably harvested. So we don’t know exactly what KRCG considers a “clearcut”. For example, clearing rights of way could be considered clearcutting because all trees are removed. But it is not clearcutting in the regeneration sense. The word clearcutting has a long association with timber harvesting and not with clearing land for other purposes. That’s how it’s defined in the Dictionary of Forestry (Helms). That’s also what the famous clearcutting controversies were about, which lead to NFMA, which lead to planning rules and plans and so on. The Forest History Society has a brief history of those clearcutting controversies by Jerry Williams. I know some readers lived through those years, I’d be interested in your perspectives on that history.
When I worked in south-central Oregon in the 80’s, I remember a field trip with Weyerhaeuser and a professor from OSU about how we should make our clearcuts larger, as that was more efficient. That was the “latest science” of the time. We had just stopped doing selection (“pick and pluck” and Keen’s classification of ponderosa pine) and were not too inclined toward the whole clearcutting idea, which originally came from the Wet West Side. But we got into it, and then came along some people now saying you should make clearcuts smaller for apparently good reasons. Then Jerry Franklin came up with “big messy clearcuts,” for more good reasons. These, I think, were bigger than the previous small ones, and perhaps bigger than the original large ones, but they had more different kinds of material left. Anyway, all these clearcutting trends were always about timber, not clearing for rights-of-way nor subdivisions or whatever else. The alternatives were always shelterwoods or uneven-aged management- other silvicultural choices. I’m also not sure that “small clearcuts” had a defined size that distinguished them from group shelterwoods or group selection, or “wildlife openings” or… The idea of all these different choices seemed to be making sure the right conditions were present for regeneration to be successful. Perhaps the way the word is used today, it means something else. But what exactly? Is a clearcut in the eye of the beholder?
Given all that history, when Jim Coleman says in this comment:
“clearcutting is happening now and this year 5-60 acre clearcuts have gouged out of the Sherman Pass area up to 5,500′ elevation – and in full view of the Pacific NW National Scenic Trail and adjacent a Forest Service Scenic Byway.”
And yet the EA for the Sherman Pass Project says (in response to one of Dick Artley’s voluminous comments on the project). (The FS had 50 pages of responses to his comments out of a 238 page EA).
“Silviculture: No clearcuts are planned for this project. While the purpose and need for this project is to protect the highway and powerlines from wildfire impacts, visual quality objectives have been considered. “
What are we to make of it? I don’t think of hazard tree removal along roads or powerlines as “linear clearcuts” because of my history with the term. But perhaps some people do. Or maybe it depends on the size of the opening, either relative to tree height or not, or the size of the trees that remain. How do you think about the term?