Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How to Save the Forest

I was sent an article the other day that was written by a local logger/forester.  The article was published in the May/June 2014 edition of the Journal of the American Chestnut Foundation.  I know the author personally.  The article was so insightful and was so well written that I wanted to share a few excerpts from the article with my readers.  Enjoy! 

"How to Save the Forest: Cutting the Right Trees is Better than Cutting No Trees at All." by Martin Melville

To be fully productive, forests need proper management, and that means cutting the proper trees. The issue must become not whether to cut all trees, the best trees, or no trees, but the right trees.

As a society and as individual landowners, it is crucial that we make the shift from resources extraction and allowing the forest to heal itself to intentional resource management.

The cutting of trees is the primary tool foresters use to manage what a forest becomes. In cutting the right trees, forest productivity increases, diversity is maintained, and wildlife thrives. In cutting the wrong trees, and sometimes in not cutting any trees at all, productivity suffers, regeneration often fails, and diversity and habitat are lost.

The de-facto method of determining which trees will be cut and which will be left practiced by many landowners is know as "diameter limit harvesting," or D-cutting.  In this practice, all trees larger than a given limit are cut to make way for the future forest to grow. This method may have more aesthetic appeal, but it is not grounded in the science of forest management.

The concern of a D-cut is only about what resources can be extracted, not what can be left for the future. Often there is thought about wildlife food or habitat. Diameter limit harvesting also ignores the spacing of the trees that remain. 

"We cut the best and leave the rest," one forester said, speaking of practices such as D-cutting that degrade the forest.

Clear-cuts are controversial. They are a tool. There are times when a clear-cut is the best tool; there are times when it is not. The immediate result of a clear-cut may not be aesthetically pleasing. But, it is often the best way to increase forest productivity, diversity, and sustainability.

The message is not that cutting trees is wrong, for trees are one of the few truly renewable resources we have on this earth. The message is that if we cut the "right" trees, forests are a renewable, sustainable resource that can help society meet its resource needs and maintain diversity and habitat while providing landowners with healthier forests.

Martin Melville lives in central Pennsylvania where he practices logging, forestry, tree climbing, philosophy, and writing (among other things). More of his writing can be found at: www.martintrees.wordpress.com

To read the full article click here and go to page 17.

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