Forestry Friday … Resilience of Nature

golden retriever, logs, log deck, Blitz

Blitz in the shade of the Pole Plant log deck.

Nature is fragile or is it? Humans certainly have the ability to wreak havoc on our environment, but given time, it heals. I’m not suggesting careless disregard. I believe it’s our responsibility to be the best stewards of our natural world that we can be. The ospreys don’t mess in their nest and neither should we. My experience as a forester over the years has taught me that Mother Nature is a relentless and tough lady. In the natural environment, disturbance often equals opportunity.

In the top picture of Blitz lying next to the pole log deck, it is treeless except for the stacks of logs waiting their turn in the mill. Now look at the picture below. Blitz is sitting in a lovely pine forest. This place was a log deck too, forty-seven years ago. It wasn’t replanted by people. The surrounding forest took it back. The pines invaded this site with no help at all. I was six years old when this process took hold. Now a pine forest stands where a log deck once sat.

Forest, growth, golden retriever, log deck

This was the site of the Little Giant Mill log deck.

Today, by replanting and with proper nurturing, we replenish harvest units and the burned areas much faster than just letting nature take its course. We have a better scientific understanding of our environment and more sophisticated technology available today to manage our forests. We’ve come a long way in forest management over the last one hundred years. Trees weren’t replanted back then, but forests have grown back. Our sustainable forestry practices today are resulting in forests that are more healthy and vigorous.  I’d love to see these forests a hundred years from now.

41 thoughts on “Forestry Friday … Resilience of Nature

  1. When John Cowper Powys, a British novelist 1872-1963, went from the UK to the USA, he wrote in one of his books or diary how he noticed a difference in how nature reacted in both countries. He was surprised by how aggressively and quickly nature took back what humans had taken (or disturbed) in the USA. I agree with him. We have a mild sea climate and our nature isn’t so quick and aggressive in reclaiming its losses. Although I very much appreciate your positive message, for other environments, especially related to different soil, temperature, and other abiotic characteristics, it may take much longer for nature to recover or reclaim. Sometimes it might even fail. Having said that, I like the thought that nature will survive all and everything, even humans.

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    • I agree with what you say Paula. Any time there are factors that restrict growth such low moisture, poor site productivity, and hot or cold climates, then recovery time can be much longer. Recovery still occurs, but it probably isn’t occuring at an acceptable rate for most folks. That is where being a good steward come into play. Like assisting the recovery when we can. More importantly, avoid severe impacts to these type of habitats in the first place. I also, believe life on this planet will out last people.

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  2. You are so right! My house was new when we moved in. Unfortunately, half the hillside was bulldozed away to make a level site for building on…severe lack of imagination, why they couldn’t build the house up the hillside on different levels, I don’t know, as is the norm in many countries. But anyway, the banking behind the house was a bare patch of bleak soil. Now, seven years later, it is full of willow trees, all of which have seeded themselves. The landscape gardener said they were a weed, and I should get rid of them, but I like them; they are a fine example of the power of nature to me.

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    • You are so right Ali. Wildfires are the perfect example of this. We rush in after a fire to log the salvage timber as quickly as we can to save the value of the wood. However, it is also a race to replant the trees and re-establish the forest as fast as we can. We know if we don’t, the burned area with very quickly re-establish itself with grass, brush and trees. As foresters, we want to get the trees growing. But the grass and brush will dominate the area. After that, it is a battle to control the competing vegetation. We don’t worry about the site being devestated as much as losing control of it, because of the naturally aggressive reclaiming of the site by brush.

      By the way, I like native plants in the landscaping. Willows are beautiful, grow fast and quite hardy. That’s all good in my book.

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      • I guess the brush is naturally better at re-asserting itself on the landscape than our precious trees then, which kind of explains in part why the forests in Ireland never grew back after ancient man cut them down to make his fields.

        I have such mixed feelings; part of me thinks Mother Nature should be left to heal herself in her own way without the interference of man, but I love and value our trees, and realise that they need man’s help, after all , it is mostly due to our interference in the first place that the world is now the way it is.

        (I’m not a hippy, nor do I follow any druid or wiccan beliefs, that is just my gut feeling, lol!)

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    • Most definitely, the science, technology and practice of forestry have improved immensely. However, we do call it the “practice of forestry.” The are new things we are learning all the time.

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  3. Have seen resulting forests reclaim hundred forty year old coach roads, where one could no longer tell a road ever was, and have seen them reclaim disused roads of only two years, a river young saplings as thick as an arm. Yes so right, everything finds resilience to return to a natural sense. Have a good weekend, Tim.

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    • I’ve seen it many times also Sean. Nature is very patient and relentless. We try to maintain fuelbreaks in key locations. It is an expensive operation, since the vegetation never stops invading the cleared areas.

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  4. As other folks have commented, thank goodness for the resilience of nature although not true in every instance of the the taking and raping of the land. The tall grass prairie comes to mind and
    now in Texas there is only 1-2% percent that has been saved from destruction. Only in a few instances there’s been an attempt to make paririe restoration, a project.

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    • Yvonne, you caused me to google the tall grass prairies I was curious when you said “raping of the land”, as to the causes of the habitat loss. In our forest lands the biggest and most permanent source of habitat loss is developement. A good thing about managing forests for timber, is that it creates an economic imperative to continue to have those forests They will be at different stages in their life cycle, but will continue to be forestland. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems the loss of prairie is related to developement and agricultural practices. Have they tried using the tall grass praire plant community in commercial agriculture? Ususally, the native plants are better suited to these sites. Create an economic reason to grow it and people will. That isn’t a total substitute for set aside areas that contain naturally functioning habitat, but it does contribute to the overall quantity of available habitat.

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      • Yes, absolutely you are 100% correct how developement and agricultural are the reasons for the destruction of the prairies and any of the other vital and often critical areas of native habitat. There has never been enough local, state, and, national government intervention to protect natural habitat to help the environment and to ensure that no species is lost. I put the blame on all these governments/countires for not having leaders that had/have any forsight to enact laws that would/could save the very essential areas that not only benefits the flora and fauna but humans as well. It is imperitive that all countries wake up to the fact that pollution and pesticides have become the primary reason why there has been a huge shift in weather patterns. I deviated from the original crux of our comments but habitat loss ties in with climate change because trees and other vegation helps to keep the air cleaner.

        I’ll get off my soap box now.I ‘ll add one more thing. You are right again by making native grasses profitable. The prairie grasses are superior in many ways for long term grazing but at the same time there is a need for alfalfa and costal hay which is used by so many horseand cattle owners. Perahps at some point some research will be done on prairie grasses that might prove them superior but that is very iffy and will most likely never happen.

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        • Maybe someone out their is working on that very thing. I know The Nature Conservancy has been involved in prairie preservation. They are a very reputable and outside the box organization. I suspect they may have been looking into it, but I don’t know that for sure. It’s all about striking a balance, isn’t it.

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          • Tim that indeed is correct but I have seen evidence of Nature conservancy dropping the ball when land should have been acquired before it fell to development. That happened within the city limits of the town where I live when no conservation group was willing to take a stand oin about 25 acres of pristine paririe. But I suspect that it was controlled politically and the big guns that were/are the prominent business guys here held the sway. That prairie is now covered in concete and has a huge auto dealership sitting there. Such a shame. It took me years before I could drive past what was once a magical place.

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  5. Hope you don’t mind me butting in here, picked your name out from Wilfred’s blog. interesting post, but here in UK , we are building on land so fast I can’t see Nature ever having the chance to replenish, It makes me so sad when I see the tearing up of trees, copses and land for more and more houses which we need because our population is growing so fast.

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    • I kind of like when people butt in because they speak their minds.
      It is alway sad to see wild areas get developed, and that type of habitat loss is a close to permanent as can be. I’ve seen a lot of prime ag land get developed into housing tracts. No more fields of pheasant and migrating waterfowl. So I know what you mean. Most of that development came to a stop around here in 2008 due to the downturn in the economy.
      Part of the reason I have an optimistic view is because of my job. I have the opportunity to see so many places that were once inhabited by people, that have now completely returned to nature. It makes me realize how transitory we humans are.
      Nature is patient and relentless and will eventually outlast us all.

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      • I sincerely hope you are right, it gives me hope.I am fortunate in one way that I live close to the sea, and thankfully there’s not a lot they can do to spoil that, apart from overfishing and pollution , oh dear that’s a downer, but at least they can’t dig it up. 🙂 thanks for replying, so many don’t.

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        • I’m quite optimistic when I look back. Around here it was normal for people throw trash out the car windows 40 plus years ago. Not anymore. In LA back then the smog was horrendous, but it’s much better now. In my profession, science and technology have improved our ability to grow trees and protect our wild resource. Change takes time, but I am indeed optimistic about the future!

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  6. Excellent – you are so good at conveying information. Perfect before and after photos to illustrate the point. It’s so disheartening to drive past clear cuts here in the Seattle area, but I will remind myself that they are often replanted, and if not, they will eventually restore themselves (But maybe not so fast since pines aren’t the dominant tree species?)

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    • Although, I don’t work in Washington, I get up there from time to time for work. I’m pretty certain that State law requires all the clearcuts to be planted. In Washington they are allowed to clearcut up to 240 acres in a unit. In California we are allowed to clearcut only 30 acres total. It goes without saying a 240 acre fresh clearcut has a bit of a shock factor when you see it. However, the reason they are allowed to cut such a large area is because the tree grow so fast up there. I’ve seen 7 year old Douglas-fir stands that were already 30 feet tall. I alway thought, when they harvest in sight of the road, it gives people a chance to witness the changes over time. Then you get a better perspective of how dynamic the forests really are. But hey, I’m a forester and like that kind of thing.

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      • I agree, it’s good that people can witness the changes over time, but when you think of tourists, they don’t see the changes. I’ve seen a few signs posted telling when forests were cut and re-planted though, and those are amazing. So 7 yr Doug fir stands can be that tall (maybe not typically, but sometimes)? I am still a newbie and I just don’t have a good sense of how old trees are when I look at them – and I’m always wondering! So thanks!

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        • The signs are great, very informative. Tree growth rates vary quite a lot depending on the site. The Pacific coast has very high growth rates, while inland growth rates are less. Our inland Ponderosa pine in California will grow about 10′ in the same time. Some of the faster tree growth rate in the Pacific Northwest is in the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.

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