This story appeared on KREM2 in Spokane. I’m heartened to see a support for an active strategy to deal with the wildfire dilemma. In defiance of popular conventional wisdom that harvesting trees is a bad thing. Finally, using harvesting as a tool for healthier forests. It too long overdue in the minds of the public.
When I write about forestry, I’m most often sharing what goes on in a working forest. A working forest is one that produces commodities, like timber, fiber and bark, as well as provides for environmental benefits such as recreation, clean water and wildlife habitat. I have spent my career on working forests.
Think of a working forest like a farm. Farms grow crops of food and other agricultural products. We need farms for our food. Working forests produce forest products and we need them for our shelter. An important difference between the two is that forestlands take years to produce a crop. Working forests spend years growing undisturbed in between intervals of harvesting. They function as an important source of clean water and as a home for wildlife every year.
One benefit of producing forest products from a working forest is that it creates income for the landowner. When the landowner has an economic return from managing trees the land will continue to be managed as a forest. There are real costs to owning forestland and if the owner can’t profit managing their forest, they may be forced to develope it into housing subdivisions or some other non-forest use. Then the wildlife habitat may be lost. In a sense the income from producing forest products protects these forests by making growing trees economically sustainable .
All of our forests are important as wildlife habitat. The conventional wisdom is that mature forest provide the best habitat. That is true for species of wildlife that prefer mature forests. However, many species have different habitat needs that include forest at every age.
Forests containing a greater diversity in habitats ranging from mature forest to freshly created openings will support a larger variety of species. Openings are created during harvesting. These openings are planted and then the seedlings begin to grow. Over time the forests develope a great diversity of trees in different age groups. This patchwork of different habitat is available to support many species of wildlife.
Working forests aren’t parks, but can still be available for recreation. Hikers, campers and hunters visit these forests year after year. I’m not saying that the working forests are better than the parks, but they each have unique purposes.
Forests are managed by different government agencies, private entities and individuals with a variety of goals. Forestland management is a topic I will explore more in the future. It warrants a full post.
I was in the concrete jungle of San Francisco today. It was a cool gray day with lots and lots of folks. I looked at the dense pack living conditions of the big city and I missed all the space I have in my normal life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I understand a lot of people love living in the city. Different strokes for different folks and all of that. However, a trip to SF makes me appreciate my daily contact with nature. At my home and at my work. It is a blessing to be sure. It seems to me that the people in the big cities must feel disconnected from nature in a way that makes a person want to protect, treasure and guard it. I think that experiencing it in this way doesn’t leave many people with a true understanding of nature. At a very basic level I wish that everyone had to go out hunt, kill, clean, cook and eat an animal. Honestly I believe people would have a greater appreciation of their daily sustenance.
In my firefighter days, many years ago, I worked with a fellow from SF. He had never left the city before to spend any meaningful time in a rural environment. He was a very capable guy and after we left our fire training camp I was stationed in Redding and he in Ogo. Ogo was a fire station West of Redding and was well known for it’s great population of rattlesnakes. A few days later, both our crews responded to the same fire. He seemed a little tired, but otherwise in good spirits. About two weeks later the Redding crew was on a fire with the Ogo crew again, but I didn’t see my friend. I ask about him. His other crew members told me he hadn’t been sleeping well because it was too quiet at night, but when the coyotes would howl in the middle of the night he would fly out of bed in a panic. After about ten days he couldn’t take it anymore. He packed up and went home. I never saw him again and the old Ogo Fire Station is long gone. He never took the time to get comfortable in that setting. It was sad, but maybe I would have trouble making the same adjustment to living in the city.
I wish folks from the cities in California trusted our land managers more. The people I work with love nature as much as anyone and take great pride in the job they do. Instead, in a time when the science and technology have reached a point that we can accomplish amazing things in the woods, politically we are forced to do a more and more mediocre job by trying to create conditions where no one can make a mistake.
Unfortunately, the desire protect the natural environment by stopping land management is resulting in loving our forest to death. Death by uncontrollable fires and bark beetle epidemics. People need to view land management as a tool to improve our forests where people are part of this ecosystem and not as an obstacle to a healthy forest.