Environment v. Forestry

(Not sure if this should go here, or some other forum; I’ll trade on my “new-guy” status one last time: Moderators, feel free to move this if need be.)

I’m preparing materials for a class (bright college undergraduates) that will be 1/4 introduction to forestry, 1/4 forestry’s impacts on the environment, and 1/2 public policy and how it affects forest practices and forestry’s impacts (positive and negative) on the environment. I’m looking for some local or regional case studies (primarily outside the Southeast U.S.A.) as topics for teaching and discussion. How 'bout it? Any stories to share from your neck of the woods (pardon the pun) that deal with conflicts over land use, etc.? Local decision-making successes and failures, public hearings and their results, and/or run-ins with the feds are all welcome. Thanks.

One of the most irritating ongoing wrangles in the political party I belong to, the New Democratic Party of Canada, is the strife between the union wing of the party and the green wing. The green wing has often been stymied in its environmental initiatives for fear of job loss.

What this fails to take into account, of course, is there will be no jobs for anyone on a ruined planet. If you cut down all the trees, there won’t be anything left to cut, and then all the jobs vanish at once for the next hundred years.

A quick check of Google under “environment forestry” brought up 413,000 links. Using Search Within Results, adding “case studies”, brought up this, http://irptc.unep.ch/pops/case01.html , along with 108,999 others. :slight_smile:

http://www.google.com

Thanks for the link, Duck. I was thinking some of the Dopers might have had an experience with some cases and provide my students with a more personal, first-hand account than is often achieved by trotting out some of the usual suspects. Plus, you never know what might start a really good “fight” on the MB…

Remember the Good Old Days, when we engaged in sustainable logging practices instead of clear-cutting?

That is, we’re sustainable now when demand for wood and paper products in the USA is projected to increase almost logarithmically over the next 10 years at least, while we’re (society in general) simultaneously acting to limit the number of acres available to produce wood and wood fiber? (organic, renewable resources, BTW) :wink: (Also while replacing forests with Wal Marts, golf courses, and strip malls.)

Or, we’re not sustainable now that efforts to meet demand are being concentrated on fewer acres, necessitating intensive forest practices such as plantations, genetically engineered tree species, cloning, clearcutting, biocides, etc., etc.?

This could be interesting.

Well…I’ll step up to the plate with a little background. I have a BS in Forestry from the mid 70’s, a couple seasonal years with the USFS and many years as a private forestry contractor, primarily to the USFS. I live in a county that is blessed/cursed, depending on your point of view, with at least five endangered species as well as many other species of concern. Also a card carrying environmentalist.

Obviously there are hundreds of topics that we might delve into in this thread. May I suggest that the OP limit where we might go by picking a specific topic?

No. Clear cutting was much more prevelant in the Good Old Days (well, in the last, say, two centuries ) than any reasonable logging practices. There is still too much clear cutting, but the move, at least on the left coast, has been away from it.

bare, if you are taking requests from the audience, could you talk a little about the forestfires in the northern midwest? Specifically public policy impacts on the likelyhood of those fires? I would think it would tie in with the OP, encompasses all of the points of Ivorybill’s research, and I’m really interested in it, and the only info I’ve gotten has been from the Economist.

[QUOTE]
*Originally posted by bashere *
**

Fire is one of my favorite topics! While my practical experience is pretty much limited to Northern Idaho, Northwestern Montana and Northeast Washington, we share many of the same problems as most forests in the U.S.

IMHO the primary problem is the lack of a fire component in our forests for the last hundred years. Our diligence in putting out nearly every fire without question, has resulted in a tremendous build-up of fuels and severe overstocking of so many of our forested acres.

From time immemorial, out forests have cleansed themselves with periodic wildfire, taking out low growing shrubs, dead and fallen timber, limbs and unhealthy, overstocked undergrowth. Analysis of increment borings in my area indicate low intensity fires as often as every ten years.

With or without our help, the forests are and will continue to attempt to balance itself with wildfire.

There are no easy answers to the problems we have created, it has taken us a long time to get where we find ourselves today and it will take decades to get back to where we should be.

Forestry or silviculture is a science and as such, we are constantly learning. In our attempts to utilize the resource, we’ve used various means to imitate nature by the use of logging. Mostly we’ve failed. The Forest Service has always had the desire to maintain a sustainable resource but are required to respond to many influences, in the past, primarily corporate and congressional demands and more recently environmental concerns.

From it’s inception, the USFS mandate was to manage forests for timber production. Since the mid 1970’s, with the birth of the environmental movement, they have been required to manage for multiple resources: timber production, water quality, wildlife habitat and recreation.

Add to the mixture the fact that many of us have chosen to build our homes in the midst of our National Forests and we have the beginnings of a nightmare for forest managers.

The simple answer, is to kick Smokey the Bear out the door and re-introduce the fire component back into the formula. The reality, is an incredible backlog of acreage in dire need of treatment, the moans and demands of homeowners in forested areas for government protection of their property, air quality concerns along with the real need of wood fiber and the resulting employment in rural areas, congress’s unwillingness to provide the money necessary to begin to correct the problem and the resulting massive decrease in grunts on the ground to do the actual physical work.

This post is already getting long, suffice to say, what we need in the immediate future is a concerted educational effort, a massive infusion of funding and property owners accepting personal responsibility for their choices.

** Fire is our Friend!**

Bare-
Go ahead with the endangered species stuff since that’s what you know (but fire’s good too). Your call; I’m happy for input.

As a psuedo-forester I’d be happy to weigh in with OS examples if Ivorybill is interested, if only you’d be so good as to narrow down your request a bit. My primary interest in in multi-use native forest, not plantations and reserves so much, but I’m forced into a fair bit of an overlap role.
Conflicts over use and management are about the only thing that is certain in this part of the world. We’ve got arguments flaring LR&C over native title, fire history and management, shared usage with the grazing industry, effects of forestry on greenhouse gas emmisions, the environmental/conservation role of forests and anything else you care to mention.
I’m more than happy to jump up on my soapbox over any of them. ([sub]Aren’t I always?[/sub])

Endangered species… Again a huge topic with many facets.

My area is one of the few, if not only area in the 48 contiguous states with an intact ecosystem, in that all of the animal species that have existed here for the last several hundred years are still here. The Bald Eagle, Mountain Caribou, Grizzly Bear, Wolf, Kootenai River White Sturgeon, all on the Endangered Species List, all make their home here. We also share space with many other species proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act, among them the West Slope Cut-throat Trout, Lynx, Wolverine and Kootenai River Burbot or ling.

All of these critters have a tenuous existence here. The primary cause is habitat fragmentation brought about by literally thousands of miles of roads, improper forest treatments, human encroachment and inhabitation of nearly every nook and cranny of the forest.

Like many rural areas in the West, livelihoods are largely based on resource extraction. My county alone has two large lumber mills, supplying a livelihood to a significant portion of the folks who live here. Mill jobs at around 10-12 dollars an hour tend to be one of the better paying jobs in the area. The mills support lots of others directly, Loggers, Foresters, Tree Planters, Truck Drivers etc., and indirectly by supporting much of the commercial business in town who supply goods and services to the community.

The ESA is a powerful piece of legislation. It requires us to do everything in our power to
protect species in eminent danger of becoming extinct in a particular area.

Aye, There’s the Rub! Conflict with a population of Westerners, proud of their perceived tradition of resource extraction and independence of body and mind. What locals call Use and Custom.

The Forest Service here, controls between 70 and 80 percent of the land, and it is up to them to attempt to balance the needs of the populace and their mandate to protect endangered species.

The Bald Eagle, first on the ESA list, wasn’t much of a problem for us. DDT was the primary cause of their downfall, not so much fragmented habitat. Bald Eagles are pretty adaptive to man’s existence and efforts, with the banning of DDT came back well.

The Grizzly Bear was our second on the List and has proved to be more troublesome, an on-going experiment with what works and what doesn’t work. Grizzly Bears and man do not mix well. Elusive and shy creatures, they apparently require large tracts of land free from man’s activities to successfully breed and prosper. In the early 1980’s the Forest Service started to gate roads in the forest to provide limited motorized access to many areas. Gates have been a fairly effective tool in providing safe habitat for the bear, but it has also completely galvanized the community. First it was just a few gates, then they started to flower seemingly everywhere. Many of the locals feel as though the Federal Government has completely locked them out of what they consider their own backyard. You hear it all the time- I can’t get to my special huckleberrypatchfishin’holefavoritehauntmushroompicken’area. This, despite the fact that there were few existing forest roads here until the 1930’s. If you want to piss off a Westerner, take away his 4x4! You might as well cut off his nuts! Non-motorized traffic is still allowed behind the gates as well as “administrative use” which is limited to some extent. The gated access can also be rotated throughout the forest to provide access for timber removal, road maintenance and what have you.

Third on our list is the Mountain Caribou. These animals require alpine areas for their survival and at the time of listing, were very rare here. The few remaining individuals roam between here and Canada and seemed to prefer the Canadian side of the border. More gates went up to protect their habitat. Several attempts have been made to augment the population with imported Caribou from Canada. The Caribou project has pretty much been a failure due to depredation by Mountain Lions and get this… even Grizzly Bears. You should hear the folks around the coffee shops and bars! The reality is probably again man’s interference with the balance of things in that we have managed for incredible numbers of White-tailed Deer to appease the hunters, thereby increasing the population of Mountain Lions who feed on the deer and the occasional Caribou.

Getting bored yet?

Our fourth listing was the Kootenai River White Sturgeon. An incredible and ancient creature, often reaching more than 12 feet in length. This is a separate species, developed over the eons by geologic and hydrologic structures of the earth. Their demise is apparently precipitated by the building of a large dam north of Libby Montana in the early 70’s. The dam was built to provide flood control of downstream lands and to provide more hydro power for our ever power hungry populace. Farmers in the Kootenai Valley love the Dam. They could abandon their dikes, built in the 30’s, mostly with government assistance, and spend more of their time growing crops instead of maintaining dikes and pumping equipment. Townfolk didn’t have to put up with the yearly floods. Slowly, but noticeably the sturgeon dwindled, despite severe limits on fishing and eventually a ban on keeping them at all.

The Wolf, thankfully, has not been much of a problem so far.

So there you have it…Loggers kicked out of the woods, mill workers and shopkeepers allowed to starve, farmers fields allowed to flood again, people have to actually get out of their vehicles and walk a mile or two…

the god damn government and all them environmental wackos are out to get us!!!

That’s the perception.

The reality is that the County’s population has nearly doubled since the 70’s. The two big lumber mill that we had here are still here and growing. Changes are happening to be sure, retooling to handle smaller diameter timber, mechanization to improve the bottom line and eliminate many of the workers. There are some empty store fronts, along with new enterprises coming to town. We still have crappy school buildings, but we are blessed with dedicated teachers.

Our schools and our roads are, to a large extent, dependent on the 25% funding the government provides from timber receipts to offset the lack of a tax base. Our water is still pretty clean, maybe too clean for the sturgeon. We are blessed with beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife, pretty good fishing still. Life is good here. Most of us don’t live here to get rich, we love our surroundings and relatively peaceful existence. The local “environmentalists” are learning to get along with the “loggers”. There is still a lot of friction, but there is an air of inevitability creeping in. Like most folks we are slow to change, we are proud of, and remember our past.

The ESA is a necessary evil if we wish to maintain some semblance of the web of life. We as a Nation, must recognize these things and help with the maintenance of our wildlife heritage. It is unfair to dump all the costs upon those of us who choose to live here.

I’m reminded of a story I read some time back, I can’t remember which environmental magazine in was in, but the gist of the story goes like this: There was a bus load of Big Wig environmentalists from the U.S. traveling the road somewhere in Kenya. They were looking into the possibility of environmental tourism to off set the cost of wildlife protection to the local population. They passed a native Kenyan, proudly walking along the road with his spear over his shoulder. One of the participants mentioned to the others, that if they hoped to protect wildlife and their habitat, they first had to have the co-operation of that fellow back there. How true.

Go ahead with the multi-use native forest stuff. The native title issues interest me especially. Thanks.

Also, bare, care to comment on below cost timber sales? Should we also eliminate below cost recreation?

I’d be happy to oblige Ivorybill, however this thread is looking somewhat lopsided for Great Debates. Since you will be instructing a class of bright undergrads, I would assume that you have an opinion or two yourself. I have touched briefly on two different topics, there is lots to discuss in either one. How 'bout jumping in here?

I’ll stray a bit off topic here and shoot my mouth off about something that I feel to be one of the great frauds in the timber industry.

The notion of the “Tree Farm”.

Regrowth of deforested areas with a monoculture of Douglas fir that grows so fast that lumber cannot even be cut out of it is a sham. The biodiversity of these “managed” areas is nil and the recovery of understory species is practically zero. If there is information to refute this I’d dearly love to see it. The continued ravaging of U.S. forests has reached such a fever pitch that even small diameter dense growth is being clear cut for chip and pulp products. It was less than amusing to see the Pacific Northwest Yew, long considered a “trash” tree, suddenly prove to be a valuable anti-cancer compound source.

As a capitalist, it is hard to advocate complete elimination of all timber harvesting. It would be counter to sound economic practices and quite possibly a restraint of trade. Yet, the replacement of old growth stands with single species plantings, the continued clear cutting of massive tracts and the wrong-headed attitudes maintained by both environmentalists and pro-timber supporters make it clear that we are a long way from any viable solutions.

If anyone can post some information about tree farm biodiversity issues I would be grateful. I also think that it would be a great topic for a discussion about current forestry policy.

PS: A great place to start would be to stop the export of unfinished lumber products (i.e., whole trees).

While bare seems to have the floor, and is doin’ mighty fine, I would like to add 2 small points/clarifications that casual readers might not pick up.

  1. The fire issue applies to many, but not all ecosystems (certain NW coastal forests), that said, I agree with the main point;

  2. In discussing the “perception”, I would add that a switch from local forestry products in a vertically-integrated market to raw log export is another contributing factor, not just population pressure. Put another way, while mills are still running, the cabinet-makers, shingle-makers, and the more experienced and specialized loggers whose work was related to those industries are gone, and not due to owls either. What’s interesting is that they (former timber workers, pre-1985) are equally aware of this.

Working on the the Olympic Peninsula at various times in the 80’s and 90’s, I learned that most of those anti-owl demonstrators you’d see on the evening news were mostly not “locals” but imported labor, typically from Nevada or wherever, who worked to feed the corporate export program rather than any balanced US industry, and whose protests were usually organized by the companies involved in the timber export.

Good point, bare. (It has been a busy weekend here, though with Mardi Gras really cranking up and lots of parades to take the kiddies to. Sunny, 65 degrees, 60% humidity… Thought you folks stuck in the snow might have more computer time…)

Okay. Below cost timber sales. My take on this issue is that the FS has so many substantive and procedural hoops to jump through (National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), National Forest Management Act (NFMA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), Clean Water Act (CWA); to name just the big ones) that they’re a VERY high-cost producer of timber. For example, there’s a NEPA process for each forest plan and another for each individual timber sale. If there might be endangered species present, the FS has to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service and produce a fair number of documents to prove they studied the issue. Finally, there’s the appeals process that allows individual forest users (who might not actually “use” the forest) to get the FS to review a sale decision. So, there’s been a lot of paperwork even before the FS decides to sell timber.

Now, when a sale is marked and put out for bids, the FS can’t reasonably expect to price the stumpage to cover their time and person-power investment, so they strive to meet local market prices (1) so that people will actually bid on the stuff and (2) so they won’t wind up abusing their monopoly landowner status like in bare’s county). This gets pretty close to putting the FS in a position to spend more money growing the timber than they’ll get back selling it.

Next, factor in that the FS is also trying to build infastructure in its (our) forests. On industry lands, roads are built and are easily reflected in the balance sheet. Being a bureaucracy, the FS system isn’t very clear or simple. They get the high bidder to agree to build the road, then “pay” the high bidder for doing so in a complex accounting procedure that I’ve never been able to understand. Suppose a road might service a 600 acre area. The FS puts a sale in a portion of that area hoping to build a road to service the whole 600 acres, while offering for sale only 100 acres. The cost of the road, AFAIK, is reflected in that one sale, not on the balance for that entire forest for that year. Sort of like comparing a new factory’s first output of product against the cost of building the factory. Given their lousy accounting process and high costs associated with land management, the FS puts out a LOT of below-cost sales. This gets folks mad.

Now, I don’t want the National Forests to be tree farms, but I do think there’s a role for the FS in providing community stability through contributing to the local economy as well as doing its job by harvesting timber to keep the forests healthy. Also, somewhat ironically IMHO, the people who are against below-cost timber sales have no problem with the FS providing below-cost recreation.

Good point, bare. (It has been a busy weekend here, though with Mardi Gras really cranking up and lots of parades to take the kiddies to. Sunny, 65 degrees, 60% humidity… Thought you folks stuck in the snow might have more computer time…)

Okay. Below cost timber sales. My take on this issue is that the FS has so many substantive and procedural hoops to jump through (National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), National Forest Management Act (NFMA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), Clean Water Act (CWA); to name just the big ones) that they’re a VERY high-cost producer of timber. For example, there’s a NEPA process for each forest plan and another for each individual timber sale. If there might be endangered species present, the FS has to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service and produce a fair number of documents to prove they studied the issue. Finally, there’s the appeals process that allows individual forest users (who might not actually “use” the forest) to get the FS to review a sale decision. So, there’s been a lot of paperwork even before the FS decides to sell timber.

Now, when a sale is marked and put out for bids, the FS can’t reasonably expect to price the stumpage to cover their time and person-power investment, so they strive to meet local market prices (1) so that people will actually bid on the stuff and (2) so they won’t wind up abusing their monopoly landowner status like in bare’s county). This gets pretty close to putting the FS in a position to spend more money growing the timber than they’ll get back selling it.

Next, factor in that the FS is also trying to build infastructure in its (our) forests. On industry lands, roads are built and are easily reflected in the balance sheet. Being a bureaucracy, the FS system isn’t very clear or simple. They get the high bidder to agree to build the road, then “pay” the high bidder for doing so in a complex accounting procedure that I’ve never been able to understand. Suppose a road might service a 600 acre area. The FS puts a sale in a portion of that area hoping to build a road to service the whole 600 acres, while offering for sale only 100 acres. The cost of the road, AFAIK, is reflected in that one sale, not on the balance for that entire forest for that year. Sort of like comparing a new factory’s first output of product against the cost of building the factory. Given their lousy accounting process and high costs associated with land management, the FS puts out a LOT of below-cost sales. This gets folks mad.

Now, I don’t want the National Forests to be tree farms, but I do think there’s a role for the FS in providing community stability through contributing to the local economy as well as doing its job by harvesting timber to keep the forests healthy. Also, somewhat ironically IMHO, the people who are against below-cost timber sales have no problem with the FS providing below-cost recreation.

Any thoughts?

Zenster, I have some stuff on this, but it’s in my office. Look for something from me on Tuesday.

Yeah right Ivorybill, rub it in…It did get up to 32°F for about 10 minutes this afternoon. I always thought I’d like to experience Mardi Gras until I watched a TV program on the Travel Channel. Looks like too many folks in one area for me. I do like the drunken debauchery aspect of it though!

It’s good to see some other opinions starting to show up.

I’ll start off on the “below cost” issue. IMHO public forest management should not be tied to monetary restraints at all, in timber harvest or recreation.

The USFS, as mentioned before, is completely different than private or corporate forest holdings. The USFS is mandated to manage for “multiple use”, while most corporate lands and most state lands and much of the private forest land is managed primarily for timber production.

I don’t agree with Ivorybill on the primary cause of below cost sales being the fault of paperwork. I won’t deny that the USFS is held to a higher standard than others and that there is some extra cost involved in putting a sale on the chopping block. Nor do I believe that there is much extra cost with appeals to FS sales.

Nearly everyone has to comply with most of the ACTS Ivorybill mentions, or similar state laws or Best Management Practices. Compliance is just a part of management. The deep dark secret, IMHO is that if the Government figured in the true cost of roads, there have never been profitable timber sales. The way costs are hidden is that they depreciate road construction over hundreds of years. Pretty sneaky huh? The reality is that most roads are put in to access a particular section of the forest, often to, or near private corporate in-holdings within the forest. Many of the roads put in, even recently have been substandard and just aren’t there anymore. Parts of the roadbed may still be in evidence 20 years later, but they are largely overgrown and washed away. There are square mile sections of FS land here with dozens of miles of road in it and I’m not talking skid roads, these are surfaced and big enough for fully loaded logging trucks to navigate. If these roads are expected to remain for more than a year or two, they must be maintained. As Ivorybill mentioned, the FS is not in the business of road building, private contractors initially build the roads, usually to FS specifications in exchange for timber or future timber.

Depending on whose math you use the FS has between 380,000 and 460,000 miles of roads. There is a tremendous backlog of maintenance, currently, less than 20% are maintained to standards.

Who is going to pay for these expenses the Government or private industry?

So Ivorybill you are a bit off, the entire cost of any particular road cannot be attributed to any individual sale. As dear old GW would say, “There you go again, using that fuzzy math”.

At least in the Northwest the FS doesn’t spend a significant portion of its dollars on recreation. I don’t have any figures in front of me and I don’t feel like looking ‘em up at the moment, but I’d hazard a bet that if the USFS would be more diligent about actually collecting the fees it is already entitled, that recreation more than pays its way. I can’t hardly believe it but some folks around here consider gathering fire wood as recreation. Cost 10.00 a cord. Christmas tree-10.00. Most of the developed campgrounds are fee based, and they are nothing to bark about. Nearly without exception they are no more than parking lots with access to water. What else is there? 99% percent of the existing trails were built for fire control decades ago and most have little or no maintenance other than that provided by individual users.

Personally, I spend a boat load of money on taxes each year to the Federal Government and feel entitled to a bit of recreation for the investment. It’s been my experience that most folks would be amenable to a slight fee for incidental recreation, whether it is huckleberry picking, mushroom picking or hiking a trail. The difficult part would be collecting it. To be effective they would have to hire a whole new enforcement division which would only eat up any cost benefits.

I know this is getting really long again, so to sum up: I don’t think we can expect the Forest Service to make a profit or even to break even. True stewardship is going to require a significant investment in funds.