The forest for the trees

By Brandon Barrett
Herb Hammond doesn’t quite fit the picture you probably have in mind of the typical forester.

A Dalai-Lama-quoting policy wonk, author and ecologist with 40 years experience in the industry, Hammond belies the clichéd image of forester as grizzled lumberman decked out in plaid.

But Hammond also defies the usual notion of forester in another significant way: He fervently believes B.C.’s forest management framework needs a complete overhaul—and urgently.

“Forestry causes the largest losses of biological diversity across this province, indeed virtually everywhere that it’s practised. It’s the primary cause of water degradation. It’s a major contributor to floods and droughts, and believe it or not, in B.C., it’s less than two-and-a-half per cent of the gross domestic product. That shows you the power of assumptions of convenience about what’s driving our economy. Certainly it’s not forestry,” he said. “Either we’re going to change this or we’re going to continue to down a path where Earth will change us.”

Hammond was the keynote speaker at an in-depth forestry webinar co-hosted last month by the Whistler Naturalists and the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment, where he picked apart B.C.’s current forestry system, and laid out his vision for a new way of managing the province’s most vital asset that puts ecological integrity over industry profitability.

One of the most common notions put forth by the timber lobby is that old-growth forest, typically defined in B.C. as trees over the age of 250 on the coast, and 140 in the Interior, as a renewable resource. Not so, says local forest ecologist and Whistler Naturalists co-founder Bob Brett.

“Logging removes old forest from the landscape, and I think for all intents and purposes, we can say forever,” he relayed. “If you take out a forest that’s 300, 500, over 1,000 years old and then plant it like it has been planted at the higher elevations up in the Soo Valley, it will never in reasonable terms recover to being the old-growth forest it used to be. It’s going to be simpler, it’s going to have fewer species that require this old-forest habitat, and it will have fewer underground fungal connections. There are many reasons why it will never be the same forest again.”

While he acknowledges the legislation is by no means perfect. Hammond pointed to several landmark acts adopted south of the border as a potential example for B.C. to follow if we want to transform how forests are managed here.

In short, legislation like the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the National and Environmental Policy Act, which mandates ecological assessments “right down to individual cut blocks,” Hammond said, and the National Forest Management Act, which sets out clear standards for timber harvesting, as essential tools for the American public to keep industry accountable.

“I don’t think for a minute that forestry is perfect in the U.S.; trust me. But this provides a framework for accountability and communication,” he said.“We need to change the tenure system. What’s the rational for that? That public land was given to corporations because it was viewed by the government of the day to provide social benefits, and it was given and done quickly,” Hammond stressed. “We need to now quickly take back that public forest based on ecological and social needs.

“We better deploy our parachute or we’re not going to like how we land. As people, we need to reassume responsibility for the forest around us in socially and culturally responsible ways, based on ecosystem protection.”

Source: The forest for the trees – Pique Newsmagazine, 2021-04-15

For love of nature: 500-Year Forests for the future

By Shannon Brennan
Twenty-three years ago, a handful of people had a vision for preserving old-growth forests in Virginia. Not that we had many.

When Europeans first came here, the land was thick with old giants, but by the time of the Civil War, nearly the entire state had been clear-cut.

Less than one-half of 1% is truly old growth. Slowly, some larger areas are being allowed to regenerate.

Old-growth forests provide critical habitat for many species, including salamanders, soil invertebrates, small mammals, songbirds and black bears. Standing dead wood is important for many wildlife species.

Gaps in the canopy are a common occurrence in old growth, allowing greater sunlight to reach the forest floor and creating three to five layers of understory, rather than one to two layers in younger forests.

Ted Harris, a former member of the House of Delegates from Lynchburg, was founding president of the 500-Year Forest Foundation and one of six directors of the Virginia Urban Forestry Council who established the foundation.

Since its formation, the foundation has obtained no-cut easements on 10 forests. It requires a minimum of 100 acres of forest and defines old growth as having a significant number of trees at least 70 years old.

The 10th old-growth forest was established earlier this year and is the first to be bequeathed to the foundation. The 140-acre forest in Nelson County is located at the forks of the north and south Tye River and backs up to the Priest Wilderness Area, crossed by the Appalachian Trail.

Source: For love of nature: 500-Year Forests for the future – newsadvance.com, 20-12-09

B.C. to protect 353,000 hectares of forest with old-growth trees from logging until new plan is developed

By Chad Pawson
In what it’s calling a new approach to forest management in B.C., the province says it will protect 353,000 hectares of forest in nine old-growth areas throughout the province from logging.

The promise comes as the Ministry of Forests released a new report entitled A New Future for Old Forests, meant to guide an overhaul of forestry rules.

It’s based on the work of two foresters who travelled the province for months hearing about how B.C.’s massive, old-growth trees should be protected. The term old-growth in B.C. means trees that are generally 250 years or older on the coast and 140 years or older in the Interior.

“For many years, there has been a patchwork approach to how old-growth forests are managed in our province, and this has caused a loss of biodiversity. We need to do better and find a path forward that preserves old-growth forests, while supporting forest workers,” said Doug Donaldson, the minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development in a news release.

Donaldson said 23 per cent of the forested land base in B.C., some 13.2 million hectares, is made up of old-growth forest.

A majority of the hectares temporarily protected from logging announced on Friday are in Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island, an area known for its large trees, biodiversity and confrontations over development.

Source: B.C. to protect 353,000 hectares of forest with old-growth trees from logging until new plan is developed – CBC News, 2020-09-11

How restoring old-growth forest in Washington state could help fight climate change

By Evan Bush
Scientists are using cutting-edge research in their efforts to restore Southwest Washington’s Ellsworth Creek Preserve, in hopes of easing the impacts of climate change.

Standing between nearly uniform rows of hemlock trees, scientist Tiara Moore clutched a tiny vial of evidence.

Filled with dirt and no bigger than her pinkie finger, the vial contained traces of hundreds, perhaps even thousands of creatures that had oozed by, crawled past or fluttered into this tiny corner of the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

The microscopic flecks of DNA — from insects, amoebas and mushrooms — could help tell the story of a forest trying to regrow to its former might.

These forest forensics, part of a fast-growing field called environmental DNA, will tell researchers what’s living here, which, in turn, tells forest managers if what they’re doing is working here.

The soil where Moore dug for DNA was once rooted with old-growth trees common across the coastal Northwest, before decades of clear-cutting stripped them from the land.

Restoring landscapes like these helps take up and store more carbon, part of the solution to reduce the impacts of climate change.

The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit which owns about 8,000 acres at Ellsworth, hopes Moore’s work can help in pursuit of a longtime Northwest quest: to restore its old-growth forests — rich with biodiversity — and fast.

“These are some of the most carbon-rich systems on Earth,” said David Rolph, director of land conservation for the organization in Washington. “Could we rebuild?”

The conservancy’s theory — backed by years of Northwest forest science — was that thinning and mimicking nature would create a more complex, vibrant forest with a diversity of species, more light for trees and less competition among them for nutrients.

“Any modeling you do will show you get bigger trees faster with thinning,” Rolph said. “You can manipulate and accelerate that complexity.”

The larger the tree, the more carbon can be absorbed and stored, making old-growth forests a boon to mitigating climate change.

Source: How restoring old-growth forest in Washington state could help fight climate change – Seattle Times, 2019-09-23

‘Majestic’ Douglas fir stood for 420 years. Then Oregon State University foresters cut it down

By Rob Davis
The university clearcut a 16-acre grove of old-growth trees, drawing scrutiny at exactly the wrong time.

The seedling that sprouted in 1599 in Oregon State University’s McDonald-Dunn research forest was cut down by the public college, along with other trees more than 250 years old. The decision netted $425,000 for the university’s College of Forestry. School officials say the revenue will fund teaching, research and outreach, but it happened at a time when the university’s forestry school has accelerated other timber cuts and dipped into its reserves to fund $19 million in cost overruns on a major construction project.

The forestry school’s interim dean, Anthony Davis, has since acknowledged his mistake in approving the 16-acre cut known as the No Vacancy harvest. He has temporarily halted all logging of trees older than 160 years on the university’s 15,000 acres of research forests.

“Harvesting this stand did not align with the college’s values,” Davis wrote in a July 12 letter to the school community, first reported by the Corvallis Gazette-Times. “Moving forward, we have learned from this matter.”

The felling of the old growth trees raises questions about Oregon State’s land stewardship at precisely the wrong time. Top state leaders are weighing whether to hand over management of the 82,500-acre Elliott State Forest to the university’s college of forestry, a transfer that would quintuple Oregon State’s forest holdings.

Records reviewed by The Oregonian/OregonLive cast doubt on the university’s justification for cutting what it knew were trees as old as 260 years. Records also show the university recently allowed a separate clearcut seven times bigger than permitted under its own management plans.

Taken together, the cuts threaten the credibility of a school that has deep ties to the timber industry but says it can be trusted to do more than maximize timber production in the Elliott.

Source: ‘Majestic’ Douglas fir stood for 420 years. Then Oregon State University foresters cut it down – The Oregonian, 2019-07-26

Scientist finds rare, ancient tree in North Carolina swamp

By Carla Field
The bald cypress is on Black River property purchased by the Nature Conservancy.

Stahle led a group of media members and other interested parties on a paddling trip to the ancient cypress stand Thursday morning.

Stahle along with colleagues from the university’s Ancient Bald Cypress Consortium and other conservation groups, first discovered the trees in 2017, Science Daily reported.

Science Daily reported that the ancient trees are part of an intact ecosystem spanning most of the 65-mile length of the Black River.

The trees are scientifically valuable for reconstructing ancient climate conditions. The oldest trees extend the climate record in the southeast United States by 900 years. They show evidence of droughts and flooding during colonial and precolonial times that exceed any measured in modern times, experts say.

Less than 1% of original bald cypress forests survived the heavy logging of the past.

Source: Scientist finds rare, ancient tree in North Carolina swamp – WYFF 4, 2019-05-10

The Ancient Trees Of Cook Forest

By Terry Belke
Of the almost 750 million acres of forest in the U.S., only about 3.5 million acres (or 6-percent), are considered old growth.

COOKSBURG PA — Old growth forests in North America are very rare. It’s estimated that of the almost 750 million acres of forest in the U.S., only about 3.5 million acres are considered old growth forests, and scientists have been debating for years on how to define them.

Cook Forest Environmental Education Specialist Dale Luthringer explains, “I think the best definition that I’ve seen so far is you’re trying to get a certain number of trees in the forest that pre-date the lumber history for that area.”

Cook Forest in Northwest P.A. was founded in 1927, and Luthringer says it’s considered one of the finest stands of old growth White Pine and Hemlock in the United States.

“By far, the ancient White Pine and the Hemlock is really what sets Cook Forest apart,” he says. “In terms of tall White Pine, we’ve got three White Pine that are in the hundred and seventy foot class. Our tallest Hemlock is just shy of a hundred and fifty feet, it’s about a hundred and forty eight feet tall.”

But this forest is not special only for the immense height of it’s trees. These towering sentries are truly ancient.

“Our oldest Hemlocks and Pines are around three hundred and fifty years old,” says Luthringer. “We have White Oak and Chestnut Oak that are approaching that, that we’ve got actual ring data, three thirty plus. The oldest known tree in the woods is actually a Cucumber Tree […] it’s on the ground now, but it’s the oldest known Cucumber Tree to science. That tree was about four hundred and forty years old.”

When the park was founded it was an effort to protect this unique environment from the ravages of the timber industry. Now almost a century later, park management must defend the Hemlocks from a new destructive force.

The invasive insect Hemlock Wooly Adelgid was discovered in Cook Forest in 2013. The tiny insect can kill trees within four to 10 years of infestation, and is ravaging forests across North America. Fortunately for the Cook Forest Hemlocks, the park was prepared for the invaders, and have been successful in protecting the cherished trees.

Source: The Ancient Trees Of Cook Forest – WGRZ, 2018-10-14

W.Va. has more old-growth forest than once thought, group believes

By JOHN McCOY
“Fifty inches in diameter,” Doug Wood said as he read the number off the tape measure. “That means this poplar tree is probably at least 200 years old, maybe 250. That puts it into the old-growth category.”

Old growth? Wait a minute. For years, West Virginians have been told that the state’s only remaining old-growth forest tracts are in Cathedral State Park and the Monongahela National Forest’s Gaudineer Knob Scenic Area. Wood believes there are more old-growth stands scattered throughout the state, perhaps many more.

“Based on criteria established by the U.S. Forest Service, there are plenty of places in West Virginia that qualify as secondary old-growth forest, where the forest has grown back up after being logged,” he said. “Several areas of secondary old growth have already been identified, and I’m convinced that more will be found.”

The poplar tree Wood measured stood in Kanawha State Forest, just a few minutes’ drive from the hustle and bustle of downtown Charleston – hardly a place one would expect to find old-growth forest. Wood said a sizable portion of the forest’s northern end contains many such trees.

“So far, we’ve found tracts on several pieces of public land that have old-growth characteristics,” he continued. “Here in Kanawha State Forest, but also in Watoga, Cedar Creek, Twin Falls, Cacapon, North Bend, Holly River and Beech Fork state parks.”

Wood, a retired Department of Environmental Protection water-quality official, is helping spearhead an effort to identify old-growth tracts, particularly on public lands. He scours the woods looking for big trees and the signs of old-growth habitat that surround them. When he finds a likely tract, he notifies the Old Growth Network of its presence.

“The Old Growth Network is a non-profit group interested in helping designate old-growth areas,” Wood explained. “They like the effort to be driven by the local citizenry, so they have county coordinators to help get citizens interested in identifying old-growth tracts.”

Wood said the recent effort by Gov. Jim Justice and his administration to open state parks to timbering has helped give rise to the grass-roots effort to protect any old-growth areas that might exist within those parks.

Source: W.Va. has more old-growth forest than once thought, group believes – williamsondailynews.com, 2018-07-31

Scientists Boost Biodiversity By Guiding Middle-Aged Forests To Mimic Ancient Ones

By Kathleen Masterson
A new University of Vermont study finds that harvesting trees in a way that mimics old growth forests not only restores critical habitat for animals and plants, but also stores a surprising amount of carbon…

The “old growth” engineering technique succeeded in creating diverse habitats. But the kicker, Keeton says, is that it has also allowed the forest to store a significant amount of carbon, much more than several other conventional tree selection harvesting techniques. That’s key to fighting climate change.

Now, forests that are left alone — with no trees harvested — store the most carbon. But Keeton’s study is finding that it is possible to manage the forest to maximize carbon capture, and still keep it a working forest.

“This greater amount of carbon storage as compared to the conventional treatments was actually a combination of having left more trees behind in the first place, and growth rates that were actually 10 percent higher in this treatment as compared to the conventional harvest,” Keeton says. “And that was really surprising.”

Keeton says after 10 years, the old growth forest management plot stored nearly as much carbon as the unlogged control forest. It came within 16 percent of carbon storage in the unharvested plots.

Source: Vt. Scientists Boost Biodiversity By Guiding Middle-Aged Forests To Mimic Ancient Ones | WBUR News, 2017-04-26