Letters to the Editor for Jan. 9, 2012
What we know about forests
To the editor:
I read with interest with Jayson Jacoby’s column (Dec. 30) on Nancy Langston’s book “Forest Dreams, Forest Nightmares.” I agree that a forest is a complex place, but there are some things that we know about forests and trees: 1. A stand-clearing fire is worse than a clear cut, because it not only removes the trees, it kills the soil, and burns up the carbon stored there.
2. In the semiarid forest lands around here, a clearcut should never be done with the exception of trees killed by bugs, disease or fire, because natural regeneration is difficult and slow. Then it should be immediately replanted with artificial shade for the new trees.
3. The most productive forest habitat for wildlife is a managed forest.
4. The best watershed is a managed forest. Proper spacing of trees allows some grass to grow, providing forage for wildlife and stabilizing the soil.
5. After a tree ceases to grow, it begins to die. At that point, it is most beneficial to use as a log, and it soon becomes dry fuel, a danger to its neighbors.
6. When trees are too crowded, they grow slowly or not at all, and are not healthy enough to fight off a bug infestation. Nature will then fix the problem, if man does not. The result is lots of money spent fighting a fire and no benefit to anyone, except for possibly the firefighters. I have seen and cleared dog hair thickets where 50-year-old trees were about a foot apart, 8 feet tall, and less than 1.5 inches in diameter. They could be thrown like a spear. It was not a happy place.
It is not the growing of trees that is complicated. It is the politics, compounded by a constant flow of misinformation, that is incomprehensible. With a long-term perspective, the foresters know how to manage a forest to produce excellent habitat, beautiful views, clean water, and mature trees for lumber and firewood. Forests and rangeland are both much like the goose that laid the golden eggs. They can be cared for and managed, or they can be pushed to produce too much, and as a result, they produce less. If neglected, they produce little.