SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Coastal Alaska Forest Regrowth
By Keith Stump


May 06, 2009

Charlotte Tanner has requested me to enlighten her with locations of "better, greener, healthier forests" in Southeast Alaska. OK. First, check out Maybeso Valley on POW where the Maybeso Experimental Forest is located. It was used for experimental logging by the U.S. Forest Service when large-scale logging first began to provide the timber contracted to the two long-term (50 year) sales to the two pulp mills build in the 1950's (Ketchikan and then Sitka). To evaluate and better understand the effects of more significant harvesting of timber (particularly the effects on salmon streams),and the natural regrowth capabilities and processes in Southeast Alaska, over four miles of forests on both sides of the Maybeso Creek were clear-cut logged, and within that area a square mile (after being was first clear cut logged) had all remaining trees (down to just sprouts) removed. In that regrowth (or second generation forest), you will uniformly find an overall "greener" forest canopy (over sixty feet tall about ten or twenty years ago) without the grey dead tops of dead or dying trees found in the or climax forest that was there when the logging began.

You will also find a healthier forest where trees are growing at a prodigious rate, as opposed to the previous "over-mature" forest stands where the over-all loss of wood fiber from trees dying or dead and rotting on the ground exceeded the growth of wood fiber from new trees. A vibrant, growing forest that is far more resistant to bug infestations, diseases, fire and blow-down pretty much reflects healthy. So I believe you cannot reasonably dispute the obvious "fact" that regrowth stands of trees in Southeast Alaska following timber harvesting are greener and healther than in a climax forest.

Charlotte, you may be able to quibble about a "better" forest, as that is a subjective evaluation as opposed to the objective determination of how "green" or "healthy" the trees are. (I used the term "better forest" in response to Mr. Hjerpe's erroneous assertion that the timber industry had "highgraded" the "best trees." From the purely economic perspective that Hjerpe was using, my point was that the the second generation stands are actually better and have more valuable wood fiber than the old growth stands they replaced.) But I largely stand by the general use of "better" to describe second growth stands as well. Having both viewed from a distance and walked through blow down stands ("climbed through" or attempted to go through may be more accurate), and burned forests, and diseased and bug infested forests, all of which are the ultimate fate of a climax forest, I personally think a properly managed forest with sound silviculture is overall "better." Particularly when considering all the wonderful, renewable products like homes to protect us from the rain and snow and cold, paper to write on and read, boxes to pack and store items we value and (I could go on for a long time here), and the jobs and income and balance of trade benefits that harvesting timber provides. Charlotte, if you don't live in a wood house, write letters, checks, birthday cards, or store things in cardboard boxes or benefit to some degree from the economic benefits resulting from timber harvesting in Southeast Alaska, you probably can argue without contradicting yourself (to at least some degree) that an old growth forest is "better" than a regrowth forest that has provided the benefits mentioned above and will continue to provide more of the same for your kids and their kids forever into the future.

And I will gladly agree with you that an old-growth forest may have many benefits that a regrowth stand may not be able to provide. And I would agree with you there are many benefits from allocating significant portions of the Tongass National Forest to wilderness and roadless recreation uses (which I support unless it is to the extent that it harms the overall well-being of the people trying to live in Southeast, or were to totally excludes everything else). So if you want to opine that a second generation forest isn't "better" than an over-mature, climax forest, I certainly won't begrudge you your opinion.

By the way, Charlotte, if you want to see more "better, greener, healthier (second generation, regrowth) forests" a little closer to Ketchikan, you should take a boat trip up to Bell Island. Pay particular attention to the mountainside along Gedney Pass on Hassler Island. When I took a couple from New York on a charter trip around Revilla in the mid '90's, I had to chuckle when they asked why some of the forest was so much more green and pretty, and other areas had grey and dying trees. The green and pretty areas they were pointing to was where I had watched the A-frame loggers clear-cut the hillside when I was young. The grey, "ugly" areas they compared it to were over-mature forests that had never been logged.

Not particularly for your enlightment, Charlotte, my grand-mother is dead, but if you insist on using your rather macabre comparison of humans to trees, she would surely qualify as "over-mature."

I hope, but have concerns that my response has enlightened you. One has to open their eyes--which obviously you don't--to be enlightened, and it's also difficult if you can't see the forest for the trees. Anyway, I tried, and you're welcome, Charlotte.

Keith Stump
Auburn, WA

About: "Years of active participation in the TLUMP and similar Southeast Alaska land-use meetings and proceedings. Born and raised in Ketchikan, graduated from Kayhi in 1967; lived in Ketchikan until 1997."

Received May 05, 2008 - Published May 06, 2009


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