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.
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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