SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Coastal Alaska Forest Regrowth
By Keith Stump


May 14, 2009

In response to Charlotte Tanner's second request that I answer or otherwise enlighten her: "Over-mature forests" include "dead and decaying" trees, and healthy, growing trees. They are marked by a canopy populated by gray, dead wood, and distinguished from a "mature forest" by the substantial percentage of dead and dying trees and more technically by the comparative lack of increase or decrease in wood fiber. "Over mature" is a term used to describe a forest, not a tree. A standing tree can be dead or dying (i.e. decaying, rotting in part). A tree fallen and turning to rot on the forest floor is not an "over-mature tree," it's a dead tree, but it would possibly be in an over-mature forest.

You "expect[ed]" wrong when you asserted the green forests my charterers were so impressed with was an Alder stand; they were viewing 30+ year old regrowth of predominantly spruce and hemlock (and likely with some alder) trees. I am not sure if you simply think I'm younger than I am, or don't realize how fast evergreen trees grow in Southeast. I wrote that when I watched the logging on Hassler Island "when I was young." That was in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Although I would like to think of my youth as being "recent," truth is, it ain't. I did not say the stand had "been recently logged;" that's your adverb; although perhaps within the framework of forest cycles, "recent" could arguably include 30 or 40 years ago. But since you clearly don't trust or accept what I write, please, go up there, or at least go look at the photos I'm sure the Forest Service has. The area is the south side of Hassler Island alongside Gedney Pass. But you can trust me (and reduce your carbon
footprint by not wasting that non-renewable gas you'll need to get there), we were not looking at an alder stand.

As to why the logging industry "insist[s] on wanting to cut more and more Old Growth," I'll have to defer to the U.S. Forest Service and the loggers to answer that question more definitively, but I can tell you your premise is wrong, and that the original Tongass National Forest timber harvesting plans called for up to five fifty-year pulp mill contracts originally, with the underlying premise of "sustainable yield." Those plans were based on maintaining a renewable, never ending supply of wood products (and was based on logging in a relatively small portion of the Tongass National Forest). So that in future generations there would be more saw mills and less need for the pulp mills as the regrowth generated more saw-grade logs and fewer pulp-grade wood. Suffice to say, we never even approached half that level of logging; so the logging industry (or whatever it is--i.e. the federal government) is actually insisting on cutting less and less (Old Growth or any growth).

In due time, Maybeso Creek will surely be the perfect candidate for another logging effort. If the purpose was to maximize timber production to the exclusion of all other uses and benefits of the forest, it probably would have had at least one pre-commercial thinning (where they go in and cut down a certain percentage of the trees so the others left standing have more room to grow without over-crowding) and a commercial thinning already. But because there are (and should be) other considerations, such as fish stream productivity, animal habitat, etc., it will be (as I last heard) another forty to sixty years before it is logged again. Since I agree with those other values, I cannot agree with your desire to just log the hell out of a very small portion of the forest.

On the other hand, would you agree to a land use plan that lets us log just 10% of the total Tongass National Forest so that those other considerations can be met while harvesting that wonderful, renewable, recyclable product called wood forever? Tell you what, Charlotte, since I know you want 0% logging, how about if we meet just half-way: 5% of the Tongass National Forest total, ever to be logged. Max.

Is that fair? Would that make you happy? Then you should be ecstatic, because the Forest Service long-range plans are for even less than that.

Keith Stump
Auburn, WA

About: " Born and raised in Ketchikan. Lived in Alaska (mostly Ketchikan) for half a century; visit "home" when I can."

Received May 12, 2008 - Published May 14, 2009


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letterCoastal Alaska Forest Regrowth By Charlotte Tanner

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