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.
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
Alaska Forest Regrowth By Charlotte Tanner
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