Saving the real old growth
I read with interest Nathan Rice's excellent article "A New Forest Paradigm" (HCN, 4/29/13). I was around in the 1970s, when the last of the old-growth giants were being felled in Oregon and Washington. I deplored what was happening then and cheered any means of saving those venerable trees, some of which were over 500 years old. Now, I am scratching my head when I read that environmental groups are trying to save 108 year-old trees. Really? This smacks of people who live in wooden houses but prefer to import their lumber from somewhere else rather than cut it locally.
The footprint of the spotted owl on the Eastside greatly expanded as a result of fire exclusion. The same forest stand characteristics that favor the spotted owl of the Washington Cascades lead to insect epidemics and rapid fire spread. As the forest filled in with fir trees in the absence of fire, another bird lost habitat in a big way: the white-headed woodpecker, which favors open ponderosa pine-dominated forests. In effect, insistence on retaining all of these dense stand types, as mandated in the Northwest Forest Plan, is to ensure that they burn up in the very near future, and serve as habitat for neither the spotted owl nor the white-headed woodpecker.