Our proclivity to measure   Robert Leverett
  May 20, 2005 08:14 PDT 

   I imagine that for some of you, perhaps most, our discussions about
site indexing are of limited interest. As those who have been members of
this list can attest, we periodically get into heavy measuring
discussions and the present is one of those times.

   If our site indexing discussions seem overly focused on tree
measuring as opposed to other forest and tree values and what is clearly
a compulsion for several of us; i.e. to measure, measure, measure, it is
important for everyone to realize that this isn't the whole story. For
Ents such as Will Blozan, Tom Diggins, Dale Luthringer, myself, etc.,
there are important political agendas being served by our intense
concentration on site statistics. It is a way of protecting worthy sites
and Zoar Valley, NY, may be the best example of this.

   Unless we are willing to return to some of our exemplary, but
unprotected, forest sites to find that they have been converted into
stumps, we have to maintain constant vigilance. We must be ever wary of
the forces that would exploit these sites for the timber or high impact
recreation - especially the sites that don't receive protection because
of rare or endangered species.

    But being vigilant or wary isn't enough. We have to persuade the
powers that be that what these sites having going for them is at least
sufficiently rare in terms of the distribution of their large/tall trees
as to warrant special protection and we accomplish this through our
measurements. Measuring is then an indispensable tool for us. It is our
eyes and ears.

    In fact, when investigating a new site, we usually find that we are
the only ones with a valid perspective on where the site fits relative
to others along any number of lines of comparison. For example, here in
Massachusetts, to my knowledge, when we turned our attention onto Mohawk
Trail State Forest, Monroe State Forest, and Mount Tom State
Reservation, ours was the only group that had any sense of what was
represented at these sites and where each fit into the big picture
relative to forest maturity and forest stature.

    Since our initial thrusts into significant site documentation that
emphasized locating, measuring, and recording collections of large/tall
trees, we have grown immensely while other tree-interested groups have
basically stood still or not entered the picture. But dominant though we
may be, we can't rest on our laurels. We must constantly move forward
perfecting our craft. It is our dominance in site documentation that
gives us a visibility that can be translated into a voice in what
happens to otherwise unprotected sites. I point this out as especially
relevant to western Massachusetts. Unlike the GSMNP, Congaree Swamp NP,
the Porcupine Mtns State Park, Cook Forest State Park, etc. MTSF and MSF
have not a whet of statutory protection from the chainsaw. The non-old
growth areas don't even have departmental policy protection. While
naturalists have lauded the importance of the lower Dunbar Brook area of
MSF, the rest of Monroe and virtually all of Mohawk has received no
special recognition - except that organizations such as Mass Audubon
have stood behind FMTSF/ENTS.   

   I have absolutely no doubt that it has been the force of our
arguments, our persuasiveness, our ingenuity, and our constant presence
that has kept the chainsaws from entering the highly productive
second-growth areas of MTSF and MSF. In absence of our presence, while
MTSF might not have been totally ravaged by local lumberman, there still
would have been significant timber sales in several accessible areas of
that state forest. There had been such sales in the past.

   A significant part of MTSF will likely be included in a plan to
establish future forest reserves. I speak of the steep slopes within the
Cold River and Deerfield River Gorges, but the accessible second-growth
white pines - the flagships of Massachusetts will likely receive
protection only as a consequence of their exemplary stature as
documented and studied by FMTSF/ENTS.