Managing for Old Growth
  Sep 20, 2007 17:12 PDT 
     Beth Hall, a forestry consultant from PA has asked me for assistance in a project that she is involved with for a New Jersey landowner. Basically, the firm for which she works has been told by the property owner to manage for old growth. She is starting at square one and is looking for advice - what to consider, prioritize, do, not do, etc. Anyone care to share their thoughts on the subject?
RE: Managing for Old Growth    Edward Frank
   Sep 20, 2007 18:28 PDT 


This sounds like an interesting project. Obviously the first thing they
should do is to hire me as a high priced consultant. then we can get
down to business.

     a) Talk to the landowners to see how they envision old-growth
     b) Determine what are the long term plans for the property as they
affect the assignment

1) Assess what is on the property at the present time.
      a) Map the existing property noting particular clusters or groves
of trees of interest.
      b) Determine the age and species structure of the existing forest
on the property
      c) Note the presence of man-made structures, fences, straight
lines or other factors that indicate the prior management of humans.
      d) Note the presence, species, and distribution of invasive
plants in the forest
      e) Determine what activities are currently taking place in the
forest, both permissible and illicit.
       f) Assess the the impact of wildlife of the forest - is it being
overgrazed by deer for example.

2) Determine how an old-growth system for this forest setting might
    a) Literature research
    b) Visit other natural areas in the region with similar environments
to determine how they are different or how they are similar in plant and
tree composition to the project area.
    c) Determine what can be done to help guide the property in the
direction of successfully functioning old-growth ecosystems in the area.

3) Create and action plan to:
     a) Remove invasive plants and animals on the property
     b) Curtail activities incompatible with old-growth maintenance-
atvs etc. at least off road activities.
     c) Remove signs of earlier human activities
     d) Manage wildlife populations to meet the carrying capacity of the
     e) If earthworms or other invasive is preventing natural
regeneration, create a planting plan that will emulate a natural
      f) Introduce elements needed to create a functional ecosystem on
the property that reestablishes or at east emulates on a simpler level a
naturally functioning ecosystem.
      g) Wait for a long time.

Ed Frank
RE: Managing for Old Growth   Will Blozan
  Sep 20, 2007 19:05 PDT 

Now THAT is foresight! I envy their position but not the poor sap charged to
implement "it"! I won't even go there, to the topic that is.

RE: Managing for Old Growth   DON BERTOLETTE
  Sep 20, 2007 19:25 PDT 

There's more knowledgable folks on this topic in this forum than myself, but the first thoughts that comes to my mind are:

1)Research reference conditions (what kind of forest community did the ecosystem evolve into, prior to settlement, after settlement). Only in this fashion will you know the resilience retained by the original forest, how far off trajectory it is.
2)Get as complete an inventory as possible.
3)Start a literature search on ecological restoration of forest ecosystems. (Be humble enough to be overwhelmed with the recitation of failures/obstacles/tangents).
4)Gotta be careful whatcha wish for...:>}
I can't think of a better ENTS project, if the scale is right (acreage, o-g resilience, duration of 'rotation' or generation desired)

RE: Managing for Old Growth
  Sep 20, 2007 19:37 PDT 
Ed and Don,

   Thanks to the both of you. Your insights are always valuable. We're just at the beginning, but at the end, whatever advice Beth is given from ENTS members individually and collectively, I'm sure it will help her get oriented. Managing for OG is as you imply a top of the line ENTS project. I feel honored that she turned to us for help and don't want to let her down.

RE: Managing for Old Growth   DON BERTOLETTE
  Sep 20, 2007 19:46 PDT 

When I was referring to scale, what I was trying to say was, it's important that the project isn't too large (economically/practicality), yet it wouldn't be worth doing if it were too small (ecologically).
Obviously, Ed has posited a more well-thought out plan, and I can't disagree with any single item. But as you recognize, it would be an absorbing undertaking. Ed's last ingredient is one thing we (at least you and I...:>} have the least of !More on this later, if it is to develop.
Re: Managing for Old Growth
  Sep 20, 2007 19:48 PDT 

I think you really covered it well...especially the long wait.

RE: Managing for Old Growth   Edward Frank
  Sep 20, 2007 22:13 PDT 

Bob, ENTS,

I like Don's concept of looking at the resiliency of the forest by
comparing pre and post settlement forests. I also should have noted the
ideas of scale he points out. Not only do concepts of scale affect
whether the entire project is practical or even possible, scale affects
both the planning and implementation of whatever you decide to do.

To my initial list I would like to add that as part of the assessment
process there should be an assessment of fire-fuel availability. and in
the planning list there should be a fire management plan - do you want or
need to do controlled burns? Do you need to remove some of the fuel for
fire available in the area? What are you going to do if the forest
catches on fire?

At this stage there is no way to plan for it, but a comprehensive plan
should also note that in the future there will likely be additional
blights, diseases, and insect pests that will threaten one or more tree
species in teh forest and that when these threats do occur it will be
better to consider what options to take in a timely manner, even if it
is to do nothing, than to have the actions forced upon you.

Ed Frank
RE: Managing for Old Growth
  Sep 21, 2007 05:28 PDT 

   I intend to send Beth the discussion thread as it develops and provide feedback to you all from her comments. Maybe I can persuade her to join the list and then I won't need to be the middle person.

Re: Managing for Old Growth   Gary A. Beluzo
  Sep 21, 2007 05:50 PDT 
Bob and Ed,

Based on the literature search and my systems ecology background, I
would suggest that "MANaging Old Growth Forests" is an oxymoron.   
Yes, we can manage various aspects of a forest to enable it to move
toward an older forest (and superficially look like an old growth
forest, i.e. have older bigger trees) but an old growth forest is a
complex dynamic system and as such requires "autopoietic"
characteristics. In other words, an old growth forest requires the
emergent processes that are enabled by many species and many
environmental variables interacting, integrating under the "control"
of the entire system, not just managed by one species. Humans do not
yet have the knowledge base to manage for emergent properties that
lead to complex dynamic systems. Humans tend to simplify systems and
thereby change their trajectories. Compare the natural process of
photosynthesis (a coming together of many complex processes, many
emergent..with the progress that scientists have made toward
emulating photosynthesis (making food).

If we want systems to have some larger, older trees I think we can
MANage that, but if the ultimate goal is a complex dyanmic system
responding with adaptation to biotic and abiotic components then that
requires a much more "emergent" process which requires many genomes,
not one!

RE: Managing for Old Growth   DON BERTOLETTE
  Sep 21, 2007 10:38 PDT 

In a perfect world, of course Gary is right. Don't tinker with the whole until you understand all the parts.
My comment about reference conditions would provide us with more information. Are we starting with an old-growth forest? In that case, follow Gary's suggestion, and mitigate human disturbances as much as is possible.
Are we starting with a forest that may have had certain high value species removed during post-settlement times? Are we starting with a forest that has been effectively stripped of its original constituents with a succession of logging entries? Historically, was has been the natural disturbance regime(s)? We're pretty much jumping the gun until we know at least a little more, huh?
Re: Managing for Old Growth
  Sep 21, 2007 15:12 PDT 

ENTS,   while I agree that you can not manage to produce old-growth
forests per se, you can indeed successfully manage for several emergent
properties that are common in old-growth forests. Not knowing from the
details of the original post, "managing for old-growth" may indeed be a
request to manage for old-growth traits. Fellow ENT Dr. Tony D'Amato
and his colleague at Umass, Paul Catanzaro (Umass extension forestry
specialist) have just produced a pamphlet entitled "Restoring old-growth
structure to your woods", which should be available by early October.
This excellent pamphlet includes various management approaches to
consider when the goal is to restore old-growth forest structure to your
forest. Once available, I am sure it will be made available to ENTS.
Sincerely,   DAVE ORWIG
Re: Managing for Old Growth   Edward Frank
  Sep 21, 2007 20:44 PDT 

Based upon what I said are you saying removing invasive species from a forest plot would be a bad idea because that's management and all management is bad? Are saying that doing something like stopping ATV traffic through the forest would be bad, because that would be management and all management will be bad? Are you saying that deer populations should not be controlled so that there would be some forest floor regeneration because that would be management and therefore that would be bad?.....

Ed Frank


Re: Managing for Old Growth
  Sep 22, 2007 06:30 PDT 

      Thanks for weighing in. It is an interesting topic. I like your term, "trait". Most people mean old growth traits as opposed to the processes that Gary discusses. Still other people have in mind the aesthetic appeal that accompanies large moderately scattered trees within the context of a light understory of vegetation - an open woodland with big trees. The latter we usually agree is not old growth.

     What we need is a new set of terms that does not confuse some characteristics that we seek for to fulfill different objectives as opposed to the folly of thinking that we are restoring the forest to a prior state - the exact nature of which, we don't really know.

      Far too often, managing for old growth at the governmental level is conceived in the context of wildlife habitat, as in leaving a few standing snags for woodpeckers or scattering the slash after logging. I am doubtful of this approach. We need a new forest vocabulary that doesn't mislead in terms of underying motivations/agendas.

Re: Managing for Old Growth
  Sep 22, 2007 06:59 PDT 

Especially, Ed, Bob, Don and Gary...

I am finding the topic of the current discussion extremely provocative and
timely...especially the last posting by Ed.

There is so incredibly much that is still unknown about "old growth"
ecosystems and I believe it is likely that much more information will be lost to
history before it is ever understood. The changes in the forest due to invasive
plants, non native insects and introduced diseases has completely rewritten
any of the rule books and forest management manuals that existed or had been
considered when I began my career as a forester 35 years ago. Now, when
other stuff like global warming, air pollution, high grading and forest
fragmentation are thrown in to the pot, the prospects for old growth management start
to get complex.

I believe that in the past old growth management could have been described
in three different ways.

Active neglect.

Passive neglect.

Benign neglect.

For most people, benign neglect has been nothing and let
nature take its course, take nothing, touch nothing and feel good about it.

Active neglect has been more common...don't touch a might make a

Passive neglect is the huh?....there are some old trees out there?

I think that it is possible to recreate the appearance of an old growth
woods....depending upon the forest type but I think that some types of old growth
woods will be impossible to much bottomland Connecticut River
Valley virgin forest is out there? How can we imagine the impact of
passenger pigeons and American chestnut? What could a person possibly be able to
use as a template for active comparison?

So much of the discussion of old growth forest centers on the trees that
comprise the forest canopy but as I become increasingly involved with the
management of medicinal plants native to the Appalachian hardwood forest I am
developing a realization that the forest from the knees down is much more complex
than from the knees up. And...not to overstate the obvious but, all aspects
of the forest are rooted below our knees.

Without ongoing, active and diligent treatment and monitoring for invasive
species, every aspect of retaining or recreating an old growth woods is moot,
pointless and expensive.

Re: Managing for Old Growth   Gary A. Beluzo
  Sep 22, 2007 09:41 PDT 

I believe that management is appropriate for anthropogenicly
disturbed/maintained systems. In this case, a single species has
consciously altered a system and is managing it for utilitarian
purposes. The natural trajectory has been altered; the system has
been taken off "auto pilot" and is now evolving according to the
desire/purpose of one species, one genome. The system is greatlly
simplified, particularly in the causative control of that system. It
is linear, less resilience, less capacity to adapt.

A natural system is entirely different. This is because a complex
autopoietic system is regulated internally; the sum total of all
genomes present. This is not to imply anything teleological.   
Complex systems can spontaneously order without "purpose" and begin
to show some characteristics of what we call "Life". A very simple
example would be a hurricane. But, a better example would be what
are called "dissipative structures", chemical reactions that maintain
themselves as long as the reactants are available. So, natural
systems are complex because there is no single cause and effect, no
single causative pathway. In fact, the "control" is comprised of
multiple positive and negative feedback loops that operate on "auto
pilot" without consciousness. These systems have evolved over time
through trail and error resulting in adaptations that WORK. Natural
systems should NOT be managed because they are already a "perfect
world" (to respond to Don's comment).

I'll flesh this out tonight when I have more time....heading out to
the field.


Re: Managing for Old Growth
  Sep 22, 2007 14:46 PDT 


While I can understand and sympathize with what you are saying I am not sure that non-management will be an option in the future. We are already passively managing our forests (old and new growth) every day. By changing the climate and introducing invasives we are impacting and altering the autopoietic flow of these forests. You can argue that we are part of nature and therefore part of the natural process. But if this is the case why should we allow our shortsighted, selfish, and ignorant parts to be the ones to have the most influence.

Like it or not we have taken control of nature. Now we have no choice but to deal with it, or to watch it evolve into a system that is very hostile to our continued existence. We have a lot to learn and very little time to do it. But, I believe we need to start working with our environment instead of either working against it or sitting back and hoping it will all work out for the best.

RE: Managing for Old Growth   Edward Frank
  Sep 22, 2007 15:13 PDT 


If I read Bob's post correctly, this client has a forest and has hired a
consulting firm to produce a "management plan" with the goal of
managing for old growth. So whether or not people think this is a good
idea, this will be done. My input was keyed to providing some
suggestions that would result in a minimal management - a hands-light
approach to the implementation.

One disagreement Gary and I may have, or may not - I should not speak
for Gary, is that we both think the concepts of autopoietic systems or
primary systems are a better scientific model for looking at forest
processes than the idea of old-growth. I believe however, that the term
old-growth is so deeply ingrained in our culture that it still serves a
useful political and cultural concept.

In terms of Autopoietic systems and natural systems. There are few
completely pristine system that are isolated from human impacts and
operating in a an intermeshing of natural processes that would be found
in an idealized autopoietic system. Most forests in the east have been
impacted to some degree directly or indirectly by human activities.
Trying to answer the question of how much of an impact must have taken
place before something is no longer a "natural system" is pointless and
only leads to series of arguments with no clear resolution.

A better question would be if the the existing forest were left on its
own, given the existing level of direct and indirect human impact and
ongoing impact, will the adverse effects of these human increase or
decrease over time? I consider invasive species, overbrowsing, and the
like to be indirect human impacts. If these impacts would become
increasingly deleterious over time, then I believe some corrective
action or management should be taken to allow the forest to follow a
path directed by natural processes toward "old-growth" rather than one
directed by these impacts.

If you look at what I suggested in my "plan" it is a decidedly limited
approach. First was to access what was present in the forest in terms
of resources and problems. The management portion of the plan was
designed entirely to minimize or mitigate the negative impacts of human
activities on the forest. One example was to remove invasive species.
If there is a colony of Japanese
barberry in the forest, over time it will continue to grow and continue
to displace native species. As see it the only viable option would be
to eradicate the colony...

So to a large degree I agree with the concept of allowing the natural
process to direct the evolution of the forest over time. I have
suggested nothing that was designed to speed the process or take any
short-cuts toward that end. On the other hand, given the widespread
human impacts on existing forests I feel some things should be done to
counter these effects. If the final "plan" included just dealing with
these negative human impacts, a management light plan of action, that
would be a fine plan to my mind and the one most consistent with the
overall concept of allowing natural process to follow their course.

The only suggestion that I see as questionable is the idea that we
should try to reintroduce species that have been lost to the system
through human interference. This brings up the ideas of threshold
values and resiliency which will be left to another post.

Ed Frank


Sept 29, 2007

Ed and Bob,

Here's something to contemplate- in recent years, in Mass., most conservation easements now require a forestry plan. Some forest owners want a CE but aren't particularly interested in harvesting- I suggest that if a good system is developed for "managing old growth"- then that system could be incorporated into some of the CEs- in fact, if such a system is developed via ENTS, then ENTS could be referred to as a scientific basis for such "old growth mgt.".
So, I look forward to you reopening up the discussion- perhaps with a brief summary of it so far, or by giving the link to the posted discussion (
My slant on this is that every woodlot can be managed for old growth- even very young stands- and not just by doing nothing as Gary Beluzo would suggest- but through silvicultural methods, speed up the growth of young stands (of course the focus would NOT be just on growing economical valuable trees- but trees that would be part of a scientifically and aesthetically superior old growth) - then as they mature, do less and less, at which point I'd agree with Gary that doing nothing or almost nothing is best. Since there are so few old growth stands and even few "near old growth"- managing young stands to become old growth might be seen by future generations as a great thing- because then they'll have far more old growth stands to enjoy than otherwise. We'll plan ahead for 7 generations.....

Sept 29, 2007

Which reminds me of Bullard Woods in Lenox- when I first saw it in the '70s, it looked great, no sign of anyone doing anything in there- then at some point about a decade ago- I think it was the town cons. comm.- they cut down dead or dying trees- perhaps to "protect the public"- I was aghast- for me, it ruined the place (fresh stumps, logs on ground, trails made by machinery)- sheesh, we need to "protect" people from falling trees? That type of "management" should absolutely be avoided in the proper "scientific mgt. of old growth".
Regarding invasives- I don't have anywhere near the hatred  of invasives as most "enviros"- hey, those plants/animals are organic- sure, they'll alter past ecosystems, so what? That's life..... And, I suggest it's virtually hopeless to try.... though, I think old growth is far more resistant to invasives.....
Anyways, enough for now.


    The topic of managing for old growth has many chapters left. I would suggest that what we really intend is the managing for one of more characteristics that we associate with forests that have been designated as old growth and are thought to be most representative of what was here in pre-settlement times. These characteristics often include large trees free of lower limbs and with spreading crowns, pits and mounds on the forest floor left from trees that ahve fallen in the past and decayed, standing snags and cavity trees, mature plant colonies of native species, logs in varying stages of decay on the forest floor, and canopy gaps from blow downs with regeneration in the gaps to create a mult-aged forest, albeit one that mey be dominated by older rather than younger trees.
    Landowners wanting to manage for old growth may, in fact, be thinking of aesthetics of big trees and/or habitat for certain species of animals. We need to distinguish between what can be created through management efforts over a few decades and what requires centuries or millennia. The two types of "old growth" are not equivalent and there is a place for both. For instance, trees that have lived for 400 to 500 years carry climate signatures and a record of environmental impacts and events that cannot be created by merely growing trees to impressive sizes in 60 to 70 years. So, old growth that represents a store house of environmental information and niches that take centuries to develop won't be the same as young, designer old growth. But this point does not diminish the importance of the latter type in meeting the specific objectives of a landowner and in fostering appreciation for forests and keeping the landscape wooded. We need t o explore all aspects and motivations and never lose sight of the objectives to be realized by specific landowners on specific sites.
Bob Leverett Sept 30, 2007

  ...So, old growth that represents a store house of environmental information and niches that take centuries to develop won't be the same as young, designer old growth.
Excellent comment, Bob! That ancient dichotomy of nature without man and nature with it with the following subsets:
  • nature prior to mankind, the magnificent Creation of infinite complexity, beauty and spirituality
  • nature with "primitive man", that is Paleolithic man, with limited ability to alter nature regardless of their motives, though some significant changes have been brought by Paleolithic man over thousands of years, such as (possibly) the elimination of the Paleolithic mega fauna and the continued burning of large grasslands
  • nature with post Paleolithic man, with far greater power to alter the Earth, in the early stages using all the power at their disposal with little concern for the future- highly destructive
  • a more advanced mankind, once Republicans are extinct <G>, exhibiting a strong sense of the need to harmonize with nature, the Omega Point of Teilhard De Chardin, when foresters can fuse the best ecological thinking with the ability to produce wealth from nature for a reduced human population while also creating designer old growth with such sophistication as to incorporate a high level of environmental information, abundant niches and awesome aesthetics- not quite the autopoietic forests of Gary Beluzo, given that Republicans still rule the world (<G>), but if the naked apes can continue to evolve- perhaps something even greater than autopoietic..... or at least in my fantasies...... once the forestry  profession frees itself from the forestry Holy Mother Church. <G>
 But this point does not diminish the importance of the latter type in meeting the specific objectives of a landowner and in fostering appreciation for forests and keeping the landscape wooded. We need t o explore all aspects and motivations and never lose sight of the objectives to be realized by specific landowners on specific sites.
Very, very few forest owners have the slightest clue about the potential of their forests....... instead, they are man-ipulated by the socio/economic/political "classes" which struggle for that resource.
More later on "managing for old growth"- I need to paint my porch. <G>
Joe Zorzin,  Sept 30, 2007



I agree totally with your post. We probably can manage for certain traits or characteristics of an old growth forest but we will not be able to manage old growth forests unless of course they are "anthropogenic". If we define our best forests to be natural then "forest autopoiesis" requires that the regulation of homeorrhetic processes be internal to the system (basic definition of autopoiesis). I become very skeptical when folks say they are going to "manage a natural system" (oxymoron). Management of course is becoming more and more acceptable by the general public. There are now Planetary Engineers that have proposed many management solutions to biosphere-wide problems. Here are just three of the proposals being taken seriously by reductionistic scientists:

1. Add iron to one or more ocean gyres to increase productivity of photoplankton and thereby reduce atmospheric CO2

2. Add a combination of chemical "haloscrubbers" to the stratosphere which in theory would tie up the CFCs, thereby reducing the ozone hole

3. Put gigantic mirrors mounted on satellites in orbit that would illuminate and warm areas of the earth that now will not support crops (Russian scientists)

Fortunately, there is a new generation of scientists that are using system theory tools and methods to model natural ecosystems. The results of their efforts have given them insight into just how complex and dynamic natural systems are and that humans do not have the understanding nor capacity to manage them. The old reductionistic, linear cause and effect view of how nature works, is gradually being replaced by circular logic causation, "correlation coupling" , chaos/antichoas theory, and nonlinear feedback loops.

Gary Beluzo


Lee and Bob,

Both efforts are becoming increasingly less realistic in places like New England where the forest is continues to become fragmented, with large gaps in habitat isolating genomes. The edge of these forest remnants will continue to erode because because edge/interior ratios allowing sunlight, pathogens, exotic species, etc to influence old growth forest processes. E.O. Wilson's "Island Biogeography Theory" has great import in evaluating biodiversity islands in a sea of human sprawl. Gap Analysis is also used to mathematically evaluate the degree of "contiguity" in natural habitats. The Appalachian Mountain chain represents that last real opportunity we have to maintain a continuous natural corridor from north to south in the eastern U.S. In the wake of global warming this corridor becomes vital if species are to migrate northward and persist.

Gary Beluzo


This is why it is so vital that we leave any remaining LARGE natural systems intact with no management in the interior and limited management in a buffer area surrounding it.  The idea of continuing to cut or change in any way remaining old growth forests is absolute megalomania on the part of forest managers.  There is plenty of forest to manage, leave the most natural systems alone.

Gary Beluzo

The proper role of a forestry consultant, who is asked by a forest owner to "manage for old growth" (or any other policy decision) must be to present to the owner the full array of options- options that lay out the trade offs between ecology, aesthetics and long term economics. Anything less is unprofessional. If the owner chooses an option that will have negative effects on the forest, then the forester ought to "walk"- which happens to be the first principle of the Forest Guild. The SAF's code of ethics says the forester must do what the owner wants, even if with negative consequences to the forest - as if that were ethical.
Joe Zorzin, Oct. 1, 2007



I understand both sides of that coin, and not being a splitter any more, and leaning towards lumping, I think that managing for old-growth characteristics is such a large step in the right direction, that we should encourage those steps...I am no less immune than others to the concerns as to the ends of such management, ie, I'm for long-rotations, like towards perpetuity, in most cases.  There's just not enough untrammeled land left!


October 03, 2007

What about the landowner with the tiny 40 acre or less parcel which
either has no "old growth" left, or represents a tiny remanant with
edges recently created?   My parents left us a 15 acre parcel with
four white oak giants in a low area with limited equipment access for
which we have estimated ages in the 400 year range.  When a horizontal
limb 9 feet in diameter near the trunk of one of these trees gets
dropped across the road by accumulated wet early fall snow a volume of
wood sufficient to heat a 2000 square foot house for two years,
preservation of "old growth characteristics" is pretty problematic.

E Daniel Ayres

Time flies much faster than we like- this is an important question- I suggest that such properties could designate some acreage to be  "managed" (with my apologies to GB) for the long term as "future old growth". As we know, many Native Americans believed it's important to think ahead for 7 generations.
Now, just think if we could convince thousands of forest owners to do this- we won't see the results, but future generations will. Most forest mgt. plans never mention the subject of old growth-- but they often claim the virtues of "multiple use" without considering the immense value (usually not yet recognized by society) of old growth- so they should do so. We could then debate if such acreage should have any special treatment to enhance the stand's development as old growth, as Bob Leverett referred to as "designer old growth" or simply leave it alone- this might depend on the stand, if it's been high graded, then some enhancement via silviculture might be useful- if it's mid aged stand of nice trees, perhaps doing nothing is the best thing to do.
I suggest it would be nice to get the idea out that ALL forestry plans should have SOME acres put aside. Most states have tax programs for forest mgt.- but those almost always call for harvesting on most acres, eventually- I don't know if any states allow some acreage to  be put aside- perhaps Mass. could be the first! So, perhaps ENTS could offer this suggestion to our beloved forestry "leadership". Actually, here in Mass.- at least one property has old growth recognized in the state tax plan- the Rowley farm in Sandisfield- the first plan written 30-40 years ago specificed that the old growth hemlock stand must be protected- I wrote the past 2 plans and kept that in there. I showed this stand to Bob and Gary 8-9 years ago. Recently that property was purchased by the state.
Old growth is a good example of ecosystem values not yet measured by society- some way must be developed to put a price tag on such stands- with such measurable value, more will be protected or developed- doing so will take away the temptation to sell the trees to  the wood industry- which has the habit of telling owners that those trees are "overmature". The extra value put on the old growth must be reflected in the real estate value.
Joe Zorzin


Old growth stands have been identified and documented as small as 5 acres so there is room for a small old stand in a 40 acre lot that doesn’t necessarily have to be 5 acres. You could have several small stands and manage them to promote “old growth attributes”.

I just finished a forest management plan and a forest cutting plan on a 50 acre woodlot in Petersham, MA. As I was walking a few of the bidders through the lot on the day of my timber showing, one logger remarked why I was leaving some big old pines that were starting to show signs of decline. I told him that part of the plan is to leave some “biological legacies” scattered through the area (rather than designate a specific no management area) for wildlife and aesthetics. In addition, some of the big unmerchantable multi-forked wolf pines will be girdled which will create snags for more wildlife opportunities. Snags can also be considered an old growth attribute as are big old den trees, etc. It’s hard to get through to some loggers, but I try! And this is just one more reason why foresters need to be involved in all commercial activity on private land, otherwise the exploiters will destroy those attributes and legacies that may take centuries to get back.

Mike Leonard

I agree that we should be preserving any and all large natural systems. I also believe we should be either protecting or rebuilding the corridors that connect these parcels. I completely agree that we should be protecting the remaining old growth forests in as much of a hands off manner as possible. These forests should also be studied with a great sense of urgency so we can better understand the complexity and resiliency that has allowed them to persist for such a long period of time.

But, in some cases, we will likely have to apply some management if we want these systems to continue. Take Cook Forest for instance. I remember noticing the total lack of an understory in many places due to the large deer population. If you do not take steps to control the effects of the deer then eventually the overstory will die off and be replaced with a much different forest comprised of shrubby plants and invasives that deer do not like or can't eat fast enough. Old growth forests do not exist in a vacuum. No matter how protected, or how "unmanaged" they are; they are still going to be impacted by outside forces and the management practices that we apply to other areas (such as the continued ridiculous fish and game management practice of creating more early succesional deer habitat in areas that are already over flowing with deer).

I have also seen a lot of forests that have been so manipulated and mismanaged that they will take centuries to return to a state of "autopoietic" balance. I think we should take what we are beginning to learn from old growth forests, apply our knowledge of the likely effects of climate change and the spread of invasives, and help these lands to recover a little more quickly through long sighted management practices.

I would love to just leave the forests alone and watch them continue to survive and prosper. But unless 5 billion or so humans magically disappear, taking there impacts with them, forests will not continue to survive in the form in which we co evolved. As they transform rapidly in response to our actions they will likely cease to support us. When this happens we will either cease to exist or, at the very least, will find it increasingly difficult to sustain anything close to our current standard of living.
Tim Sullivan  - October 03, 2007

From: Edward Frank 
Sent: Fri, 21 Sep 2007 9:23 pm
Subject: Ecosystem Approaches

The problem with many ecosystem approaches is that people tend to think of them as team events in which each organism plays a role in the sense of "Let's Take One For the Gipper!"  In actuality it is each organism for themselves in a free-for-all battle for resources.  There may be alliances (symbiosis) in which there are temporary partnerships that are mutually beneficial, but as soon as one partner no longer benefits it is back to the fray.  There are inter-relationships between the success and failure of certain organisms, because they are linked together through a common food source or resource requirement, or even a predator/prey relationship upon each other, but does not mean they are working together. There is no self sacrifice of one species for another in the war for resources. Nobody takes on for the ecosystem team.  The overall pattern may resemble a team trying to achieve a goal, but on an individual species basis it is everyone for themselves.  There is talk of functioning ecosystems,  What exactly is meant by this?  If there are plants and animals present and they are feeding upon each other, or plants are growing in sunlight and the soil it is functioning.  Stability is a myth.  These ecologies are always in the process of changing from one configuration to another.  So there is a constant state of transition.  At any one point, so long as there are living things present that are interacting and feeding upon each other or using resources there is an ecosystem present.  It may not be what you imagine as an ideal state or a idealized ecology, but it is an ecosystem.  If a forest is badly overrun by invasives, attached by insects, chopped up by logging, and then left to sit for a hundred years, you will get something at the end of that time which will be a functioning ecosystem, it may not be stable, it may be in transition, bit may be ugly to look at, but if it is not completely barren there will be an ecosystem  .If someplace  is not barren it will have an ecosystem of some sort.
Ed Frank

Yes, regardless of what we do (short of creating a "paved paradise") some sort of ecosystem will remain. The questions are - will this resulting ecosystem resemble in any way the slowly changing system our species evolved with over the millennium, and will this new ecosystem support the quality of life (both economically and emotionally) that we have grown accustomed to?

We have been running a very large, very uncontrolled experiment on our environment for the past century and will have very little recourse if we do not like the results. 

Tim Sullivan - October 03, 2007

To repeat my plaintive cry: 

1.  MANage the systems we have screwed up because in many cases those systems are not going back to a homeorrhetic state for a long time unless we undo the perturbation, and 
2.  LEAVE the autopoietic systems alone. They do just fine without our interference.  We have few if any remaining autopoietic forests in Massachusetts.


Of course "biological legacies" in a sea of management is a far cry from an autopoietic, no management area- we need those as well.

On Oct 3, 2007, at 5:48 PM, Mike Leonard wrote:

Old growth stands have been identified and documented as small as 5 acres so there is room for a small old stand in a 40 acre lot that doesn't necessarily have to be 5 acres. You could have several small stands and manage them to promote "old growth attributes".


I was referring to private forest land. There are plenty of no management areas on the vast areas of public lands.

And if you think there is a “sea of management” out there, you are obviously misinformed. Very little private forest land is managed using solid silvicultural principles. I’ve spoken with foresters from the south, the Lake States, as well as all over New England and in my business and travels and it’s the same old story: rampant highgrading is the rule on private lands despite huge forest bureaucracies “spreading the message”.

I also take issue with your thought that biological legacies are a far cry from no management areas. Since there is so little real old growth left in the east, thoughtful silviculture can speed up the development of old growth attributes which over time will be very similar to real old growth.

On some small woodlots (20 – 100 acres), it might make sense to set aside some no management areas while it might make better sense to do what I just described. ...

Mike Leonard

      -----Original Message-----
      From: [] 
      On Behalf Of
      Gary A. Beluzo
      Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2007 8:02 PM

      Of course "biological legacies" in a sea of management is a far cry from an autopoietic, no management area- we need those as well.



I feel your plaintive cry. I just also feel that there is not a single forest on this planet that we have not interfered with either directly or indirectly.

Are some of these forests strong enough to resist our interferences without outside assistance? Sure, if we do not continue to compound the problems. But there are also other currently "undisturbed" forests that could likely benefit from some well thought out interventions that are not motivated by short term political or economic agendas. Otherwise these forests will likely be knocked out of their naturally evolving balance and into a state that will require more intensive human management for centuries to come. This preventive management does not have to mean deciding what plant species will exist in what numbers. But, it may mean slowing down the spread of non native invasives, or restoring the balance of predator and prey species to control habitat degradation from wildlife populations, etc., etc. At the very least we need to buy these forests the time and space to evolve and migrate in conjunction with a changing climate.

How do we buy this time? Lets start by talking seriously about population control and conservation. This is a problem we can't simply build and invent our way out of. It is the building and inventing that put us here in the first place. Yes technology will be a big part of of the solution. But, just like the forests need time to evolve, we need time for our ability to cooperate and create to catch up to our ability to selfishly manipulate and destroy. Unfortunately this evolution won't begin until the general public and elected leaders gain some of the understanding, respect, and humility shared by many members of this list. I have been watching this slowly start to happen over the past decade. We just need to help it move along at a much quicker pace.

Tim Sullivan

October 06, 2007


In the deep south most of our forest areas are about 70-90
years old. During this time frame the trees get quite large as you all
know due to our long growing season. How can we help stop the forest
service from cutting these remaining areas? Clearcutting practices
have been the norm here for years! Select cutting should be the norm.
My last question is why has the forest service planted nothing but
superior pines, which don't even produce pine cones! Some forest areas
were allowed to regenerate naturally, but not many. I've seen many
Oaks cut just for pallet material in the Fed. Govt.,and much waste of
timber. Make them from plastic not wood! I understand we need to
harvest timber but not they way we have been doing it, there needs to
be more conservation and better management. I think we need to help
get more Old Growth put aside as wilderness areas and forbide any
harvest! The rare plants, animals and insects should be saved before
we destroy them all. How can we at ENTS, the Premier measuring team
stand by and let these forest be lost forever? What does ENTS


----- Original Message -----
From: Larry Tucei
To: ENTSTrees
Sent: Thursday, October 04, 2007 8:59 AM
Subject: [ENTS] Re: Managing for Old Growth

ENTS,   In the deep south most of our forest areas are about 70-90
years old. During this time frame the trees get quite large as you all
know due to our long growing season. How can we help stop the forest
service from cutting these remaining areas? Clearcutting practices
have been the norm here for years!
I can't claim to know much about southern forestry, but from what I've read, it's often claimed that clearcutting is the best silvicultural method- in the south and west- because those species most desired MUST have full sunlight (whether naturally seeding in or by planting). It may be that they do need good sunlight, but it's absurd to suggest that they need huge clearcuts. I suggest that the real reason to do huge clearcuts is that this lowers the cost of logging operations- thus lowering the cost of the wood raw material- that is, the people using the wood raw material don't want trees to be expensive- they want the raw material for THEIR industry to be cheap, just as all industries want their raw material cheap.
Huge clearcuts make for cheap harvesting because the logging machinery doesn't have to be careful prancing around trees to be left- they just wipe everything out- allowing for maximum speed. And, it takes very little time for the responsible "forester" to lay out such a clearcut- almost no effort at all. Basically, clearcutting is simple minded- turn the forest into the equivalent of a multi year corn crop- clearcut, bulldoze the site, burn the slash, plant trees with machinery- then leave it alone until the next clearcut- the result, cheap raw material.
Uneven aged, multi species silviculture by contrast takes more effort- the forester needs to have a good understanding of forest ecology and the extremely complex economics of developing a forest with many species and many age classes.  The result however will usually be far more valuable trees (veneer and quality sawlogs) - which is good for the owner, but not good for the industry that wants to buy those trees- their raw material costs soar. In the south, industry mostly wants raw material for pulp- growing premium logs is NOT what they want. If it's their own property, this may make sense- because their goal isn't to maximize value production in the forest, but in the mill.
Uneven aged, multi species silviculture results in forests that look much more "natural" because they ARE much more natural. They don't necessarily favor one or two species or one or two "crops". In an ideal forest managed this way, eventually you can have very mature forests- with very large trees of many species- which, economically speaking means that the ownership HAS MADE AN INVESTMENT in the forest- like leaving lots of money in the bank to produce interest- keeping the investment level high and only occasionally removing the interest, that is perhaps a fourth or a third of the trees per acre every 15-20 years.
Such forests, to me, are almost as aesthetically satisfying and almost as biodiverse as true old growth forests- and believe it or not, they can be far more economically rewarding to the ownership- which of course goes against the lame industry/bureaucratic/academic lies and propaganda.
So, if such forests can produce MORE wealth and offer MORE biodiversity, why isn't this type of forestry more common? Because, as suggested above- their is a huge difference in interests- industry wants cheap raw material- and the forestry establishment (no, not 100%, but most of it) supports the desires of industry because they are paid to do so- thus, the forestry establishment has sold out.
 Select cutting should be the norm.
My last question is why has the forest service planted nothing but
superior pines, which don't even produce pine cones!
As noted above, industry wants cheap raw material and this is how you get it- the economics of superior pines isn't likely to be good for the owner, but it will be for the industry. It's the same scam as Monsanto selling farmers seed that will produce crops that can't produce more seed. It's always better to work with natural regeneration- the trees will be better suited to the site, more resistant to disease if resistant trees are left for seed.
 Some forest areas
were allowed to regenerate naturally, but not many. I've seen many
Oaks cut just for pallet material in the Fed. Govt.,and much waste of
timber. Make them from plastic not wood!
It's OK to make them from wood if it's low grade wood- almost certainly cheaper and better than plastic pallets- using oil based plastic is a waste of the oil resource, which results in boneheaded presidents trying to conquer countries with oil. Very well managed forests will not produce a lot of "pallet stock"- but instead, produce a lot of premium logs and veneer- extremely valuable products. Since we the public own the public forests, don't we deserve to have economically productive forests? Economics based on the ownership's economics, not the economic of the wood industry.
 I understand we need to
harvest timber but not they way we have been doing it, there needs to
be more conservation and better management. I think we need to help
get more Old Growth put aside as wilderness areas and forbide any
harvest! The rare plants, animals and insects should be saved before
we destroy them all. How can we at ENTS, the Premier measuring team
stand by and let these forest be lost forever? What does ENTS
say!      Larry

Most of the public lands have been cut at some time in the past (that is why Bob and I have identified so little old growth (about 0.1% of the total DCR owned lands)).
Perhaps "solid silvicultural principles" are not be used, however the land has still been MANaged in the sense that human beings have altered the composition of the forest and so have chosen a new trajectory for the forest (i.e. the increase in northern red oak, red maple, etc even in lands that are not regularly cut).

Perhaps thoughtful silviculture can speed up development of old growth ATTRIBUTES but it certainly can not reinstate autopoietic processes by the very nature of management.
 I am simply providing an alternative view, based on my understanding of how forest ecosystems work. I am not a forester so I don't see through sivilculturist eyes. And while I certain appreciate the efforts of my Teutonic ancestors in terms of silviculture there is a real need for systems forestry now by everyone.

Gary Beluzo - October 4, 2007

Personally, I take great pleasure in identifying oversize and very old trees in my forestry plans with a strongly worded statement mentioining the unique aspects of that paticular area.
Old growth forest is not common in WV but there is much more of it on private property than most people realize.  All you have to do is come into an area with 30-45" DBH chestnut oak knowing that 14" trees in the same area are 150 to 250 years old.  Depending upon how long it has been since the last forest fire and how active the eartheorms are there may not be much left rotting on the ground.
You guys have been keeping a very interesting thread alive!
Russ Richardson - October 05, 2007
I think you are being heard but unfortunately by the do we get foresters to care?
Russ Richardson - October 05, 2007



Thank you for your comment.  I guess we just keep at it!

I believe we are on the doorstep of a major paradigm shift in science.  We need new vocabulary and new ways of investigating and describing complex dynamic systems.  The reductionistic method is still very important for uncovering linear cause-effect relationships.  The problem is that most complex systems cannot be explained by simple, linear, cause-effect relationships.  The traditional, reductionistic science, testing a single variable in a controlled environment, does not emulate what happens in a complex dynamic system when humans MANage that system.  Our simplistic understanding of how some of the processes work will be insufficient as humans continue to poke stir, and manage the environment, particularly as it becomes more global.  There are dangerous proposals in the works:

Dump iron into the ocean to increase planktonic productivity thereby bringing down the global CO2 level
Inject complex organic molecules to the stratosphere to compete with CFCs and reduce ozone depletion
Put large mirrors in orbit on satellites and redirect sunlight to areas that currently do not support agriculture
Genetically modify trees and create plantations from forests to provide the wood of the future

Can you see the problem?  In each case we seek to apply a simple solution to a complex system without really knowing the nonlinear consequences...

Complex dynamic systems have:
homeorrhetic characteristics
"emergent properties" resulting from the interaction of many complex processes
positive and negative feedback loops (i.e. circular and nonlinear logic rather than simple, linear, cause-effect logic)
chaotic, antichaotic, and poised subsystems
        tipping points beyond which the system may spontaneously change "state" and settle into a new dynamic equilibrium

We should exercise the "precautionary principle" and learn more before we mess around.
Gary Beluzo - October 05, 2007

TOPIC: Managing for Old Growth 

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Wed, Oct 10 2007 3:44 am
From: "Mike Leonard"


My most important rule for loggers: don't scar up or do unnecessary
damage to the high quality residual trees/stand!
Minimizing sedimentation, ruts, and slash is important but the above is
most important.


== 2 of 3 ==
Date: Wed, Oct 10 2007 10:50 am
From: "Gary A. Beluzo"

...There are just too many references
in the literature and the field to the contrary. In addition,
whether a species is endangered (potential for extinction),
threatened (potential for becoming endangered), special concern
(potential for becoming threatened) or not state-listed should not
determine whether or not we value old growth forests. Also, I
disagree that old growth is "big trees". For example, on Mt. Everett
there are old pitch pine trees that barely make it up to breast
height. We need to stop seeing old growth as just "big, old trees"
or we will lose all of our natural systems.

...The only areas that have any chance of long-term preservation are the
old growth stands that Bob and I have identified and mapped, a scarce
0.1% of the total. But even these stands are very much threatened by
being eroded from the outside due to past fragmentation, isolation,
and both invasive species and environmental conditions that favor
shade intolerant species.



TOPIC: Managing for Old-Growth Structure

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Wed, Oct 10 2007 
From: Anthony D'Amato 


 As Dave Orwig alluded to a couple of weeks ago, Paul Catanzaro and I
 have produced a pamphlet outlining various passive and active management
 strategies for restoring old-growth structural elements to woodlands in
 southern New England. If anyone would like a PDF or hard copy of this
 pamphlet, please contact me and I will be happy to provide you with
 either form.

 Tony D'Amato

== 2 of 2 ==
Date: Wed, Oct 10 2007 6:25 am
From: "Mike Leonard"

Good Job Tony.

You can download the pamphlet called "Restoring Old-Growth
Characteristics" at

The important points are:

1. Opportunity exists to restore old-growth characteristics in our
current forests (both public and private)
2. Doing so will create better wildlife habitat for a wider range of
3. Active management is better than passive management as we look to
improve old growth structure.
4. Opportunities will be better in woodlots that have never been cut or
have never been high-graded.

Our Current Use law, the Chapter 61 Forest Land Tax Law gives tax breaks
to landowners who enroll and commit to timber production while the
Forest Stewardship Program encourages all forest values. So a policy
question would be does the encouraging of old growth attributes conflict
with the timber production mandate of our current use law? I don't think
it does, but it needs to be clarified.

Mike Leonard, Consulting Forester

On 10/12/07, Mike Leonard wrote:


OK while there may be a few plants, lichens, and mosses a bit more abundant in old growth stands, I have never heard of any wildlife species dependent on old growth in southern New England. Out west, we have heard so much about the spotted owl which cost thousands of jobs. Well if the barred owl pushes the spotted owl out (as it is doing), will the ecosystem collapse? Of course not!

[The big picture is being missed] We practicing field foresters are the key if the goal is to improve the percentage of old growth (or stands with old growth attributes) from < .1% while protecting and managing as much private forest land as we can. It certainly isn’t the bureaucrats, academics, and so called non-profits who do nothing but feed off forestry issues!

Finally, way too much is made of individual species and that is why the endangered species laws are in drastic need of revision so they look at whole ecosystems rather than every little weed or bug.


On 10/12/07 Gary Beluzo wrote::

... I have a graduate degree in Evolutionary and Ecological science (Global Ecology actually) and that most of my thinking and work concerns SYSTEMS ecology.  Most of us on the ecology end DO take a big view it is just that many foresters continue to see only the economic value of a tree that is cut down, sawed up, and delivered to the consumer.  Be honest, are you interested primarily in timber production (utilitarian) or doing what is best for a given forest ecologically? Even if that means no cutting.....I have forester friends and although I respect their knowledge of silviculture and believe that they are trying to do the right thing, it is still how much timber that can get out of a particular stand....that's the orientation, that's the world view, that's the paradigm.

I have no economic interest, in fact I have little anthropogenic interest in preserving forests...someone has to speak for other species in our environment.  They ought to exist because it is an inherent right and ecological value. 

I agree, the Endangered Species Act needs to be overhauled drastically. Instead of protecting the cuddliest species we should be looking at the system and realize that the cuddly species are an EXPRESSION of the system in a particular point of time and space.  Life is a PROCESS not a PRODUCT.  A 3.9 billion year continuous and unbroken process, species are but nodes of that process.  Some day we will focus on the process (system interactions) rather than the product (wood)..




I feel "every little weed or bug" is what an ecosystem is defined
by--we need to allow an old growth forest to steep and simmer at its
own pace.

Steve Galehouse

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Mon, Oct 15 2007 4:04 am
From: dbhguru


I am in basic agreement with you, but realistically, the steeping and simmering has to take place on preserved lands, be they public or private. That still leaves managing for some old growth attributes on non-preserved lands to meet varying objectives of forest owners/managers. The mistake that resource managers and consultants frequently make is to think that the latter approach is sufficient for all forested lands. The reason is that they have an entrenched belief, held consciously or unconsciously, that the highest use of a forested property is to produce commercially valuable products. They consider preserved lands as idle and wasteful. Consequently, they will always advocate for active management approaches and minimize preserved areas. Silviculturist Tom Bonnicksen even advocates actively managing the forests in our national parks.


Date: Fri, Oct 12 2007 9:47 am

...As one who was actively involved in helping delineate forest reserve boundaries for Savoy Mountain, Mohawk Trail, Monroe SF, Mount Greylock State Reservation, and several other areas, I can say without ambiguity that the reserve concept provides us with very little assurance/insurance of a permanent hands off policy by DCR. There is nothing in the way of statutory protection in the current reserve concept. It is all an administrative set aside from within the executive branch. I wish that were not the case, but it is. DCR has not proven reliable enough to be trusted on along term basis. In addition, nowhere near 100,000 acres have been set aside in forest reserves at this point. The 100,000 is presently only paper. The actual acreage set aside is around 50,000. I can say definitively that the mainstream environmental groups are not that confident over the current situation. Whatever strategies they feel they must follow to work with those in power, they are neither blind nor stupid
. They track DCR performance, as do you, albeit along different lines.
On the habitat point, you are basically correct. There are no charismatic species of plants or animals in Massachusetts that we know of that are dependent for their survival on our small areas of old growth. We do know that species of mosses, lichens, and liverworts do exist that depend on long-term decay cycles that typically occur in old growth. Work done by Dr. Steve Silva in Maine has identified around 25 major lichen species. A scientist, formerly with Harvard Forest, Sarah Cooper-Ellis, identified a number of mosses that, if not old growth obligates, are close to it. From inten sive studies in Pennsylvania, there are species of warblers such as Blackburnian that aren't absolutely dependent on old growth ecosystems, but thrive in far greater numbers in old growth hemlock stands. Other species that have been presumed to require old growth type environments such as the Indiana Brown Bat have proven not as rare as once believed. It is true that environmentalist rushed things a b
it on some of their pronouncements.
However, the composite processes that shape old growth ecosystems and the scientific value of extremely old trees cannot be faithfully replicated via the limited management actions that typify creation of wildlife habitat, leave a few legacy trees, and mitigate logging damage. The climate record of trees that date back in to the 1700, 1600, and 1500s is proving increasingly valuable to scientists. Speeding up the decay cycles to produce snags for wildlife habitat is not an equivalent process to retaining ancient trees that record environmental events over centuries.
In terms of managing limited areas for old growth characteristics across the forested landscape, I acknowledge that this can be done for small subsets of the fauna and flora, and it is a worthwhile direction to take to try to find a semblance of a balance between diametrically opposed objectives, especially on private lands. But before resource managers on public lands congratulate themselves, the efficacy of forest management actions for old growth perpetuation must be put into perspective. Some old growth characteristics can be enhanced to fulfill different purposes, but the results don't lead to a fully functioning natural system with all its components working in the manner that Gary Beluzo describes. For instance, take the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. There are ove r, 1,700 species of flowering plants that have been cataloged in the Park. There are 130 species of trees, with as many as 50 in areas as small as a few acres. At least 27 species of salamanders call the Smok
ies home as do 21 species of snakes. Bird habitat in the Smokies is off the charts. The number of lichens and mosses are also off the charts and the number is growing. The sheer number of species, the extremely complex forest structure, and the scale of the dimensions of the trees, with at least 11 trees species reaching astounding dimensions produce a level of ecosystem complexity that is far beyond simple management strategies to mimic. There is a second world of living, interacting life forms in the canopy of the Great Smoky Mountains forests, 100 to 150 feet above the forest floor. Will Blozan and other ENTS see that ecosystem and never cease to be amazed and impressed.
However, management objectives that are timber and wildlife focused usually concentrate on 3 or 4 species of commercially valuable trees and about the same number of game animal species. For the timber-focused, other species are, basically, just hitchhikers. Even where intentions are the best, there is usually a telescoping down of forest complexity in managed forests - even when old growth attributes are valued and management strategies attempt to mimic natural processes. I suppose forests could be managed toward objectives where that wouldn't necessarily occur and I hope future research will point us in that direction. As we move geographically farther north and the remaining areas of natural forest diminish in size, forest management and restoration strategies seem more visible, and perhaps, plausible. But we won't know how successful management can be toward mimicking natural processes unless we have fairly large tracts of un-fragmented forests left to nature. TNC research sugg
ests 15,000 acres as a minimum size in our area and that determination partially drove the forest reserve concept.
However, there are state lands that don't fit the intentions of forest reserves and I'm referring to urban state parks. The Robinson SP debacle is a clear example of why environmental organizations are becoming increasingly distrustful of the Bureau of Forestry. Green certification was and still is the driving force behind DCR's attempts to manage Robinson for future oak and pine production. They have no interest in sassafras, black birch, yellow birch, white birch, shagbark hickory, pignut hickory, sycamore, tulip poplar, black gum, white ash, green ash, eastern cottonwood, hop hornbeam, American hornbeam, black cherry, and certainly not red maple. They are defining forest health around the regeneration of 2 or 3 species of oak and of white pine. Talk about myopia.
One final point, I would raise. If we cynically look at the 100,000 public acres of tentative forest reserves as a buyoff of the environmental community, then do we also look at the remaining 400,000 acres; to be actively managed, as a buyoff of the timber interests in the state? One might suggest that timber was the primary reason for creating the state forests in the first place, but it wasn't the primary reason for creating state parks, at least most of them.
The major environmental groups do not object to active timber management on the bulk of the state forest lands, but they want both honesty and competence out of the Bureau of Forestry. That is not too much to ask. But so far, they have gotten neither. However, the Bureau is the land manager for the state's forests and they hold the trump cards, so environmental groups have to work with the Bureau. The environmental groups aren't selling out, just pursuing their legitimate objectives and they have come along way toward accepting both management and non-management objectives. But it isn't their role to cure the ails of the forestry world.

Bob Leverett

Fri, Oct 12 2007 4:40 pm

As a follow-on to the last e-mail on managing for old growth, the diversity and complexity of the forests of places like the Great Smoky Mountains and Congaree national parks are remindful of the complexity of tropical forests. I've never heard anyone seriously talk about "managing" a jungle. The bewildering array of plants and animals stagger the imagination and render silly any talk of managing them. Humans strive to simplify a jungle by clearing the land and planting individual crops. However, as one moves north or south, the number of species of trees, vines, and other plants decreases within a forested environment. Eventually we reach a number that appears manageable. But management usually devolves to a form of cultivation for a very few species of trees and animals of high economic value.

Bob Leverett

Date: Mon, Oct 15 2007 1:47 pm
From: Bob Leverett


With respect to the first reference, Dr. Anthony D'Amato is on the board of Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest and along with Dr. Dave Orwig, Professor Gary Beluzo, and myself, the foremost experts on old growth in Massachusetts. I would have to add Dr. Charles Cogbill to the list, although his primary area of expertise lies to the north of Massachusetts.

I was pleased to see that Tony has expanded his research interests into managing for old growth. I think that what he and Paul propose expand the tools for speeding up some characteristics. But what I especially like is his insistence that a significant population of larger older trees be permanently left - legacy trees.

Sometimes a powerful concept is captured by the adoption of a single term or phrase. Legacy trees seems to work for lots of forest managers and I admit that I like the term. I was initially skeptical about prescriptions for managing for old growth because they seem to focus almost exclusively on wildlife habitat, but the later prescriptions have expanded.


TOPIC: Managing for Old Growth

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Tues, Oct 16 2007 3:32 am
From: "Mike Leonard"


Shouldn't the Forest Reserves be covered under the EOEA Article 97 Land
Disposition Policy?
According to the "Statement of Policy", the EOEA and its agencies shall
not sell, transfer, lease, relinquish, release, alienate, or change the
control or use of any right or interest of the Commonwealth in and to
Article 97 land. The goal of this policy is to ensure no net loss of
Article 97 lands under the ownership and control of the Commonwealth and
its political subdivisions.
Among the procedures for disposition exceptions is that you must obtain
a two thirds vote of the legislature in support of the disposition, as
required under the state constitution.

By the way, I attended an excellent MAPF meeting last Friday which was
supposed to feature Eric Freyfogle, Professor of Law who wrote the
excellent book called "The Land We Share", but because his flight was
delayed his associate Jamison Colburn of Lewis and Clark Law School
Jamison talked about how property rights have evolved, takings, and how
conservation easements have become the most popular way to protect land.
By 2003, an average of 825,000 acres PER YEAR was being encumbered by
some form of conservation easement nationwide!
However, a conservation easement is just a property right; a government
agency can still take and develop! In addition, a landowner could
theoretically buy back an easement (unification of title).

The rest of your response about species diversity is very interesting
and I generally agree. But the complexity and diversity that you seek is
more appropriate for public lands. However, that doesn't mean foresters
cannot achieve some of these complexities and diversity on private land.
Give us some credit!