Restoring Old Growth Characteristics  

TOPIC: "Restoring Old-Growth Characteristics"

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Sun, Feb 3 2008 4:14 pm
From: "Joseph Zorzin"

Possibly this subject has been discussed in the ENTS forums before but I only observe the discussions occasionally.

The subject being an interesting brochure prepared by Anthony D'Amato and Paul Catanzaro- both affiliated with U. Mass., Amherst. I would suspect that Anthony subscribes to this list.

The article that they have published is "Restoring Old-Growth Characteristics". If you go to then look in the upper right corner for a link to the article (the 3rd item)- along with a link to an online presentation and a PowerPoint presentation.

They point out that restoration of old growth structures can be by "passive management" (do nothing) or by "active management".

I'm particularly interested in the section on active management- which I'll quote below in green ink:


Active Management. The second approach to restoring old-growth structure to your land involves active management. Planned forest management provides the opportunity to accelerate the development of old-growth structure (bigger trees, standing dead trees, various canopy gaps, diversity of tree sizes, downed logs) through carefully planned treatments and allows for simultaneous economic return through timber management. Forest management provides an opportunity to mimic natural disturbance, increasing the growth of trees and the development of old-growth characteristics. Although it may sound counterintuitive, active management can restore certain old-growth characteristics faster than the passive approach.

When planning active management, it is critical to identify and retain legacy trees. Legacy trees are in the main canopy and are left to serve as future sources of old-growth structure. Unlike trees that are left following traditional timber harvests to grow larger and be harvested in the future, legacy trees are never removed from the woods. Instead, these trees are left to grow larger and die, providing standing dead trees for habitat, and eventually fall over, providing different habitats as a large downed log on the forest floor. Depending on your objectives, individual legacy trees can be dispersed throughout your land or retained in groups to serve as small-patch reserves (see photo above). In the selection of legacy trees, preference should be given to trees in your woods that already contain important habitat features, such as cavities and dens. Likewise, reserving large canopy trees with wide crowns will allow for the rapid development of large diameter trees on your property. Finally, selecting long lived species for legacy trees, such as sugar maple, beech, and white pine, can ensure that these old-growth characteristics are present on your land for future generations.

The number of legacy trees left will depend on your landowner objectives. If old-growth structure restoration is your primary objective, then leaving between 25 to 50 percent of your canopy trees as legacies will ensure that old-growth structure will develop over time. Leaving fewer trees will take longer for the structure to develop. However, leaving even just a few legacy trees per acre can provide old-growth characteristics missing from most woodlots.

Many of the practices used for meeting traditional timber management objectives are also excellent tools for restoring old-growth characteristics; however, it is critical that you match these practices with the types of old-growth characteristics you hope to restore (see Table 1 below).


(chart not copied into this email) The authors then go on to discuss:


The Gradient of Old-Growth Restoration Practices

There is no one specific "old-growth condition" to aim for as an objective and therefore no one way to create it. Instead, it is more valuable to consider increasing the amount of old-growth characteristics in your woods in a way that matches your objectives. While applying the entire set of old-growth restoration practices to your property may be the quickest and most effective way to restore old-growth structure to your land, this approach may also interfere with other management goals, such as timber


I think this brochure (and research) is one of the better items to come forth from the forestry establishment in some time. I happen to like old growth and I happen to agree that we ought to do more to produce more of it. I've been thinking along these lines for many years- that it would be nice if we can do it- because managing for old growth will be expensive. There will be a sacrifice of timber values by the owner and his professional helpers- foresters and loggers and others. In order to encourage this type of work- I suggest that there should be a cost-share for it and the choice of active management to grow an old growth forest should be a legitimate choice within the "current use" programs of states, such as the Ch. 61 program in Massachusetts- which has always had a focus on timber management. I'll bet that many forest owners avoid Ch. 61 and other current use programs because they fear it will result in required heavy cutting which they don't care for. But, if they knew that they could allow some or much of their forest to develop into old growth, with or without active management, perhaps more forest owners would take advantage of these programs.

I like the authors conception of a gradient of old-growth restoration practices. I can envision producing "near old growth forests" which are close to being old growth- but once the forest reaches great maturity, allowing some very light, very careful harvesting. If the forest, in maturity, consists of many very large, very valuable trees- it would be easy to remove only a few per acre every decade- producing some profit for the owner while still retaining the forest as "near old growth". This sort of work is quite doable on state land where the staff have salaries but on private land- accept for the very rich- will require some financial help either from governments or from well financed foundations.

One could argue that whatever it will cost is worth it due to the great ecological value of old growth. Since the timber market has crashed and we may not see a recovery for many years- we perhaps ought to be growing ecosystem values instead- this would be a good start.


== 2 of 2 ==
Date: Sun, Feb 3 2008 6:13 pm

I was primed for a ranting deconstruction, and ya let me down!
They've left it loose enough that some might still object to the latitude that 'get-in, get-out' operations might see, but the right-minded operators can have the best of both worlds!
I know a lot of folks that as soon as they hear o-g management, they 'smell a rat' and say you can't. I agree with you, if I read you right, that it's better to be moving a stand towards old-growth (whether it's achievable that is another question), than to just log it off for a new start.

TOPIC: "Restoring Old-Growth Characteristics"

== 1 of 9 ==
Date: Mon, Feb 4 2008 6:50 am


I beleive that you can manage with an eye towards developing an old growht
appearance to the woods and I think that depending upon where you start in the
age of a forest it can be accomplished in as little as 30 or 40 years.

Speaking only from the standpoint of private property where taxes and
ownership expenses are a personal issue, my main concern is that old growth
appearance and characteristics are fleeting and definitely temporary and mortalitiy
of some sort is a continuous process even in well managed woodlands. Because
of the potential for some sort of high value trees being lost from such a
woodlot every time the wind blows, some sort of annual budget for high value
trees that can "go back to nature".

As a follow-up, I think the most important aspect to setting up such an old
growth looking system for long term maintenance is related to making the
forestland extremely accessible.

Do they teach foresters about legacy trees in forestry school?


== 2 of 9 ==
Date: Mon, Feb 4 2008 7:00 am
From: "Joseph Zorzin"


Good question about whether or not they teach foresters about legacy trees. I have no idea what they teach today. It would be interesting to find out what. In my opinion, forestry education is probably far too simplistic- but that's another subject.

I'm currently working on a new stewardship for a small property which is going to placed under a conservation easement- and the owner has little interest in timber. He likes nice, large trees and he doesn't need the money- so I'm going to write the plan up so that the main goal is "near old growth restoration"- leaving open the opportunity for the owner to occasionally harvest trees once that stage is reached - some acres will be just left alone and others will be managed actively for old growth.


== 3 of 9 ==
Date: Mon, Feb 4 2008 8:02 am


We hope you will keep us apprised of your progress. You're at the cutting edge, no pun intended.


== 4 of 9 ==
Date: Mon, Feb 4 2008 8:17 am

While my degrees are from the 80's and 90's, my most recently university classes were from N. Ariz. U. as recently as 2004. "Legacy trees" did not appear as terminology in any of my classes (primarily ecological restoration oriented).
I've googled around and not found any hits other than:

"A Legacy Tree is a tree of great size, age, historical significance or rarity. By identifying and mapping these trees, we hope to make them accessible to all, and thereby raise awareness our Eugene's unique natural and cultural history."which it would seem comes from the urban forestry side of things...a tree with history relative to cultural events around it...a relatively specific and recent construct perhaps?

Perhaps it's a regional thing? Is it common outside of urban forestry back East?

== 5 of 9 ==
Date: Mon, Feb 4 2008 8:26 am
From: "Joseph Zorzin"

Well, I know that Gary Beluzo may frown upon the idea of actively managing for old growth- since old growth is "autopoietic", I'd contend that it's possible to add a human touch to the forest without reducing the autopoietic quality- after all, I'm rooted in nature too- as long as I favor non monetary values. Now, if only I could live another 200 years.

BTW, just looked out the back door into an open area next to the woods and saw a huge coyote. I really think the coyotes in New England are rapidly looking more and more like timber wolves.


== 6 of 9 ==
Date: Mon, Feb 4 2008 1:51 pm
From: Carolyn Summers

Very interesting, but,

³it would be easy to remove a few per acre every decade...² Well, unless
youıre going to replace traditional skidders with either horses or trucks on
³caterpillar² tracks, or only allow harvesting during times when the ground
is completely frozen (and letıs face it, those times are becoming rarer),
you will never have an old-growth ³ecosystem,² because the groundlayer will
be too disturbed. Rutting from skidders is definitely on the top ten list
of leftovers from logging that landowners really hate. Iım speaking from
personal experience. I really hope that the logging community will begin to
invest in better, more modern, less destructive (and yes, I mean smaller)

I agree with your point about folks needing more incentive to preserve old
growth, but I would rather see regressive property tax policies expand to
some form of ³existing use². In other words, properties that use few
services pay few taxes. Old growth forests provide clean air and water and
use almost no services. They are deserving of tax breaks whether or not
they generate timber. I believe an existing use tax system may be in place
in New Hampshire and Iım hoping to learn more about it.
Carolyn Summers
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706

== 7 of 9 ==
Date: Mon, Feb 4 2008 2:35 pm
From: "Joseph Zorzin"

Re: [ENTS] "Restoring Old-Growth Characteristics"Carolyn,

It certainly wouldn't be "old growth" which designation should be for forests forever left alone- but I like the term "near old growth" for stands with some old growth characteristics as defined in that brochure. Some disturbance of the ground isn't a bad thing. Some tree species can more easily "regenerate" with some disturbance.

I agree that rutting is atrocious but it's actually not all that common and can be minimized. Good loggers don't leave ruts.

I also believe that the rare harvesting to be done in such "near old growth" stands should be done without skidders- either by horses, tractors, dozers or other small equipment.

But, the logging community has little interest in investing in smaller equipment- just the opposite- they're trying to reduce costs so they think that they need larger more powerful equipment which can haul out more, heavy logs per hitch and faster- thus lowering cost. There are some loggers who do own small equipment and some prefer it, but not many. Choosing loggers with such equipment will most likely result in lower payments for the stumpage but also less damage to the remaining trees.

I agree that tax breaks for owner wanting to grow or preserve old growth is a good idea- and for "near old growth" too.

In a Mass. publication from a decade ago, "Our Irreplaceable Heritage- Protecting Biodiversity in Massachusetts" produced by the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program and the Mass. Chapter of the Nature Conservancy- it says, "We suggest the establishment of a tax incentive program similar to Chapter 61 for landowners who voluntarily conserve Priority Habitats or manage their land specifically for rare species habitat." I don't believe such a law has ever been given serious consideration in Mass.- but it should- perhaps future changes in the "current use" laws of Mass. and other states will begin to reward landowners for all sorts of conservation/biodiversity work in addition to traditional forestry and farming. Such considerations are strongly considered by entities purchasing conservation easements- which movement seems to be on the rise while traditional forestry/farming are on a rapid decline.


== 8 of 9 ==
Date: Mon, Feb 4 2008 3:33 pm


Your argument for managing for "near old growth" has caught the attention of several of us. You've asked us to help think through and explain the values that we perceive in old growth forests. I am starting to put my thoughts together on the subject. It is a natural for ENTS. We hope you stay on the list for longer periods of time. You views are becoming more and more valuable to the primary mission of ENTS. You have tons to contribute.


== 5 of 11 ==
Date: Tues, Feb 5 2008 2:19 pm
From: Carolyn Summers

That is definitely true in our neck of the woods, Catskills, very large
coyotes. And doesnıt some recent research suggest that there may be wolf
genes in Eastern coyotes? They donıt sound like wolves, though, theyıre
very yippy yodelly. When the whole family pack goes at it, it absolutely
makes your spine tingle.
Carolyn Summers