Fw: [saf-member] Fw: sustainable development   Don Bertolette
  May 16, 2002 19:35 PDT 
A rambling but interesting interchange between a past-national Chair of the SAF and myself follows this introduction.

I apologize for resorting to color coding (for those able to recieve color text formats, my initial responses to Karl were in Comic Sans MS 12 Bold font, Karl's original post was in black Times Roman, then in response to my post, he switched to red Comic Sans MS. I have this evening responded to Karl, in blue Comic Sans MS), but the Joe Z school of color coded conversation is functional, at least for a few jabs... :>}

I offer this up to ENTS members in the hopes of starting a dialogue...Karl's posts are thoughtful, he's sensitive in his own way to the environment, and has a wealth of experience in forest research, even if from another era. I don't doubt his sincerity.

-Don B
PS:Our thread runs in reverse chronology, here preferred so as to offer his willingness for our correspondence to be shared...

----- Original Message -----
From: Karl F. Wenger
To: Don Bertolette
Sent: Thursday, May 16, 2002 10:11 AM
Subject: Re: [saf-member] Fw: sustainable development

Don: I have no objection to you sharing our correspondence

Karl Wenger
----- Original Message -----
From: Don Bertolette
To: Karl F. Wenger
Sent: Monday, May 13, 2002 9:45 PM
Subject: Re: [saf-member] Fw: sustainable development

I'm a member of another listserve (tre-@topica.com) essentially a Northeastern listserve that features some serious tree enthusiasts (with a preference for old-growth). I'd like to share our recent thread with them, for several reasons, but wish to inquire first of your agreeability in so posting...reason #1 is increase positive interchanges between SAF and non-SAF groups...too often we SAF members get painted with a broad industrial brush, and my thrust these days is collaboration (there was a time and place for confrontation, but it has long since passed), working towards solutions.
-Don B

Don: Thanks for your reponse to my message.

With respect to your statement that my "proposed atlernatives are...stopgap meaures"--Don, my estimate of two hundred million pounds of sewage "daily" means that that much is produced every day. Every person, if he/she is functioning properly, produces about 12 ounces of body waste every day. Every day! We now have a population of about 280 million people. It is my guess that a large part of this population lives in communities with sewage disposal systems. These work by collecting the sewage and treating it, separating out of the solids, and releasing the treated water back into the environment, usually the nearest stream. An even larger source of methane lies in our landfills, a source that easily exceeds that which you've identified(See below)...but both sources still put out significant toxic by products, formaldahyde is one we're familiar with,(We're dealing woth them now and not noticeably suffering from them. Methane produced from them would be much cleaner than that from underground stores) and for more go to <www.fao.org/docrep/w7241e/w7241e0f.htm> for a definitive handling of the topic. Which is to say, yes methane production should be considered as one of the alternatives, but I don't think you've provided sufficient data to support your contention that it is enough. (For what? I have seen several announcements in the last few years of methane being used in place of other fuels, more for power generation than for auto propulsion, but considering mineral sources together with manufactured sources, I believe we'd have enough for many applications. And it is predictable that if it were shown to be advantageous new ways of producing it would be developed.)

In addtion, animal feedlots produce large amounts of animal manure every day. Every day!

In addtion, landfills receive many tons of organic refuse, perhaps thousands of tons every day. Every day!

All of this organic material, millions of pounds everyday, can be used to generate methane.

These are not "stopgap mesures", since these amounts raw materials for methane are produced every day. Every day!

Organic material produces about one-third of its original weight in methane. So the sewage alone would yield about 70 million pounds of methane. At perhaps 7 pounds per gallon (it's lighter than water ) that would be
10 million pounds of liquid fuel. Add in the other sources and I believe we would have enough every day to take care of our automotive needs There are a lot of byproducts in that poundage that we wouldn't want to pass on into the atmosphere (methane has certainly been linked to global warming, it would seem likely that it's constituent chemicals and subsequent reactions would also contribute. (Methane produced from organic wastes would be pure; that from undeground probably would not be, but if it were found to be a valuable, it could be cleaned up.)

A 1-year addition to all our other sources of petroleum would not even be worth talking about much less the money needed to drill for it. The "Bush experts" would hardly propose an expensive effort for such a small addition to our supply. In answer to your question, I gave the best answer I know in my first message and I doubt that anyone can presently give a better answer, at least not the regular participants in this listserv. But then, I don't read the literature of the petroleum industry so there probably is a better answer to be found there. Karl, the best spinmasters in the business (Bush's) today are not suggesting that the amount available in the Arctic would last a year...why would you be more optimistic than they? Read Bush's lips, but you won't hear him say that there is more than a year's worth available there.   (Come on! It was Bush himself who said in a speech that we should tap the Arctic source.)

Regarding renewability, petroleum is not technically renewable--there is nothing we can do toward renewing it, technically or otherwise. but old-growth is. All we have to do is wait long enough for a particular stand to grow and it will be "old-growth". Sure petroleum is renewable, the conditions that created the petroleum are likely to return again...not in our lifetime, but neither will the "new" old-growth...it's just a matter of degree. With regard to "just waiting long enough", even the most conservative of "old-growth experts" (for example Oliver and Larson) would disagree, as the first cohort following a disturbance doth not an old-growth ecosystem make. (To say that something is renewable implies that we can renew it. Petroleum we cannot renew. There are 114 different definitions of "old-growth". Forests sometimes begin to exhibit old-growth characteristics at less than 100 years. I once saw a 35-year-old hardwood stand ina stream bottom that had all the usually described features of old-growth)   Old-growth has been defined in a number of ways and that could be debated endlessly. But one point is clear to me--the way to assure that we will always have some old-growth is most certainly not to put a fence around a patch of big trees and hope they stay that way. I agree.Nothing in nature is static. Very true, and it is exactly this point that I would suggest that how existing old-growth ecosystems react to the current new disturbances that we're throwing at them, that provides the strongest argument for not cutting them...research should be the only management activity permitted...WHY do you feel like they're replaceable? We'd have to wait upwards of a millenia before many sites would return, and equally as many wouldn't return at all (same pathways that brought them to this point, are often not available, depending on disturbance severity-read Dr. Lee Frelich's paper on disturbance severity on boreal forests). The oldest redwoods are about 3000 plus years old. Their location is earthquake prone. It is possible that their parent stand was destroyed by an earthquake. The Muir Woods, which are located on the inland side of the coastal hills north of the Golden Gate in California, are sprout clumps. They are about 1200 years old. They are arranged in arcs, portions of circles. The circles appear to be about 35 feet in diameter. Consequently, the parent trees were very large and were all destroyed at the same time. Something catastrophic happened to them, perhaps an earthquake As a Humboldt State forestry grad, I appreciate the qualities of longevity that the redwoods have demonstrated. They're an even more appropriate example of why they shouldn't be cut...they are extroardinary examples of a species that should be protected, as they have shown the ability to weather everything but earthquakes and us...we don't need to be the catastrophic disturbance that extirpates them. I have to ask what short-term benefit is sufficient rationale for their demise? Are we that indifferent? ( I agree completely with respect to the redwoods. But they are not immortal, as the ages of the oldest show. I am not suggesting that they shouldn't be protected. I am saying that sooner or later they will disappear, one way or another but we can provide for perpetuation of old redwood stands in the way I suggest below and you agreed with.

The way to assure to some degree that we would always (a long time) have some old growth is to set up long rotations, based on the natural longevity of the species of interest, and manage for old-growth. This is an excellent suggestion, I also support such a management strategy, in addition to the protection of the core old-growth...the long-rotation stands would be most effective as buffers around the core, allowing access to those migrating processes that benefit from proximity. For the redwoods, perhaps 20,000 acres would be needed and the trees grown on a 2000-year rotation.   A harvest of 500 acres every 50 years would be feasible. In that way, we would always have redwoods stands of ages up to 1950 years old. Other species could be managed in the same way, harvesting geared to their natural longevity.I'll be darned, there is a wildly idealistic spirit left in you! But to make sure we haven't already depleted the core, let's wait 500 to 1000 years before we start the harvest regime. This would work. As long as we kept the economists and timber interest lobbies out of the process...they are exactly the ones who sped up sustained yield for short-term advantage (ACE was the acronym, do you remember what it stood for?), and fouled the professional forester's nest...(Forests on private land should be managed as the land owner wants. Let's distinguish among the several kinds of ownerships and let the several different kinds of owners mange their forests as fits their ownership type. As far as managing for old-growth is concerned, there is no point in waiting. The sooner we start, the better. But let's not devote too much precious land to the job. And let's keep it to species that make impressive old-growth. All species don't.)   

The statement that we have only 5% of presettlement forest remaining is meaningless. It assumes that forests are indestructible, have no natural enemies, and will remain the same forever. That is obviously a totally unrealistic viewpoint. The array of agents that can destroy forests is long--fire, insects, diseases, wind up to tornado strength, ice, drought, excessively high or low temperatures, landslides, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Forests cannot be preserved in any true sense of the word, becaue we have little control of the many destructive agents to which they vulnerable. We have met the enemy, and the enemy was us...let me rephrase the 5% statement...There is only 5% of the ecosystems left that once held the genetic potential of the land we discovered, and that 5% has been impacted by our ways...There is only 5% of the forested lands present 1000 years ago, that retains sufficient resilience that restoration of the presettlement processes is still possible (1000 years ago, the forests of the US were very different from the present , obviously. But not in the way the popular idea would have them. Fires burned unrestrained. Much that is now forsst was grassland,across the whole continent. Buffalo, a grazing animal, roamed all the way to the east coast. All the Appalachina valleys were grasland. The 5% orignial forest is a guess, since nobady knows how much was present 1000 years ago.)    th...we have to know all of the parts left before we tinker th what remains of the whole. Also, "old-growth" has no special advantages over younger forests. Karl, Karl, Karl...that is such a incorrect statement, I'd like you to more fully defend this statement, it is indefensible as currently written! (When I say advantages, I am speaking of advantages for us. Without us, there are no advantages or disadvantages. The parts will not disappear, not matter what we do. To put that statement in complete context, consider the effort we have to make to protect us and our belongings from attack by other members of the earth's ecoosystems. A recent news item stated that we have just about eradicated smallpox, after many years of effort and great cost. There is little danger that we will permanently destroy all the organisms in the earth's ecosystems. The few creatures that have become extinct, or thought to have done so, were in a delicate situation to begin with.    There are many organisms that we would like to do without, there are others that are neutral with respect to our welfare, and others that we need and still others that we want to maintain. So let's exercise some discrimination in the organisms we try to preserve.)   plants and animals found in old-growth were there in the earlier stages as well. There is no organism that suddenly appears at a specific age in a growing forest; what one finds in old-growth can be found in younger forests as well. Karl, I've a lot of respect for your earlier academic preparation, but it's time for you to consider some continuing education credits...almost the entire epiphytic plant community doesn't exist in young forests at a level where full advantage can be taken of their participation in ecosystem processes, but over time develops and contributes immensely in the old-growth ecosystem's resilience to disturbance...the same with soil macrobiota. Young forests (assuming the typical amount of soil disturbance from current logging practices) have lost the efficiency of soil nutrient production. (Epiphytes are interesting and may provide food for some creatures,but it seems unlikely that they are essential to "old-growth ecosystems resilience to disturbance".   "the efficiency of soil nutrient production". Where on earth did you find that idea. Soil nutrients cannot be produced by the soil in response to anything we do. They are an inherent part or the soil, derived from the breakdown of parent material. Please explain what you mean.)    

In my travels around the U.S. during my working years, I saw large trees of many species. They were almost always growing in rather small areas along streams. They seemed to be the same age as the surrounding stand but were much larger because of the exceptionally favorable growing conditions. I have no objection to trying to preserve exceptionally large trees of any species, such as the redwoods and others I have seen, as long as we recognize that they are not indestructible. We can make efforts so that we always some. But to try to preserve those that currently exist is to guarantee their eventual loss, because something will eventually destroy them. I really do understand this, I'm not an environmentalist bent on stopping forest management. I firmly believe that employing a strategy of retaining core wildernesses/old-growth ecosystems, surrounding them with long rotation buffers, and where possible connecting them with corridors is the strategy that will save our profession...the remaining 75% of the forests that we've managed can still be managed, and as intensively as CLASSIC sustained yield forest management/good managment practices allow. So we should do as I described above--manage for old growth and realize the best of both worlds. Just locking up what presently exists is to guarantee that we will finally end up with none. I'll part with my bottom line on this...large contiguous old-growth need to be managed for research values...no commodity extraction, period. (What research values? Haaving spent my entire forestry career in forestry research, I am very much interested in such values. Immediately after WWII, the USFS began its "Expanded Research Program." It emphasized long-term maintenance of 40-acre "compartments" treated by different silvicultural methods. At the same time, we established "Research Natural Areas." We learned little from this work, with a few exceptions. Natural regeneration of loblolly pine was summarized in a Government bulletin. The research took only ten years. The Crossett Exp. Forest in Arkansas carried on selection in loblolly pine beginning in 1934 that continue today, I believe. Other research centers also esteblished compartment studies. Most produced some results worthy of publication, that is "new knowledge", mostly from short-term studies following treatments. But the burden of remeasurment proved too much and few locations carried them for more than 20-25 years. The RNAs are now the responsiblity of the SAF and their maintenance depends on the interest and dedication of local SAF members. Those in the southeast apparently getting proper attention, but those in other localities do not seem to be, as far as I know. I am comfortable with restoration processes in wilderness, such as restoring the presettlement fire regimes in forests that have experience fire exclusion (major problem here in the west). (The way to "restore presettlement fire regimes" is to leave the areas alone. Then Nature will take of the restoration) But again, no commodity extraction from wilderness/old-growth ecosystems...where thinning can be augmented as a fire surrogate, it can be a strong tool for fire managers.(How can you possibly suggest thining in a wildernesss area. It would require roads and machinery, trucks and logging equipment, completely destroying the wilderness characteristics. In old-growth, yes, but not in wilderness. Of course, as soon as you manage, as by thinning, you destroy some of the OG characteristcs that are thought to be so important to observe).   but any byproduct of that thinning shouldn't provide any financial/economic incentive for managers, only social (Please remember that financial incentives of some sort are always present. Yours are apparently to be able to enjoy wilderness free of direct charge to you. You will of course pay throught taxes to support the custodians of the area. Although that probably wouldn't be enough to be a conscious burden, so you would happily visitthe wilderness as a free gift of the people.)t is not uncommon for such thinning byproducts to be provided to the adjacent native american communities.
I hope that you will continue this dialogue, as I'm sure that we both can gain from it. -Don B

Karl Wenger
RE: [saf-member] Fw: sustainable development    Lou Sebesta
   May 17, 2002 11:48 PDT 
Hello to this roundtable discussion: I need to be a lot briefer here today than I'd like to be, due to major commitments coming up this weekend... By what scientific rationale do we need to "manage" "thin", or whatever old growth forests? their rich and diverse OGF ecosystems depend in significant part in allowing the old fallen rotting hulks of past standing giants to lay there, decay, serve as hosts to decomposition biota and their prey and their prey, etc. etc. I feel strongly that the only human "management" which should be tolerated is that of removal of invasive species, and such, which, unfortunately, invade even pristine ecosystems, which have miraculously survived untouched by the prevailing onslaught of direct human disturbance. (consider some invasion pathways such as birds munching out on multifloral rose, buckthorn, etc fruits outside the undisturbed OGF areas and flying into the pristine area to "fertilize" the forest with invasive seeds. How about pristine floodplain/bottomland OGFs susceptible to periodic flooding and deposition from upstream disturbed systems of the infamous garlic mustard seeds, which can become a dominant low plant cover within 10 years, displacing natives like trillium, jack in the pulpit, trout lilly, etc.etc. The invasive insects are perhaps even more challenging to deal with.) Forget the derivation of any conventional forest product resource values such as timber. We've got plenty of product based disturbed commercial forests, but preciously rare virgin or old growth forests. Hell, if a huricane wants to blow down the tall tree, let it lay there and rot, don't proactively "salvage" it before nature takes it out! Don't log before heart rot sets in. Let the tree hollow out and serve as habitat for all sorts of wildlife and then compost for even more organisms. I sincerely believe that OGFs provide far more value naturally intact than any conventional product/commodity based values could potentially provide. And in my opinion, the only serious "disturbance" we should condone in OGF ecosystems is by the humble and reverent researcher, students and general public, with the stipulation that visitation remain at a level which is truly "low impact" and no more disturbing to the ecosystem than the wild animal natives create. Hell, we should make even less of an impact, since we live somewhere else as our main home. The animals and plants? They live right there- it's there only home!     Lou
saf-member- sustainable development    Leverett, Robert
   May 17, 2002 12:50 PDT 
Lou, Don, et. al.:

   I would imagine that most of us, certainly Don Bertolette, agree that existing old growth areas that have not been artificially managed in some way, e.g. fire suppression, remain as free of future human interference as possible. I think this is a given for Don, though sometimes others do not understand this about him. But what do we do with places that would have burned repeatedly, such as the north rim of the Grand Canyon, had we not suppressed natural fires for decades, leading to the build up of fuel loads, which could result in devastating crown fires? Where we have small, highly vulnerable old growth areas that are presently being invaded by exotics and pests, how far do we go to exterminate the pests? Should we let the hemlock woolly adelgid and the balsam aphid have their ways, if doing so would mean elimination of an important species? Not to my mind. To what extent do we manage lightly to keep species habitat intact that would otherwise disappear due to other kinds of human interventions coming from all directions? I am all for it. What do the rest of you think?

   I think all of us on this list agree that the restoration activities in these disturbed old growth areas should not have an extraneous commercial motivation. For the human-disturbed old growth areas, restoration efforts would be designed to provide for the continuity of a variety of habitats that would otherwise likely disappear. My understanding is that is the way restoration efforts are designed in the NPS now. In following this course for the protection of other species, our species acts nobly and outside the norm for species. This presumably does set us apart from other animals - at least I think it does. For instance, why do many of us want to save lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, polar bears, grizzly bears, even large venomous snakes, given the danger they can present to human life? Even in a country like India, there are noble efforts to protect species from extinction. The Asian lion comes to mind. Then there has been the world wide effort to protect whales from extinction. There is a part of us that seeks to reach out and prevent our species from going too far in controlling, managing, creating.
   In terms of Don's exchanges with Karl Wenger, there is much to address. Karl's tone in these exchanges is far more reasonable than I've heard in the past from karl. Perhaps he has thought about how some of his past statements, quickly made, have sounded. Even so, he is inclined to stretch too far in his descriptions of past landscapes. How does Karl know that all Appalachian valleys of pre-settlement America were grasslands? I seriously doubt they were, although many would have been much more open. Other examples of Karl stretching a bit too far could (and will if necessary) be given, but I do appreciate his demeanor in his discussions with Don. I can even agree with much of what he says, but the rest of you should know that Karl stands at the opposite end of the spectrum from scientists like E.O. Wilson and Lynn Margalis who place maximum importance on the processes of speciation and believe that the resiliency of the Earth's systems are inextricably tied to their complexity. My colleague Gary Beluzo is of that mindset. By contrast, technician-scientists like Karl seek to simplify the Earth's ecosystems to the short term benefit of our species. We certainly owe much to people like Karl for their shaping of the environment to produce commodities.

   Many of the discussions about management of timber lands held in the past on other listserves that included Karl Wenger got acrimonious - though as I recall, Karl, himself, always retained a fairly civil attitude. In particular Joe Zorzin, Karl Davies, Steve Harrington, and Rick Landenberger got into some heated exchanges with Karl. I susepct that Karl would get exasperated and then go out on the proverbial limb with his descriptions of past landscapes. Of course, he was partly right during a time when much of the environmental community was in a state of denial, itself, about the role of Native Americans in shaping ecosystems. But Karl was also partly wrong.

One example I like to give is that of the Great Smoky Mountains. I see the development of much of the Smokies forests as more the product of the absence of fire rather than the frequency of fire. Of course, natural and Indian-set fires did occur, but were they the primary forces that shaped the Smoky Mountain forests? In a few areas of the Smokies, probably so, but the forests covering much of the landscape were more the product of abundant moisture, the great variation in altitude and protection from large coves, periodic hurricane events, etc. Why else would we see the species, the forest age structure, etc. that we see in the Smokies? Yet, some of Karl's colleagues see the Smoky Mountain forests as shaped by fire, especially aboriginal fires.

   There is much to discuss in what Don has brought to us in his threaded conversion. Thank you, Don, for bringing us into the loop.

Re: [saf-member] Fw: sustainable development    Don Bertolette
   May 20, 2002 15:08 PDT 
I look forward to your more leisurely response, even though your current comment seems to have captured a lot of what you might have intended to say.
As with any good discussion, my post should have provided some definition of terms. Having spent some time in the Southeast and the Northeast, I know that our respective perceptions of wilderness vary, both formally and informally.
Wilderness in it's purest sense, is anywhere that has evolved in the face of whatever disturbances that nature has thrown at it. It doesn't have to be verdant, shaded by lofty overstory...it doesn't have to have trees (we have some wonderful wilderness areas in the Southwest, rich in biological diversity, but poor in shading overstory), nor meandering bubbling brooks.
Taking your message of no management in wilderness to heart, would have been easier, more appropriate if implemented prior to settlement (three to four centuries ago in your neck of the woods, one and a half in mine). In the 1870's the push west brought settlement to the Kaibab Plateau...the first disturbance was that of the introduction of sheep, then cattle, by way of the railroad...they consumed much of the abundant rich grasslands that once characterized the Southwest. With fine fuels diminished, the frequency of low intensity, high frequency fires diminished significantly. Shortly thereafter, with Teddy Roosevelt's creation of the Grand Canyon as a national park, legislated us to preserve and protect and decades of right-hearted but wrong-minded fire suppression followed. Neither we nor anybody else in those days thought that fire served any good purpose.
Until the middle of the last century...Starker Leopold, son of Aldo began advocating a change in fire management policies in the parks...the Yellowstone fires rang those bells again, and the park service took the lead in advancing fire science, as the reality of decades of fire suppression became apparent.
In the Grand Canyon NP, the ponderosa pine forest dominated much of the forested North and South Rims. While mapping vegetation there, I wandered through tall stately broad yellow barked, stag headed, big branched, old-growth ponderosa pines, visible above the invading white fir trees that have a foothold due to the exclusion of fires.
It's a conundrum for any serious consideration of wilderness values...for those of us involved with the preservation and protection, inaction has the largest impact...we've had several thousand-acre fires, and the problem with no management is clear...without the high frequency, low intensity fire regime of the presettlement ecosystem, wildfires now are less often, but much more intense. Burn intensity is much higher in the current fire regime, as the abundant regeneration (try thousands of young trees per acre) provides a vertical pathway (also referred to as a "fuel ladder") from the grassy, fast fine low ground fuels, to the crowns of 3-400 year old old-growth ponderosa pines.

We at the park have undertaken research that would incrementally return the park's forested ecosystem to a presettlement process. No tree greater than 5" dbh is thinned. No thinned tree leaves the site. To protect the old-growth ponderosa pines, our minimal treatment research proposes to thin trees (only 5 inches dbh and less) around old-growth (a distance equal to the average stand canopy height), and to rake away pine needle duff accumulations from the O-G PP bases (12-18 inches).
On the South Rim, this would be done with chainsaws. On the North Rim, much of which is proposed wilderness, thinning would only be done by hand saws.
In no case will new roads be constructed for this research, in no case will any heavy equipment be used for this research (although Bob may make snide comments as to my impact while traversing the forest!).
One of the defining words in the wilderness act legislation is "untrammeled". We invite your further comments on whether our proposed research is 'trammeling or 'untrammeling'. If you'd like to participate in the public comment period (open for 45 days) for our Environmental Assessment, please navigate to
http://www.nps.gov/grca/forest  ,
where you'll find executive summary, the EA, Frequently Asked Questions, Photos and Press Releases, that will hopefully provide a more complete picture than I was able to portray in the above post...
-Don B