What to make of Mohawk - a bureaucratic dilemma.    Robert Leverett
   Feb 23, 2004 09:46 PST 


    The MTSF 150 Club listing sent yesterday to the ENTS list cc'd Jim
Dimaio, the state's chief forester. We're hoping that Jim will be
enthusiastic and engaged with locations like MTSF, MSF, Mount Greylock
State Reservation, and Mount Everett State Reservation for their
non-timber values. The above locations and a few others are the true
gems of the Massachusetts system of state forests. The listed sites
feature impressive forests, beautiful scenery, and colorful histories.
However, these forest gems are open to logging and the timber interests
of the surrounding communities periodically cast wistful glances at the
high value trees in the accessible areas and would pounce on our gems
and reduce them to stumps in an instant, if given the opportunity.

     The productive areas of Mohawk and Monroe State Forests include
several thousands of acres of forest of 18 to 36-inch diameter,
straight-trunked trees. Trees of such dimensions represent far greener
pastures than the wood products folk are accustomed to dealing with
courtesy of their rampant high grading and their lack of commitment to
long term rotations. As a consequence, what they pass off as managed
forersts in terms of tree size in Massachusetts are pepetually
under-sized. Dbh ranges are typically 12 - 20 inches. For those of us
accustomed to larger, older trees, it is a perpetual robbing of the
cradle. It is as though their concept of forest development is frozen at
the human equivalent of the boy scout level or sand lot baseball. The
big leagues occur only in their dreams.

    Despite the attraction of the timber to locals, the lure of the
highly productive, big tree areas on state properties as listed above is
at least partially offset in the minds of state resource people by the
scenic, recreational, and ecological values of the sites. The
bureaucrats aren't deaf, dumb, and blind. However, their attention spans
are short. As administrations in Boston change, we must keep up a
constant beating of the drums to keep the non-timber values in front of
the resource managers. If we take our eye off of the forest gems for
long, we find that the resource folks are back to adding up board feet.
So when it comes to non-timber values, the forestry bureaucrats may have
good intentions, but their hearts and minds are never far from timber
and game animal management. As a consequence, they feel uneasy when
alternative value systems are presented, especially by "outsiders" for
all but the most inaccessible old growth areas on state lands.

    For the past couple of years, I've repeatedly smiled to myself as
I've presented significant tree list after tree list to the resource
managers. Their response is usually silence. The resources managers just
don't know what to make of it all. They don't dispute our numbers, but
they don't have any context, what so ever, in which to place the
information that we provide them. Given their profession, that is a
little disturbing.

...Material deleted...

       For folks who believe that trees are overmature at 80 years of age
and are accustomed to thinking that they are doing the forest a favor by
removing all trees over that age, the above superlatives must be a
little unsettling. What are they to make of such information? So far,
their reaction has been principally to say nothing. The data just
doesn't fit into any model they use. The data present a picture of
forests that are reaching their full growth potential - a potential that
is actually being realized - not just verbalized or projected and the
results are beyond most of their expectations. Perhaps this is the real
story and I suspect it comes as an embarrassment. Why? Because the
Mohawk and Monroe forests are achieving their potential without constant
human intervention.

    Readers of this e-mail should not infer that I believe that human
intervention in a forest is all bad. Human intervention can speed
individual tree growth. The question is how much human intervention can
the forest tolerate without going down hill. The answer varies greatly
with the forest type, terrain, prevailing climate, threats from insects,
invasives, and pathogens.

    Yesterday as we walked along the old colonial Mohawk Trail, John
Knuerr and I discussed the impact of ENTS/Friends of Mohawk Trail State
Forest data on the Mass Bureau of Forestry decision makers. We agreed
that in absence of our data and our voices, Mohawk might look a lot
different today. The thought energized both of us. We do understand our
mission and we are ready for a new season of discovery and advocacy.


Robert T. Leverett
Cofounder, Eastern Native Tree Society

RE: What to make of Mohawk - a bureaucratic dilemma.    Joseph Zorzin
   Feb 23, 2004 13:02 PST 

One solution is to FINALLY start implementing full accounting for all
cost and benefits of a full range of policy options. You'll need to put
dollar values on old growth forests and/or particularly tall trees
and/or individual forests with exceptional growth potential. Philosophy
won't win the day, science won't impress them- they think high grading
and clearcutting is scientific forestry- but everyone recognizes the
dollar sign. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Another solution is for more people to pay attention to my often
repeated suggestion that we'll produce better natural resource managers
once the education track includes a BS degree in ecology and biology-
but that will take generations to get such people into policy positions.

Meanwhile, much more thinking must be put into the first solution-
creating a new economics that will include such values as old growth,
tall trees, beautiful trees and the scientific value of studying very
good forests for economic and non economic values.

RE: What to make of The Forest - a bureaucratic dilemma.    Lou Sebesta
   Feb 23, 2004 15:42 PST 

I completely agree, Joe. Unfortunately, it's been way too easy for the
short range focused machine head bean counters and good old boy "stumpy"
foresters to take over the "cost-benefit" analysis approach to forest

...material deleted...

It's a lot harder, and requires a much deeper approach to account for
the long term, big ecology perspective, and diverse, quality of life
values, including the aesthetic, more subjective perspectives. If we can
establish a more complete evaluation of forests and nature beyond the
myopic, short term materialistic view, the decision making process may
become less destructive to ecological sustainability and the soul of our

In addition to real ecologists and a range of scientists, we the people
who really own public lands need to be able to weigh in to voice what we
want the resource managers to do with the lands they hold in trust. Of
course, the entire process is corruptable when nature is up for sale to
influential interests waving dollars in faces of politicians and
managers. Then we get: "we're making the best business decisions here,
so don't you all worry" -    a robotic accountant's vision of a an
efficient operation, or the pure greed that gave us the Enron fiasco.

Where are our prophets, seers, philosophers, shamans, medicine men and
noncommercial artists when we need them to give us back our vision and
myth of a society in harmony with itself and nature? Oh, that's right,
we don't listen to them any more since they're mostly locked away in
institutions, masquerading as homeless street wanderers, or have
retreated to the woods, mountains and deserts to live the simple life.


RE: What to make of The Forest - a bureaucratic dilemma.    Joseph Zorzin
   Feb 24, 2004 03:17 PST 


Some people may conclude that such a full accounting would stop most
logging- I hope not, what I hope is that it would result in much better
forestry- my ideal forest, after many decades of great forestry, would
consist of very beautiful forests which any ENTS would love to visit.
There would be plenty of stumps, of all ages, but also a very diverse
forest of many species and trees sizes ranging from seedlings so several
centuries old- with nice trails. And, the forest would be extremely
valuable, periodically adding economic value to society thanks to the
50-1 "multiplier effect" according to the Mass. Extension Forester Dave
Kittredge. If half the forests were locked up forever (and throw away
the key) and the other half were supremely well managed, the world would
be a better place. 

When it comes to private forests, the wood industry all sings in harmony
"property rights!"- yet, when the owners of the public forests- that is
any citizen, offers his/her thoughts on how the forests whould be
managed, the same people and their puppets in the agencies say, "you
should say nothing, and leave it up to us professionals". I guess
landowner rights doesn't work for the American citizens, just the same
way as we now have little say over anything the ruling Junta does in

Joseph Zorzin

Re: What to make of Mohawk - a bureaucratic dilemma.    Fores-@aol.com
   Feb 24, 2004 06:18 PST 

I honestly don't know what to say about the state of forestry education or
the direction of forest policy today.

In spite of all of the supposed advances in environmental studies and the
changes in how "enlightened" modern forest managers are supposed to be, my
current experience with most "foresters in training" indicates that the major
emphasis of forestry is still stump manufacturing rather than anything remotely
related to enhancing forest health, productivity or diversity.

Examples of truly sustainable forestry as so infrequently scattered across
the landscape that they are much more an anomaly rather than a standard and
there is no visible pressure on procurement people by mills to do anything beyond
using the word "sustainable" when it is commercially appropriate.

Today, one of the fastest developing aspects of forest management is the
recognition of the long term economic opportunities presented by Non Timber Forest Products.

However, in the same breath I can say that there is yet to be a SINGLE
forestry school in the country that has any undergraduate program detailing
management of forestland to incorporate opportunities presented by NTFP's.

As a serious practitioner of silviculture, I am sick to death of listening
to procurement punks complain because I leave too many good trees and that
every tree over 18' DBH is in danger of spontaneously dying of old age and I am
doing my clients a disservice by leaving large, high quality trees standing.

I think MTSF should be left as a living example of what foresters do not know.

Speculations    Robert Leverett
   Feb 24, 2004 11:04 PST 

Russ, Lee, Will, Dale, Colby, et al:

       I had a positive response from chief forester Jim Dimaio over the
e-mail I recently sent about #44 in Mohawk. Jim's interest and favorable
responses ar in contrast to the very guarded support of his
predecessors. I may be jumping the gun, but I believe that DCR is
developing a sense of pride in the MTSF superlatives. I am optimistic
that DCR is interested in taking the high road in recognizing that
"Mohawk ain't no ordinary place" and accepting our view of its
resources. The old growth, the maturity of the regrowth forests, the
range of growing habitats for the represented species, and the still
unrealized forest potential continue to make Mohawk an exciting place
for those of us who love beautiful forests. I admit that confirming the
44th 150-footer didn't provide me with the head rush that I've felt in
the past as we reached new thresholds. Yesterday, I felt more of a
comfort and sense of well being for the forest. It is just doing what it
is supposed to be doing and in the process giving us insights into what
are the full potential of forests in the Deerfield and Cold River

      As to what the future holds in the way of realized potential, we
have high hopes that one or two more 150-footers will be added to
Mohawk's list at the end of this year's growing season. The Pocumtuck
pines are growing like weeds and have lots of potential to add
150-footers in the future, certainly over the next decade. Other areas
of Mohawk also have the potential for adding 150-footers, but at a
slower rate than the youthful Pocumtuck grove. Could Mohawk ever match
Cook Forests total number of 150-footers? Probably not. I tend to see a
number like 60 as the upper limit.

      One species in Mohawk that has been a sleeper for us is black
cherry. We're hopeful that we can add one this season in the 120-foot
class. With John Eichholz now scouring Mohawk along with John, Gary, and
I, it is just a matter of time until we reach that threshold.

     What is the upper limit to the Rucker index for Mohawk? Can we
predict it at this point? Well, given our current knowledge, I'd say
that between 134 and 135 is as much as Mohawk can do. In fact, I would
place a ceiling of 135 on the entire Deerfield River-Cold River region.
That would take in an area from where the Deerfield enters Massachusetts
from Vermont to the confluence of the Deerfield and Connecticut.

     Let's say that I'm right about the 135 ceiling. How would that
compare with the potentials of Cook Forest, Zoar Valley, and Fairmount
Park? I would guess that all of them will eventually reach 136.0,
perhaps 136.33 and that is probably the ceiling for forests in the

     It is interesting to speculate about the forests of the past. I
would imagine that some PA forest hit 140 in years past. I would guess
that some West Virginia forest of years past reached 142 or 143. The
Smokies have likely produced an index of 155 to 160 within a Cook
Forest-sized area. They are near or at that now. I believe the Smokies
will stay slightly ahead of the super growing region of northwestern
South Carolina and Congaree. So I quote the Smokies figure as the
eastern forest ceiling. Hey, that has a nice ring to it - eastern forest

    The variation in the Rucker index from 33 degrees to 43 degrees
latitude north is between 22 and 25 points. The variation between 33 and
47 degrees jumps to about 45 points. I don't know what happens below 33
degrees. I imagine that the best of the southern Alabama and Mississippi
forests could hit near 140, at least once upon a time. We need some
fixes from the deep South, especially in the Mississippi and Louisiana
region. Unfortunately we don't have in ENTS qualified measurers in that

    Anyone else care to speculate on the range of the Rucker index from
north to south?. Speculation is free.

    BTW, It occurred to me that Dale's 160-foot tulip tree in Kentucky
sets the western ceiling for the species. Neat!


Robert T. Leverett
Cofounder, Eastern Native Tree Society


RE: Speculations    Dale J. Luthringer
   Feb 24, 2004 11:53 PST 


I am encouraged by the positive response over Mohawk. Although I often
have a negative attitude toward the establishment concerning the quality
and quantity of PA old growth, and their big/tall tree data, they have
done a lot to secure many of these exceptional areas from future
development. Recognition resulting from the data that the Eastern
Native Tree Society has collected is starting to wake up some of the
upper echelon folks to the ecological treasures that are in

There is a sense of pride within the bureau for many of these special
areas. Folks within PA DCNR are starting to ask questions and relay our
finds within the agency. They are interested in our results to be used
as one of the justifications of securing other sites from development.

The main problem is that most of the funding to do this sort of work has
been cut drastically for years. They just are not set-up to do the type
of work that ENTS does. We definitely fit a special niche where other
agencies won't justify manpower to achieve accurate results.

Event hough the progress is slow, the ball is rolling for MTSF and Cook
Forest. Your initiative and attention to detail, along with the help of
many others, is making a difference. I guess sometimes I'm just too


Re: Speculations   John Eichholz
  Feb 25, 2004 21:25 PST 
Colby, Bob:

That's quite a project you have spelled out. I'll start by extending
the comparisons of three forest structures: Mohawk Trail State Forest,
MTSF limited to the 200 acres, and the 175 acre Mount Peak western
face. The first thing I would say, is the species mix is very similar.
The exception is Mt Peak uses black birch and shagbark hickory, while
MTSF has beech and basswood. The order of the species mirrors their
local height potential, regardless of site.

I lined up Mt Peak's and MTSF's top three Rucker levels as you said.
First, I notice the spread of the Rucker indices is similar for MT Peak
and MTSF, 6 or 7 points from the first level to the third. That would
indicate to me a mature, or well filled Rucker index.

I made a column comparing the trees on Bob's list for the 200 acre north
and east face of Todd-Clark mountain as a benchmark, with the trees in
the Rucker levels. (See the attached spreadsheet) This will show the
relative strength of the species. The value in that column varies from
96% to 77% for Mt Peak, and (using the second level MTSF) from 111% to
96%. I can't imagine why, but the top ten species do not vary wildly in
their excellence. That said, Mt Peak has a peculiar strength in shagbark
hickory (outlier)(or MTSF a weakness) and is pretty good in yellow birch
and hophornbeam. It does poorly in pine, ash, and interestingly,
bitternut hickory. Maybe if we could find a few old growth shagbark at
MTSF they would reach the 120' class. MTSF as a whole does better in
hemlock, maple and hickory elsewhere than the north face of Clark Mountain.

Compared to other sites on the tall tree preserves, our region fares
poorly with the hickories, and lacks the dominant tuliptree and sycamore
that show up often in comparable sites. Looking at the shorter species,
our region fares well among the birch family.

I think of comparing with Ricketts' Glen and Walnut Creek Gorge in
addition to those you mention, as the ranking of species is similar.
Comparing to Rickett's Glen, I would say their oak does poorly, and
their hemlock, well. Is that a sign of higher acidity?

John Eichholz
Charlemont, Massachusetts