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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: U.S. | Environment & Forest Defense
Forest Farming- The Ecological Approach to FOrest Management
Forest Farm Management Principles constitute an Ecological Approach to Forest Management. Our efforts to find a balance between conservation and judicious utilization of the forest's abundant resources, are vital to the future of our planet earth and the survival of humans as a species.
The forests of the Northwest have not been managed with the natural environment in mind, in the past. They have been primarily utilized for the purpose of the production of wood fiber. Little care has been given to prevent habitat destruction and less to rehabilitating these forestlands after logging occurred. Not to point fingers and say that it was wrong, that is just the way it was done. But time brings changes in technology and science. Methods and priorities change.
Our philosophy is simple- the term "sustainable" means what is sustainable for the earth, not what is sustainable for man's demand. Nature can only produce a finite quantity of any resource from a piece of land. If we take care of her needs and treat her with respect, she will be more than generous with us. Past forest management practices have been to take as much as you could, as fast as you could, with little regard to the massive disruption to the land itself and its natural processes. Economics ruled.
This has left thousands of acres of cut-over forest land to regenerate as well as it could on its own. The result is second and third generation growth of tangled masses of trees and seriously degraded ecosystems. Much of this productive timber land grew back as scrub oak woodland, never to be forested with conifers again- and along with this loss of forested land, we have lost their forest ecosystems. Technology has enabled man to take trees far faster than nature can regrow them, yet we have not even paused to realize what we are doing, except taking resources to make money.
Since the 1980's a handful of Oregon forestland owners have been at the leading edge of a new generation of forest managers. These forest land owners have found that the best method of managing these cut over lands is to try to enable them to recover as complete forest ecosystems, emulating the natural forest processes to enable their return to health, as they were prior to man's entry into the forest.
Many forest professionals and land owners think of these lands only as less productive, "secondary" forests of single species, even-age timber stands which are to be left alone until time to come in and cut them all again.
Forest farmers believe that these forests have been overused and are so fragmented that their natural processes are completely out of equilibrium and must be manipulated in order to bring them back into ecological balance. There is an interconnectedness between the various organisms and processes within a forest ecosystem. The forest is continually changing and our work simply attempts to understand these interconnections in order to speed up natural process changes. Forest tree stands need to be thinned, but no species is ever to be completely decimated. There should never be so much thinning that the crown cover is depleted leaving the forest floor exposed to excessive sun, rain and erosion. Multiple entries should be made to accomplish thinnings so that the systemic shock is not so great. There should be a cross-section of trees of all ages and species, rather than a monoculture of timber species. Trees are not thinned solely for the removal of the largest healthiest individuals- in fact wherever a healthy large tree can be left, it is left to grow larger and stronger to provide excellent reproductive seed stock. The weaker, sick or damaged trees are removed from overstocked areas to give the healthy trees more space, nutrients and sunlight so that they may thrive.
Our objective is to restore and maintain the health of our forest land's many and varied ecosystems. That does not mean that we do not believe in cutting trees as a resource, it means that we believe that we must be cognizant of our effect on the environment and careful in our management of the forests. It is only through the efforts of those who believe, as we do, that the earth's forests have value far greater than their value in dollars, that this important work can be realized. Our efforts to find a balance between conservation and judicious utilization of the forest's abundant resources, are vital to the future of our planet earth and the survival of humans as a species.
Today, whether they call themselves forest farmers or not, ecologically minded forest land owners take heart in the knowledge that, although their efforts may not bring them a great deal of financial reward, it brings forth an even greater reward... the knowledge that they are helping to maintain a biodiverse, natural forest environment that can support many creatures and a healthier earth for the future.