Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Managing the Model Forest

Dr. Peter Bates and the people of Waynesville, N.C. are about to begin upon an experiment that could have a major impact on determining whether "sustainable forestry" is really sustainable. Check out this excellent article in the Smoky Mountain News about the plan by Dr. Bates and a team of scientists to study the watershed around Waynesville. The article by Becky Johnson is one of the best I've seen explaining how sustainable forestry can work, how it can actually make the forest healthier, and why some people still don't trust it.
Dr. Bates is a professor at Western Carolina University, and has gathered a team of experts from around the country to use Waynesville in a way that could be a national model.
In the past, conservation easements have gone into minute detail about what couldn’t be done — no replanting, no trimming, no cutting, no thinning, no burning, no spraying.
“They are well meaning but very rigid,” Bates said. “There are some cases where there was an insect or disease problem and there was treatment for it, but the easement prevented it.”
The new strategy in forest conservation easements is to focus on overall strategies and philosophies, allowing flexibility under the umbrella of conservation, Bates said.
“The goal is to create and maintain a healthy forest in that watershed, but it doesn’t say how to do that,” Bates said. “It’s causing the town to cross that hurdle and think about the forest in a holistic way, as opposed to the alternative, which is to not even think about it, and say ‘we’re just going to let what happens and let nature run its course.’”.........

...... A healthy forest also means having a mix of gigantic 200-year-old oaks and young maple saplings, bogs for turtles and nesting trees for owls, woodland patches of ginseng and ramps, and a few clearings conducive to blueberry bushes.
“Everyone agrees on these big picture kind of things and that they are good goals. But how do you get there? When you get into the nitty gritty of what is a healthy forest, there are all sorts of value judgments,” Bates said.
The first job is collecting baseline data. That is the primary goal of the 18-month study Bates and his team are proposing. Plant and animal species, habitat types, soil types, and archaeology sites will be surveyed — and, of course, water quality.
“Water quality is ultimate barometer of how you are doing managing your forest,” Bates said.

Bates said Waynesville’s watershed could become a national model and influence both private and public forest stewardship. “There is no example of this in the Southern Appalachians,” Bates said. “This will be an opportunity to demonstrate what sustainable forest management truly is, because that’s a buzz word that everyone is using to describe what they are doing. “All of us in that larger movement realize the only way to demonstrate what it really is, is to get it on the ground so people can see it,” Bates said.....
But not everyone is convinced that this is a good idea.
Charles Miller, a Waynesville resident and staunch opponent of logging in the watershed, asked why Waynesville should sacrifice its watershed to be a national model for forestry. “They are just using it for an experimental study up there,” Miller said. “How can they prove they can do it if it’s a model that’s never been done? I don’t think we need to use the watershed as an experimental project.......Miller said the loggers can’t be trusted. You can tie a red flag around the trees to be cut, but sometimes they “accidentally” cut more than you mark. The trees can’t be put back afterwards. “Who’s going to police this if it ever takes place?” Miller asked"
If you are at all interested in learning about sustainable forestry, read the entire article. I will be very interested to see how the Waynesville experiment plays out.


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