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Avoid the ‘quick buck,’ and revisit county forest plan

Another Voice

By DON SHAWE

Special to the News

Biological and structural diversity is the key and cornerstone of healthy and productive forests.

* The top few inches of forest floor is an enduring magic carpet — spongy, permeable and nutrient-rich.

* The sustainable forest is a complex structure of big, little and middle-sized trees, of old downed logs rotting away, a patchy, open canopy, native hard woods, a flourishing under story of shrubs, grasses, lichens, mosses, fungi, and a teeming micro-world below ground.

* The forests we want and plan for will be home to voles, chipmunks, squirrels, bees, hornets, ants, butterflies and birds, the pileated woodpecker, the ruffed grouse, wrens, chickadees, and four-leggeds big and little.

* And yes, we want a bountiful harvest of quality logs; logs selected with care, a tree at a time and removed with the least possible disturbance of the variety and abundance we have been describing.

* The forests we plan and work toward will have vistas and silences — the play of light and shade — values that nourish the human spirit.

The Hood River County Forestry Department is operating with a management plan (policies, practices, rules) that embodies the resource extraction corporate mind-set of the 1970s and 1980s. It has been a remarkably successful cash-flow plan, which has been essentially unchanged by a recent rewording. The “revised” plan is heavily weighted toward the false economics of clear-cut harvesting and was adopted by the commissioners without the broadest possible public participation.

I say “false” because the hard-to-quantify long-range costs of clear-cutting, according to the best knowledge we have, outweigh the “quick buck” gains.

Instead of using the phrase “balancing act between economy and ecology,” we should think of the integration of economy and ecology.

Clear-cutting is probably not sustainable over several rotations and places an overwhelming burden of restoration upon future generations.

This article is not the place to discuss these issues with all their historical, social, and political implications; the place for that is a public forum where informed and responsible citizens will have a voice, and where, in developing a 2003 forestry management plan, we will draw on ecologically responsible work already done in government agencies and schools of forestry elsewhere.

Two burning issues for right now were headlined in The Oregonian recently. One is climate change. This winter’s temperatures are predicted to be 3 degrees Farenheit above normal; snow levels at lower elevations below normal, then dry summer to follow; out of control fires a probability approaching certainty.

It would be prudent to do what we can to adapt to climate change. The forests of the Northwest are a potentially vast sink for keeping CO2 locked in the biomass, especially in big trees.

But what are we to do with the great mountains of slash that remain after we have thinned our untended, fire-prone, second-growth forests? Were we not “playing with fire” when forest revenues went into county budgets instead of into jobs thinning overstocked forests?

Difficult discussions like this can only be addressed by an entire community.

If you wish to become active, write to Citizens for New Forestry, 2520 Kingsley Rd., Hood River, OR 97031.

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Don and Kerry Shawe and Silvan are the owner/operators of the Rahane Eco-forest farm of 100 acres on Kingsley Road. The family farm uses single tree selection, uneven-age forestry. Every year for the last 50 years, there has been a harvest at Rahane; the cut never to exceed two percent of the total volume of standing timber. Over one million board feet has been removed. Today the total volume of high-quality standing timber is estimated in excess of one million board feet. Visitors are welcome.

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