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March 17, 2005

To Cut Or Not To Cut? II

The Eugene Register-Guard continues its high-quality coverage of forest issues with today's op-ed by Jeremy Hall of Oregon Natural Resources Council (ONRC). He makes the case that logging on federal land can be a good thing.

ONRC wants chainsaws to stay out of roadless areas and old growth stands, but thinks they do belong in dense even-aged plantation stands where thinning may actually benefit forest ecosystems. ONRC's position is far from accepted conventional wisdom among environmental groups, but today's article is a concise and cogent statement of their position. 

As a reader of this blog pointed out, small-stem trees may not always be as merchantable as bigger old growth. So one way to encourage more thinning and less clearcutting (especially of old growth) is to promote green building and forest certification standards that prize conscientious cutting and small diameter logs.

Posted by Eric de Place | Permalink


Very interesting site, especially for us folks who live up here in webfoot country. Thank you.

Posted by: D ick Anderson | Mar 17, 2005 1:01:27 PM

In fact, the benefits of thinning are becoming more and more accepted in the environmental community. The scientific merits are becoming undeniable. In stands that are densely stocked with conifers to the exclusion of other plants, there is less biodiversity than in stands that have more light and nutrients diverted to shrubs, forbs, and the species that need these elements of stand structure. There are also huge differences in the developmental trajectories of natural stands compared to artificially planted stands. Thinning might help put some stands on trajectories that more closely resemble natural paths towards old-growth conditions.

The biggest remaining question is whether the Forest Service and BLM can be trusted to do it properly. While we ponder that question we must not forget that there are risks associated with doing nothing.

For more information on the potential ecological risks and benefits of thinning or not thinning in dense young plantations see this web site:

Note that this debate is completely separate from the debate over thinning to reduce fuels on dryer forests mostly east of the Cascade Crest. The link above points to some other materials that may be relevant to that debate as well.

Posted by: Doug Heiken | Mar 17, 2005 4:19:11 PM

...trusted to do it properly is problematic at best. Offering proper incentives to get companies in there to cut only "brush" will cost money until markets are made to cut the "brush", hence the topic of Eric's post. As a lot of this "brush" is second-growth anyway, some environmental concerns do not apply - siltation certainly does, of course.



Posted by: Dano | Mar 18, 2005 1:39:33 PM