Wholistic Forestry Management

Caring for the woods and lumbering sustainable timber.

| January/February 1984

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    Severe erosion can be a by-product of industrial clear-cut tree farming. With environmental damage like that, no wonder many people concerned about forests practically cringe when they hear the word "timbering". But in forestry management, the choice doesn't always have to be between total destruction and no tree harvesting at all.
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    Wholistic foresters decide what action to take depending on the needs of an individual site. Here, two men build contour wattles to help stem erosion damage caused by timbering.

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Would you like to grow timber on your land? Well, there are three basic approaches to forestry management.

Industrial Tree Farming

You might want to raise your trees as a commercial farmer raises corn. You plant young trees all in straight rows, all at the same time, and all from the same seed stock. You spray your fledgling forest with herbicides to kill the "weeds" that compete with your "crop" of trees. You spray it again with insecticides should the need arise. You fertilize the soil with chemical compounds to hasten the growth of your stock. And when your trees finally reach a marketable size, you cut them down all at once. A farmer does not harvest every fifth cornstalk and leave the rest; he systematically clear-cuts his field. So it is with trees. You clear-cut the forest to make room for your next crop of timber.

These are the techniques used in industrial tree farming. They might or might not appeal to your fancy. Today, though, more and more people who know and love the woods have become understandably suspicious of such a technological manipulation of the forest environment. One of these, timber-owner Fred Behm, a lumberjack who has worked in the woods for 60 years, says:

I belong to this small tree farm organization, and a year ago we made a tour of the Weyerhaeuser tree farm at Cottage Grove [Oregon]. They took us up on the mountain there, and we could look down across it: It was one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen—thousands of acres of reproduction. But then I looked at it closely and got to thinking about it. It's one of the most depressing things I've ever seen, too.

Nothing is going to be there. They'll pre-commercial thin when the trees are 15 or 20 years old, then in 50 years they'll clear-cut. It'll be like a cornfield. There'll be no snags, no old logs in there. Wildlife—squirrels, birds, and salamanders—will have no place. So many creatures live in the snags and under the old logs. What's it gonna be like without them? Like I say, it's beautiful but depressing.

My personal opinion is that nature knows what it's doing, and if you interfere too much with nature, you're going to have problems.

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