9 Jan 2008, 8:54pm
Forestry education
by admin

Commercial Forestry vs. Restoration Forestry

There are two main branches to professional forestry: the care and maintenance of commercial tree farms and the care and maintenance of native forests.

Tree farms and native forests are two different land uses. Forests and tree farms differ structurally, biologically, ecologically, in their uses, and in their management.

Forests are vast tracts of native vegetation with an abundance of trees; tree farms are agricultural businesses. Forests have natural histories; tree farms have artificial histories. Forests are mostly publicly-owned; tree farms are mostly privately-owned.

Commercial forestry

Commercial forestry is tree farming. It is an agricultural business that produces commodities for sale and profit. Like any business, tree farming must show a profit or face bankruptcy and loss of equity (i.e. without profits the landowner loses the land). The objective of commercial forestry then is to make a profit growing tree-derived commodities.

Tree farms are a form of permaculture. Adept tree farming makes little or no annual soil disturbance compared to what occurs on annually-plowed cropland. Trees grow root systems that hold the soil from eroding. Trees drop leaves that cycle nutrients and build soil productivity. Tree farms require very little pesticides or herbicides compared to food-crop farms, and most tree farm products (excluding fruit and nuts) are not eaten. Compared to any other kind of farming, tree farming is the least polluting and most protective and enhancing of site productivity. “Organic” tree farming is the most “sustainable” form of agriculture known.

Tree farms provide food and fiber products that feed, clothe, house, tool, and decorate the world. Productive tree farming takes the pressure off real forests. We don’t have to harvest our real forests; we can get all the wood and fiber the world needs from well-managed tree farms. We can see and appreciate real forests for what they are. We can protect, maintain, and perpetuate our public forests as forests only because our basic tree-product material needs are met by tree farms.

Commercial foresters should be expert in:

+ establishing, tending, and harvesting trees (silviculture)

+ preparing and marketing tree farm products

+ micro- and macro-economics of the commercial forest industry

+ mensuration, growth-and-yield, appraisal, and other analytical methodologies

+ logging engineering

+ ag business management

Restoration forestry

Native forests are managed to produce wildlife, watershed values, scenery, outdoor recreation, preserve history, and to perpetuate native ecosystems. To provide these outputs forests must come in vast, contiguous tracts. Producing those (mostly) non-commodity outputs is not particularly profitable. Managing forests is not a business-oriented endeavor; that is, forests do not make economically efficient businesses.

Forests are a luxury. For all these reasons forests are a public luxury too; forests are found only on public land.

It might be nice if private landowners grew forests, but they really can’t because inefficient use of private land leads to bankruptcy and loss of land title. Efficient and profitable tree growing is tree farming (commercial forestry). Another limitation is that forests must come in connected vast tracts, not isolated patches here and there. Landscape-scale connectivity is necessary for forests to provide habitat, watershed, and other landscape-scale values. Private parcels are not one-owner vast tracts, nor should they be, in an egalitarian society.

Hence public land is the only place where native forests can still occur in our modern landscapes.

Restoration foresters should be expert in:

+ botany, including paleobotany and paleoclimatology

+ landscape history and forest development pathways

+ ethno-ecology

+ wildlife ecology

+ fire management

+ environmental monitoring and other analytical methodologies

+ forest restoration principles and practices

+ public forest management and management planning

+ public forest policy

Commercial forestry and restoration forestry are different but share many basic disciplinary roots, such as the studies of dendrology, soils, and plant genetics. The two forestries are synergistic in that one can readily inform the other. For instance, knowledge of commercial harvest engineering and methodologies is useful to many forest restoration activities. In turn, ethno-ecology is of paramount importance to restoring historic forest landscapes, but it also can provide useful commercial forestry crop and product ideas.

The mission of the US Forest Service at founding in 1905 included the production of timber on federal lands. That commercial forestry aspect of the USFS mission became more pronounced from 1950 through 1980 (or so). Then the (de facto) mission drifted away from commercial forestry towards something else. Today the USFS mission is unclear, but it ought to include forest restoration.

The commercial forest industry in the Pacific Northwest has been shrinking for many years due to foreign (mostly Canadian) competition. Innovation and specialization in profitable crops, silvicultural techniques, and product markets are needed to reinvigorate commercial forestry here.

Advancements in both commercial forestry and restoration forestry will come more quickly when a better basic understanding is developed of the differences between tree farms and forests. They are different land uses requiring a different (though related) set of professional forestry skills.

In order to provide comprehensive forestry education, professional forestry schools should design their curricula to include both branches. Commercial forestry and restoration forestry are equally important and complimentary fields of study and practice.

10 Jan 2008, 9:13pm
by Forrest Grump

I’m going to step in here and say that “forests” and all the “non-wood” values still need administration, and professional administration requires paid cadre.

With the entitlement problem at the federal level all the way to the municipal, be it Medicare, SS, pension funds based on stocks, blah blah, I just don’t see society at large supporting a below-cost regime.

If we want forests, and want to preserve them through restoration forestry, then the practice of such is going to have to be fiscally self-sustaining. There is no way around that basic fact.

Federal ownership is large enough, however, that management actions that are non-economic, yet still relevant to eco-functionality (systemic wilderness burns, frinstance) can probably be supported with revenues from commercial products derived from other parts of the forested landscape.

Something else…I was at USFS’s open-house for the Brush Creek postfire project. 95 percent of the old stuff burnt 30 percent or over mort. 75 percent was over 80 to 100 percent toast. Now, is that “environmental protection” or what?

Of roughly 45 percent of a 25,000 acre fire that had not been harvested under USFS (in short, virgin stands) there was one, count them, ONE block of about 80 to 120 acres of Jerry Franklin Legacy Trees on the whole dang fire area that did not burn.

If the choice comes down to whacking big nice trees to save the rest, or grow baby punkins into BIG punkins, or turning them black like happened here, I know what I want.

10 Jan 2008, 10:33pm
by Mike

If the Collective can’t afford to own it, then it should be privatized. Right now the Collective is hoarding land, grasping for more, and destroying the Commons. If the public land base is too big and too expensive for All the People to own, then transfer of ownership to private interests is the solution.

But there are trade offs, and the Collective needs to weigh them with all the facts at hand and a good deal of common sense. Public lands do require a cadre of professional managers, and they must be paid. Management treatments also can be costly. There is no free lunch. But proper stewardship can reduce fire costs and losses, now running over $25 billion per year. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Moreover, expensive or not, certain real forest functions and outputs, such as the production of watershed and wildlife values, cannot be sustained any other way than through public ownership’

Send me the fire stats, report, whatever you have that’s digitized. Will post.



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