18 Jan 2008, 1:50pm
Saving Forests
by admin

Resident Stewardship

The most important things grown in Oregon, the things we most desire to sustain, are not Douglas-fir, salmon, spotted owls, or watershed values. The most important things grown in Oregon are children, human children. That’s what we need to sustain: children and their parents. Without people, there really is no point to sustaining anything else.

Children should grow up where it is clean and green, where there is real dirt, real grass, real trees, and a big outdoors to explore.

Once upon a time human beings considered themselves to be a part of nature. Once there was a time when human beings were the Caretakers of Creation. We were part of nature, nature was part of us. Humanity has tended our landscapes for thousands of years.

That time has apparently passed. Today modern humanity is widely considered to be an infection, a cancer on nature. Ask any environmentalist, “What is the most overriding problem facing the planet today?” and he or she will tell you: too many people.

They will not have to think about it. The response will be knee-jerk automatic. The dogma has been memorized and re-memorized: too many people.

A long time ago forests were valued as home, the neighborhood, places where people lived.

Today, in contrast, forests are valued as dehumanized places. Dehumanization outweighs all the old, passé values. As long as a landscape is devoid of humanity it does not matter if the forest is old or young, beautiful or ugly, green or burned to snags and soot. A “forest” can be a burned-out wasteland, lacking in every respect including trees, but if it is dehumanized, then all is well.

We have been taught and taught and taught that humanity is intrinsically evil, and that therefore any landscape absent humanity is intrinsically good. Enormous tragic consequences should tell us that this oft-taught lesson is fundamentally wrong!

People are good, basically, and so is nature. We go together. We always have. It is our birthright to be upon the land. It is our purpose, right, and responsibility to be the Caretakers of Creation. It is our joy.

The anti-human philosophy is joyless, to say the least. It damns the entire human race. It is suicidal, homicidal, and toxic to forests and people (and to just about everything else, too).

People are part of forests, and have been ever since humanity was invented. Forests are a part of people, too. We should not be torn away from who and what we are. We need to be a part of the landscape, as much for our own human sakes as for any other reason. We need to get back to our roots, to our essential role in nature, to be complete and joyful human beings.

Every acre is sacred ground, including the acre where I sit and type. Not because some shaman shook a rattle here, but because people, real people, walked right here a long time ago. In some forgotten era somebody sat right here and took a nap. In a different century, but right here, somebody told a joke and his companions laughed. Once upon a time somebody wept at some long forgotten tragedy, right here. Two innocent lovers had a tryst, right here. People fought, and someone died, right here. A baby was born, right here.

With that understanding comes a deep humility and gratitude. We are all blessed to be right here, right now, in this landscape, in the concert hall, with the timeless symphony of life, birth and death, humor and love, pathos and tragedy, age and grace, and the silent echoes of countless generations of humanity all around us.

There is nothing quite like it, making the connection with a time before time was. Yet there it has been, the whole time, etched on the land, sculpted into the forest.

Resident stewardship is tending of the land by people who live upon the land. It is the opposite of absentee ownership and abandonment. Resident stewardship requires homes upon the land for resident stewards to reside in.

Stewardship is using property to produce the necessities of life while preserving the intrinsic productivity of the land to produce those necessities.

Ownership and residency upon rural land by individuals and families promotes good stewardship. Stewardship is a relationship between the resident landowner and the land. Without residency, there is no deep relationship.

People develop deep psychological identifications with property. For landowners especially, our properties become part of our identities. Owners care for their lands as they care for themselves and their families. The landowner who harms his property harms himself, and generally loses his land. Public land, property that no individual can claim as a unique identity, receives notoriously bad stewardship.

Public policies aimed at achieving good land stewardship should promote private property ownership and residency. It’s in the public interest to prevent pollution and land degradation, and private individual ownership provides that stewardship function better than any other form of land ownership.

Resident stewards form deep bonds with their properties. They are there when the rising sun shafts through the trees, when the rains fall, when the breezes blow, when the flowers bloom, when the birds sing, and when the setting sun paints the sky.

Tree farmers kneel to plant seedlings in acts of faith, and watch year after year as the trees fulfill their promise and grow toward the sky. Tree farmers are grown on tree farms, too. Of such stuff is great stewardship made.

Our situation in rural Western counties is this: the Federal Government owns anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of the landbase. Absentee corporations, sometimes multi-nationals with monopolistic globalist tendencies, both for-profits and “non-profits,” own half or more of what’s left. That leaves from 5 to 15 percent of the land for private non-corporate, individual human ownership.

All the cities, towns, suburbs, rural homes, farms, and all the residents are crammed into 5 to 15 percent of the land. The other 85 to 95 percent is absentee owned and off-limits to the residents, except as low paid, temporary, hired hands doing the bidding of the Land Barons.

The largest Land Baron is the Federal Government, and their stated mission is to drive humanity off the rest of landscape, as well. The US Forest Service has promulgated an Open Space Conservation Strategy that has as its goal the dehumanization of hundreds of millions of acres of private land.

The agency’s vision stretches far beyond the 193 million acres of national forests, Kimbell said, noting that more than half of the nation’s 800 million acres of forest land is privately owned.

“If people have an incentive to hold on to wildlands (rather than develop them), we as a society benefit from that,” she said in an interview. “We all benefit from keeping wildlands wild.”

No, that is very wrong. We benefit from stewardship.

So-called “wildlands” are dehumanized places that are burning in catastrophic megafires, where the Feds have dumped wolf-dogs that stalk elementary schools, where streams run brown with fire-caused erosion, where wildlife habitat is incinerated, where the land is wasted and destroyed by un-management, un-stewardship, and abandonment. The trend is to restrict, limit, and make wholly dangerous any human presence on the land.

Resident stewardship. Residents practice stewardship in their own selfish best interests. Residents make property into homelands.

The most important product of the land is people. The best goal of land management is to make this a habitable place. The best land management method is resident stewardship. Dehumanizing the land hurts the land, as well as humanity.

Humanity has tended our landscapes for thousands of years. Today though, Nature misses us. We need to get back to our roots, to our essential role in nature, to be the resident Caretakers, for the good of nature, and to be complete and joyful human beings.

18 Jan 2008, 6:31pm
by john

Mike, you and Wendell Berry should exchange essays.

19 Jan 2008, 1:09pm
by bear bait

What Kimble cannot understand is that those private woodlands are the essence of diversity. Each owner has his or her idea of what the land should be and how they should interact with it. By having many different visions implemented across the landscape, there is a great range of vegetative response and attendant critters. That is bio-diversity. Each acre is a repository of life. Each ownership differs from another.

Years ago I bought a small salvage sale from the BLM way at the headwaters of Thomas Creek. After winding my way through miles of young doug fir plantations and vast private clearcuts, I arrived at some O&C BLM-managed checkerboard lands harboring the forest type before logging, more climax forest than pioneer: noble fir, hemlock, silver fir, one Alaska yellow cedar, and multi-aged doug fir.

I cut it myself. In those days, I single jacked a lot, which was not too smart in blowdown. And I sat and ate lunch with no sounds but the wind and a far away yarder whistle to keep me company.

I saw an eagle. And I saw it again and again. I noted where it was flying to. I found the nest tree. It was a golden eagle nesting low on the west side of the Cascades. I went to the BLM biologist and we talked about it. He had found another one on the Molalla up by Evans Peak, and his conclusion was that large industrial clearcuts, and lots of them, made perfect golden eagle habitat, until they grew up to trees. Lots of small mammals and large birds on the edges for golden eagle prey, and even jack rabbits out in the great open areas on young plantations. Industrial logging had created diversity.

Like it or not, good or bad, large areas of similar-aged trees present habitat that has lots of food for a while on the ground, and then it provides wonderful security habitat and thermal protection. It all works as a seral stage of more than trees, but also a stage of animal and plant diversity, and is little more than a stop on a very long journey.

But I doubt that Kimble has anywhere near the time in the woods that I have, nor is she as old as I am. I would also bet that she has been cloistered in the SES pool long enough to have a serious disconnect with the real world and cannot see it like those who have never left it. She is terribly mistaken if she honestly believes the BS this prospective plan presents.

19 Jan 2008, 2:53pm
by Mike

Property rights are human rights. They are guaranteed in our Constitution. The Government is not allowed to seize or otherwise restrict our God-given, Constitutionally-guaranteed human rights, even if citizens offer them up voluntarily.

7 Sep 2008, 6:47pm
by YPmule

Wonderful essay, we enjoyed reading it, and appreciate bear bait’s valuable perspective. Our home is surrounded by NF, and we feel rather protective of the forest ‘next door’.

What makes us sad and ashamed of our fellow man, is the callous disregard for the forest by visitors. For far too many of them, the forest is a playground for loud fast machines, a dumping ground, a party spot to trash with broken beer bottles and streamers of toilet paper. They have no sense of stewardship.

Half of me cries when I see another “roadless” area created by decommissioning old roads, but the other half of me applauds as it is another place that won’t be trashed by those with no connection.

But since our FS has adopted WFU outside the wilderness, some of the prettiest places are all black dead trees, washed out hillsides, silted streams now, so who will want to visit? FS ’stewardship’ has not benefited these resources in our view.



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