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|Protecting the environment in Douglas-fir National Monument will be a two-pronged strategy. One aspect is to preserve all of the old-growth forest that remains there, which means no logging of old trees in these forests will be permitted. The other aspect is to practice restoration forestry on the rest of the forest, as described below.|
To read more about ancient forests, please go to the Old-growth Forests page.
The Opportunities for Scientifically Sound Ecological Restoration Forestry
A significant portion of the federal public forestlands to be designated a national monument was clearcut and then artificially planted, generally from the late 1940s through 1990. These plantations are usually monocultures of Douglas-fir trees that are the same species, age, height and spacing. Such plantations have little resemblance to a natural forest. Scientifically sound ecological restoration forestry in the proposed Douglas-fir National Monument will put these degraded forest stands on a path that will again achieve high amounts of biological diversity for fish and wildlife, watershed integrity for water quality and quantity, and carbon storage and sequestration for the climate—as well as protecting spectacular scenery and recreation opportunities for this and future generations.
Ecological restoration forestry, as we use the term, consists of ecological restoration thinning, where the plantation stands are thinned in ways to:
• favor the growth of the remaining Douglas-fir trees;
Not every plantation acre will be thinned, as some are not readily accessible by existing roads, are too steep, are too close to streams or should be left for other habitat and/or watershed values.
Unnecessary roads would be decommissioned to protect water quality and improve habitat for native wildlife. Necessary roads would be maintained and improved to minimize negative impacts on water quality and wildlife habitat.
As there are so many plantations, the scientifically sound ecological restoration thinning operations will provide a flow of commercially valuable logs for local mills for some decades, providing logging, hauling and milling jobs. Watershed restoration activities, including road decommissioning and improvement will also be a significant source of jobs.
The Problems With Current and Projected Federal Forest Practices
Since 1995, federal forestlands (both Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service) in the proposed national monument have been managed under the Northwest Forest Plan (NFWP). The NWFP has done much to conserve and restore mature and old-growth forests as well as protecting streams and associated riparian areas. However, the NWFP allows for the clearcutting of natural forest outside of formally designated reserves.
In 2016, the Bureau of Land Management abandoned the NWFP by adopting new resource management plans (RMPs) for its western Oregon holdings. In some ways, the new BLM plans are better (e.g. prohibition against post-disturbance logging in reserved areas) and in some ways worse than the NWFP (e.g. less streamside protection). Under either the NWFP and the 2016 BLM RMPs, large amounts of inappropriate logging are allowed solely for the commercial production of logs at the expense of water quality and quantity, wildlife habitat, scenery, climate stability, recreation and other public values.
The Forest Service has yet to revise the Willamette National Forest’s land and resource management plan (LRMP), but is on track to do so. We anticipate that this agency will also abandon the NWFP in favor of higher logging levels, at the expense of water quality and quantity, wildlife habitat, scenery, climate stability, recreation and other public values.
The BLM’s new RMPs have embraced, and the Forest Service is anticipated to embrace, a modified form of clearcut logging called “variable retention harvest” (VRH). While VRH is misleadingly referred to as “restoration forestry” or “eco-forestry,” it is—at best—a kinder and gentler clearcut. While more trees are left on the site under a VRH prescription than in a traditional clearcut, most of the trees are removed, and to the casual (human or wildlife) observer it functions—ecologically and hydrologically—closer to a clearcut than a real forest. One cannot have one’s forest and clearcut it too.
Forests have co-evolved with large disturbances. These disturbances include fire, wind, insects and disease. Such disturbances are not only natural, they are beneficial and necessary to forested landscapes and watersheds. For example, a forest fire is either the rebirth or the continuation of a forest. American society has been conditioned by Smokey Bear propaganda to view all forest fires as bad. Forest fire is only bad for a forest owner if the goal is to obtain the maximum amount of commercial logs from that forest site. If the goal is natural ecological and hydrological function and the myriad of goods and services it provides for the benefit of this and future generations of Americans, then fire is a good thing.
The vast majority of the proposed Douglas-Fir National Monument is a vast backcountry where large-scale fire disturbance events may proceed without harm to societal values. While persistent and massive attempts have been made to control fires once they have started in the backcountry, the efforts have been as unsuccessful as they have been expensive.
Those that favor intensive logging of forests for the logs will often bill such logging as beneficial to prevent forest fires. In fact, plantation stands tend to burn hotter and more intensely than natural forests. Scientific research indicates that fires are more severe in logged-over lands than in older forest, even though older forests have higher biomass and more fuel.
One cannot, and should not, prevent fire in the backcountry. It’s expensive, harmful and ineffective. Firefighting dollars should be spent defending buildings, but only those buildings and immediately surrounding areas where prudent measures have been taken to resist fire.
Those that favor intensive logging of forests by thinning for the logs also promote the view that a heavily thinned forest will reduce the probability or intensity of fires, insect events or disease episodes. Factually, that is not the case. Insects and disease can naturally “thin” a forest and are often the result of a lack of fire in the forest that would naturally keep insects and disease in natural check. Yes, one can “thin” a forest to such an extent that a wind-blown fire will not carry from tree to tree, but the trees will be so far apart as not to be anything like a forest.
The only way to prevent forest fires is to prevent forests.
Fires are an unqualified bad thing only in cities and towns and, for the most part, can be prevented in such areas. In the so-called wildlands-urban interface (WUI), where the backcountry gives way to the front country, fire is problematic. The best way to ensure that buildings in the WUI don’t burn is to first make them resistant to fire in the first place and then to treat the vegetation within 100 feet or so of the building, so as to prevent a wild fire from being carried to the building and igniting it. Fighting fire in the backcountry won’t prevent buildings on the edge of the front country from burning. To read more about fires go to the Forest Wildfire page.
A Douglas-Fir National Monument for This and Future Generations
Fundamental to the idea of the Monument is that it would become a large conservation reserve. In portions of it that are designated "Matrix" under the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) intensive commercial logging is currently allowed. This would change under Monument rules, and these areas would be managed under the guidelines of ecological restoration forestry as described above, or treated more like Late Successional Reserves under the NWFP, so they could become natural forest again. The concept of creating and maintaining large reserves is critical to the whole idea of conservation, as stated in the following:
“The conservation foundation of the NWFP, which is rooted in fixed reserves, has been broadly supported in the scientific literature. This is largely because the reserve network is the backbone to a regional conservation strategy for hundreds of species that depend on older forests that are relatively rare on surrounding nonfederal lands. The older forests and intact watersheds that these reserves protect, or seek to restore, also provide a myriad of related ecosystem benefits, including storing vast quantities of atmospheric carbon in live and dead trees and soils important in climate regulation, refugia and a relatively connected landscape for climate-forced migrations of wildlife in search of cool, moist conditions, and high quality water for aquatic organisms and people.”-from an open letter from 229 scientists in support of the Northwest Forest Plan as a global and regional model for conservation and ecosystem management, June 14, 2012 (see the first reference under "General", below)
The goal of the Douglas-fir National Monument is the true ecological restoration and function of natural forests of all age classes and the hydrological restoration of watersheds. Structural and biological complexity of degraded forest stands would increase over the decades, eventually becoming much like the pre-industrial forest that once covered the landscape, and one in which natural processes (including fire, windstorms and other natural disturbances) are allowed to take their natural course. Such a forest landscape would offer a home to the full complement of native plants, fungi and wildlife, have healthy streams for fish, amphibians and people, store massive amounts of atmospheric carbon and offer wonderful opportunities for recreation, including non-motorized outdoor recreation, pleasure driving, camping, fishing, hunting, birding, hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing, botanizing, photography and nature study.
Conservation, wildlife and the importance of reserves
"Saving Nature’s Legacy" by R.F. Noss,, and A.Y. Cooperrider. 1994. Island Press: Washington, D.C.
"Continental Conservation: Scientific Foundations of Regional Reserve Networks" by M. E. Soulé and J. Terborgh, eds. Island Press, 1999.
“Bolder thinking for conservation” by Noss, R.F.; Dobson, A.P.; Baldwin, R.; Beier, P.; Davis, C.R.; DellaSala, D.A.; Francis, J.; Locke, H.; Nowak, K.; Lopez, R.; et al. Conservation Biology 2012, 26, 1–4.
“Conservation Implications of Coarse-Scale Versus Fine-Scale Management of Forest Ecosystems: Are Reserves Still Relevant?” by Carroll, C.; Odion, D.C.; Frissell, C.A.; DellaSala, D.A.; Noon, B.R.; Noss, R. Klamath Center for Conservation Research: Orleans, CA, USA, 2009.
“Habitat patch connectivity and population survival” by Fahrig, L. and Merriam, G.. Ecology 1985, 66, 1762–1768.
“Conservation of the northern spotted owl under the Northwest Forest Plan” by Noon, B.R.and Blakesley, J.A. Conservation Biology 2006, 20, 288–296.
“The performance and potential of protected areas” by Watson, J.E.M.; Dudley, N.; Segan, D.B.; Hockings, M. 2014. Nature 515, 67–73.
"Ecological Integrity: Integrating Environment, Conservation, and Health" by Pimentel, D., L. Westra, and R.F. Noss (eds). 2000. Island Press: Washington, D.C.
“Evaluating areas of high conservation value in western Oregon with a decision-support model” by Staus, N.L., J. R. Strittholt, and D. A. DellaSala. 2010. Conservation Biology 24: 711–720.
"Protecting the Wild: Parks and Wilderness, the Foundation for Conservation" and "Keeping the Wild: Against the Domestication of Earth", G. Wuerthner, E. Crist and T. Butler, eds. Foundation for Deep Ecology and Island Press, 2015.
"Rewilding North America: A Vision for Conservationin the 21st Century" by D. Foreman. Island Press, 2004.
"Toward a Natural Forest: The Forest Service in Transition"; a memoir by J. Furnish. Oregon State University Press, 2015.
Forest ecology and logging
“Ecologically Appropriate Restoration Thinning in the Northwest Forest Plan Area: A Policy and Technical Analysis” by A. Kerr, The Larch Company 2013. http://www.andykerr.net/
“Status of mature and old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest” by Strittholt, J.R., D.A. DellaSala, and H. Jiang. 2006. USA. Conservation Biology 20:363-374.
“A Restoration Framework for Federal Forests in the Pacific Northwest” by Jerry F. Franklin and K. Norman Johnson. Journal of Forestry 110(8):429-439, 2012.
“Alternative views of a restoration framework for federal forests in the Pacific Northwest” by DellaSala, D.A., R.G. Anthony, M.L. Bond, E. Fernandez, C.T. Hanson, R.L. Hutto, and R. Spivak. 2013. Journal of Forestry 111:402-492.
“Building on two decades of ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation under the Northwest Forest Plan, USA” by DellaSala, D.A., R. Baker, D. Heiken, C.A. Frissell, J.R. Karr, S.K. Nelson, B.R. Noon,D. Olson, and J. Strittholt. Forests 6:3326- 3352.
“The trouble with "variable retention regeneration harvests" or “When is a clearcut still a clear cut?” By Oregon Wild, July 2013.
“High biomass forests of the Pacific Northwest: who manages them and how much is protected?” by Krankina, O., D.A. DellaSala, J. Leonard, and M. Yatskov. 2014. Environmental Management. 54:112-121.
“Toward a more ecologically informed view of severe forest fires” by Richard L. Hutto, Robert E. Keane, Rosemary L. Sherriff, Christopher T. Rota, Lisa A. Eby, and Victoria A. Saab, Ecosphere, 7(2):e01255. 10.1002/ecs2.1255, Feb, 2016.
"The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature’s Phoenix" by D.A. DellaSala and C.T. Hansen, Elsevier: Boston, 2015
“Does increased forest protection correspond to higher fire severity in frequent-fire forests of the western United States?” by Curtis M. Bradley, Chad T. Hanson, and Dominick A. DellaSala. Ecosphere 7(10) pp. 1-13, Oct., 2016.
“Learning to coexist with wildfire” by Moritz, M.A., E. Batllori, R.A. Bradstock, A.M. Gill, J. Handmer, P.F. Hessburg, J. Leonard, S. McCaffrey, D.C. Odion, T. Schoennagel, and A.D. Syphard. 2014. Nature 515: 58-66.
Fuel treatments and salvage logging
"Salvage Logging and its Ecological Consequences" by D.B. Lindenmayer, P.J. Burton, and J.F. Franklin. 2008. Island Press: Washington, D.C.
“Salvage logging, ecosystem processes, and biodiversity conservation” by Lindenmayer, D.B., and R.F. Noss. 2006. Conservation Biology 20:949-958.
“Post-wildfire logging hinders regeneration and increases fire risk” by Donato, D.C., J. B. Fontaine , J. L. Campbell, W. D. Robinson , J. B. Kauffman, and B.E. Law. 2006. Science 311:352.
“Thinning effects on forest productivity: consequences of preserving old forests and mitigating impacts of fire and drought” by Law, B.E., T.W. Hudiburg, and Luyssaert. 2013. Plant Ecology & Diversity 6:73-85.
“Postfire logging in riparian areas” by Reeves, G.H., P.A. Bisson, B.E. Riema, and L.E. Benda. 2006..Conservation Biology 20: 994-1004.
“Tamm review: are fuel treatments effective at achieving ecological and social objectives? A systematic review” by Kalies, E.L., and L.L. Yocom Kent. 2016. Forest Ecology and Management 375:84-95.
“Carbon implications of current and future effects of drought, fire, and management on Pacific Northwest forests” by Law, B.E., and R.H. Warning. Forest Ecology and Management 355:4- 14, 2015.
“Disturbance and climate effects on carbon stocks and fluxes across western Oregon USA” by Law, B.E., et al. 2004. Global Change Biology 10:1429-1444.
"Effects on Carbon Storage of Conversion of Old-Growth Forests to Young Forests" by Mark E. Harmon, William K. Ferrill and Jerry F. Franklin. Science, Feb 9, 1990.
“Carbon balance on federal forest lands of western Oregon and Washington: the impact of the Northwest Forest Plan” by Krankina, O.N., M.E. Harmon, F. Schnekenburger, and C.A. Sierra. Forest Ecology and Management 286:171-182. 2012.
“BLM Logging will exacerbate catastrophic climate risks” -memo to BLM from Ernest Niemi, Natural Resource Economics, March, 2013.
"Best Old-Growth Forest Hikes: Washington and Oregon Cascades" by J. and D. Cissel. The Mountaineers Books, Seattle, 2003.
"A Walking Guide to Oregon’s Ancient Forests" by W. Wood, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Portland, 1991.
"100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades" by W. L. Sullivan, second edition. Navillus Press, Eugene, 1999.
An excellent and up-to-date source for information is the website of Forest Legacies, an initiative of the Geos Institute at http://forestlegacies.org/programs/pacific-northwest/1344-northwest-forest-plan-under-review. See especially the commentary on the Northwest Forest Plan proposed revisions, including the open letter in support of the NFWP signed by 229 scientists, and the links on Fire Ecology.
" Forest Under Story: Creative Inquiry in an Old-Growth Forest", N. Brodie, C. Goodrich and F.J. Swanson, eds. University of Washington Press, 2016.
"Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants" by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Milkweed Editions, Minneapolis, 2014
"Gathering Moss", by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, 2003.
"Holdfast: At Home in the Natural World" by Kathleen Dean Moore. The Lyons Press, New York, 1999.
"Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology" by David Abram. Pantheon, 2010.
A diverse forest
Unwinding in a pristine setting
Large culvert for fish passage
High quality clean water