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  Comments (1) Total Wednesday Apr. 23, 2014
LETTER: Forest Myths and Realities
Any news article that mentions or proposes some form of wood harvesting from forests these days tends to draw out many opinions regarding what is good or bad for the forest. Words and concepts such as ecology, biodiversity, sustainability, science, and conservation are often used to oppose industrialism, greed, pollution, global warming, erosion and environmental degradation in a simplified effort to convince people that only forests that exist without human interference or intervention will remain healthy and immortal. The latest argument used to convince people of the wrongness of human activity is the “Letter of Protest or Concern” signed by some impressionable number of scientists in order to make a political point.

The natural history, physics and biology of forests is an endless series of topics to be learned about and studied. After working 35-plus years, most of which have been spent in the ecosystems of the Northern Rockies, I find new things to learn every day about individual organisms and their interactions within the biological community we call a forest. I have also found that some overall realities prevail.

First, forests are always changing and there is no such thing as a “stable ecosystem.” The forests we see today can be quite different in composition, structure, function and future trajectory than the forests from 50, 100, 500, 1,000 or 10,000 years ago. Second, forests do not need human intervention and will flourish or die-off on any location according to multiple natural processes, including climate variability, floods, drought, wildfires, landslides, pests and pathogens, etc. Third, forests can be incredibly robust or very fragile depending on their location and what species are involved, and this mosaic of conditions can exist across an area the size of a pool table or a mountainside.

Finally and most importantly, human impacts can be as beneficial or harmful to a forest as any process we deem “natural.” My experience across the U.S. and Europe has shown me that lands that are managed to provide humans with multiple benefits such as clean water, wood, recreation, wildlife and even wilderness experiences tend to have a greater resilience to remain forests than those left up to “natural” processes alone because people will strongly invest their “unnatural” energy and resources into growing and conserving forests. Forests can provide sustainable quantities of wood and other resources to human society without any detriment to other natural organisms if done thoughtfully and well, which is why we have schools, research, professionals and certification protocols, and the northern Rockies can be the place that showcases this.

Peter Kolb
MSU Extension Forestry Specialist
On 01-14-14, RussCrowder commented....
I don’t know if I believe this until it’s run by a real forestry expert like Keith Hammer.
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