As a retired forester, I commend Kathie Durbin for the informative Oct. 23 story “National forest branches out” on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Harvesting and processing of “special forest products” is mostly by labor and in facilities away from the forest. Thus, little value added goes to forest-related rural communities. Less is known about the sustainability of these items as compared to timber production.
Regarding revenues, a credible estimate posited that about 60 million board feet per year could be thinned for decades from the GPNF’s second growth stands alone. As the story alluded, these stands can be treated in ways promoting ecosystem health, including special forest products, while providing local revenue. Win-win solutions exist for both ecology and economy.
As for environmental group concern about thinning 100-year-old naturally regenerated stands of trees, these also might be considered “second growth.” The Yacolt Burn occurred in 1902. Trees that regenerate naturally after fire or timber harvest grow according to the same rules as planted trees. What is important is whether a given stand, natural or planted, will develop toward an ecosystem management target, whether it be water, timber, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation or some mix of these. Cutting trees may be necessary to make this happen.