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Re: E-M:/ Hidden Cost of Clearcutting
Enviro-Mich message from Tim Flynn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
On 5/15/97 11:15 AM ,email@example.com wrote:
>Thnx for a view on clearcutting which makes sense. Even so, I would tend
>to grudgingly grant clearcutting. I would need a lot more info to make a
>rational decision. I have only a superficial understanding of
>clearcutting. My basic knowledge is that it destroys natural habitat,
>which is slow to recover, if ever. And it looks like Mt. St. Helens all
Delavan, and others,
Clearcutting as presently practiced, mimics no natural process. It may
look like Mt. ST. Helens, but is occurring with far greater frequency, on
the same site, than volcanic explosions tend to do. Therefore it's
impact is greater across the landscape.
Current *whole tree harvest* clearcutting is far more severe than even
the cutting at turn of the century. Go out and look at a clearcut,
what natural disturbance does it mimic?
Fire? No, fire kills trees and leaves them on site, it also releases
nutrients, and does not compact or rip up the soil. The burnt trees
left behind are a legacy for future generations of forest communities,
and the people who also inhabit these communities. The structure
remaining, after a fire, is home to many wildlife species. Those
species are food for many more species.
How about wind? No again! Where is the structure created by the tip up
mounds of fallen trees, and where is the shelter provided under a fallen
How about insect outbreaks? No again. All the trees are missing.
Glaciers, meteor strikes or volcanoes? Getting close. These would
remove all the structure of the stand. But the return interval between
disturbances is much longer than 40 to 50 year that is normal for
industrial logging. Over the centuries, during the period between
glaciers or volcanoes, ecological communities can recovery, and
populations of species can come back. But clearcutting every 50 years
leave no time for full recovery, only species that can withstand rapid
sustain catastrophic disturbance can continue to exist in such a
landscape. No plants or animals in Michigan have evolved in systems
with such an altered disturbance patterns. Some species need frequent
disturbance, but the pattern and structure of these disturbances are
differnent than clearcutting. There are no chainsaw dependence,
obligate species the world! No forest *needs* to be clearcut.
Could even age management more closely mimic natural disturbance? Yes.
Could our management substitute for mother nature? I personally don't
think so. Look closely at a natural fire or wind throw event. Look at
the pattern of changing intensity of the disturbance, look at the
microhabitats created. Now imagine a logging site with such careful
attention to detail, image the time such mimicry would take.
Improvement can be made, but they can not substitute for the natural
processes of the creation.
All this leads me to be very wary of industrial scale clearcutting. Are
we saving all the pieces? Have we maintained the integrity, stability
and beauty of the forest community? What about these new patterns we are
cutting into the land? Can native species withstand this new pattern?
They evolved over millions of years and are dependent on natural
disturbances, which species will be able to survive such massive
We are currently protecting only 10 out of every 10,000 (36.5 million
total) acres of forest in Michigan, the rest is open to cutting (18.3
million acres) or is already residential and agricultural land (17.5
million acres). If we alter such basic ecological processes on such a
vast scale with no effective control areas, is it an experiment gone mad?
What will our grandchildren think of us? Such a massive uncontrolled
experiment is not science nor stewardship; it is exploitation of our
We must reinvest more of our biological assets (mature forests, down
wood, large dead trees, and natural processes) back into the land for the
next generation. When we do cut some of the forest, that which is
outside large protected reserves, then we must more closely represent
natural process, leave some structure on the land to be reinvested in the
next forest. Clearcutting as currently practiced does not meet the
criteria of saving all the pieces, our children and our forests deserve
Wood is not a renewable resource! Wood is not the resource, native
forest ecosystems are the resource, wood is a *potentially* renewable
product of a forest. The renewability is still in question. A single
White Pine can live longer than humans have been experimenting with
forestry. This is a fact that should humble us, not fill us with hubris.
Radically changing the patterns and processes of Michigan's forests is
the ultimate act of hubris.
"Rage, rage against the dying of the life"
Tim Flynn firstname.lastname@example.org Harbor Springs, MI 49740
ENVIRO-MICH: Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.
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