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Re: E-M:/ Clearcut Smearcut! Kirtland Warbler??

Enviro-Mich message from "Tim Flynn" <tflynn@freeway.net>

This is a long reply to Murray's comment on KW management.   I think the
facts and the complexity of this living system need correcting, if we are to
truly understand very tough choice need to manage this unique habitat.

Reply to Murray's critique of Jack Pine, Kirkland warbler management:
> "One of the arguments I have been hearing from those who oppose NCL is the
> need to "manage" jackpine forests which historically were regenerated by
> fire.  The exclusion of fire from this ecosystem and the dependency of the
> Kirkland warbler on trees with branches hitting the ground no more then
> 12-15 years old has been used as the justification for clearcutting.
> Unfortunately, clearcutting does not mimic the spatial patterns created by
> fires.
I'd be one of those opposed to NCL and jack pine ecosystems are only one of
the reasons for my opposition.  The justification in KW areas for clearcuts
is to mimic catastrophic fire disturbance regime native to this system.
This includes very dense tree stocking, large even-aged patches to reduce
fragmentation of habitat.  Lately they've also added "vortex" rows of live
tree to mimic fire behavior seen in the Mack Lake fire.  Management is still
to intensive with too little retention biological structure and composition,
so there's a ways to go to make this program of KW habitat management really
mimic all the important habitat and process formerly present in the Jack
Pine Plain ecosystem.  But they are moving away from clearcuts, and
beginning to leave some biological legacies.

> And even if we accept the ecological damage of clearcutting for the
> warbler, there is no reason why that management cannot be a non-commercial
> endeavor.  And there is no reason why fire cannot be returned as the primary
> management tool on the national forests for the jackpine type.
There are many reasons why fire cannot be returned in the short run
(next 100 or so year if we're lucky).  This is not a low intensity ground
fire situation, like Ponderosa or Red/White Pine disturbance regime.   This
is a catastrophic 50,000 to 100,000 plus acre fire pattern.  Prescribed
fires are NEVER allowed to mimic this type of disturbance, although any
prescribed fires will try, on their own, to mimic catastrophic disturbance
given the nature of the jack pine plains. Given this type of fire behavior
the managers are very reluctant to use fire, as they remember the Mack lake
experience and this dynamic tendency of this landscape.

Small controlled burns will not, any more than clearcuts, mimic the natural
disturbance regime.  No agency will prescribe crown fires, today, in this
area. There are too many homes and too many people.

Yet that is the fire regime that dominated these plains.   Some form of
alternative management is needed and if you are to reduce the fire hazard
removing some fuel is necessary, why not sell it and get some revenue to put
back into better management?

> Patch dynamics and patch characteristics in fire-regenerated jackpine are
> different from those in clearcut landscapes;
There is no doubt about this, but the Fed's and the DNR are changing the
cutting patterns and trying to mimic natural patterns.   Revenue from
"commercial" sales of pine allow more research, monitoring and allow for
attempts to do better in the future.

They clearly have along way to go, and funding is needed.
Given the nature of this system, complete retention of all the tree is not
going to happen, too dam dangerous, so sale of the wood removed, produces
revenue for management to protect jack pine ecosystems.

 It's our job to understand this
and make sure they are actually protecting and maintaining the system, and
not just logging for the mill.   A policy that allowed even-aged
treatments and required better protection of all the systems components and
function, more retention of biological legacies, while still selling the
timber removed is doable and to me acceptable.
> snags and downed woody debris is greatly reduced,
And along with them many of the endemic invertebrates dependant on snags.
But management can be changed to provide for lot's of these elements.  Bare
ground clearcuts aren't the only way to manage this system, in fact the best
of the new treatments are getting away from no retention bare ground
> no nutrients are deposited, via ash, to the soil,
But there may be ways to mimic some of this with post logging fire and
retention of live and dead trees, but commercial sale of forest products
harvested is absolutely necessary to fund some of the expenses this entails.

> soils in fire landscapes are not compacted by heavy equipment
Most research on glacial outwash soils show no, to very little, compaction
to soils, from anything done to them.

Doubt this?  Try creating a driveway from
sandy soil taken from the outwash plains, it will never become a solid drive
surface, no matter how many times you compact it.

The real issue here is the destruction/damage to the thin organic soil layer
by heavy equipment.  In the Luzerne (sp?) blowdown last year we got the
Forest Service to leave some areas un-salvaged, and to retain island of
habitat that would not be salvage.   We argued that they needed to focus on
public safety as the only reason to salvage trees, and areas not causing a
threat to safety could be left un-salvaged.  This left much more to the
areas fragile soils protect from equipment and yet met their legitimate
safety concerns.

> clearcutting does not heat the ground in a manner that stimulates vegetative
> regeneration of fire adapted species,
But without the likelihood of a native disturbance regime being allow back
into the outwash plains, how will we mimic this aspect of the system?
50,000 acre crown fires will happen by accident, but will not be allowed if
society can stop them.   Fire suppression is currently very effective.

A more important issue would be in the rare case of a natural fire, or a
human start one that gets out of control, we can work to protect the post
fire stand from salvage.
> -clearcutting does not respond to microsite moisture gradients that lead to
> patch differentiation,
> -fire leaves unburnt patches,
> -fire creates habitat for northern three-toed woodpeckers,
> -Fire is natural, clearcutting is NOT!
> -clearcutting skid trails and access roads are bad for reasons we all
> know--oils, greases, and other hydrocarbons often contaminate logging sites.
> Soil erosion, edge species invasion, illegal ORV use, etc.

> Clearcutting is simply the cheapest way to maximize fiber production from what
> are often poor soils.
That is not what is happening in the KW management areas.   The trees are
planted too close together to be maximizing fiber production, they are
planted to maximize nesting habitat.  Currently too many trees are being
taken during harvest, more retention of growing stock and dead wood is
needed, but management is not aimed at fiber maximization.

Some harvesting in the JP plains have moved away from pure clearcutting,
especially on the Huron-Manistee NF.   They do leave uncut patches, take
into account the landscape position, leave more large trees uncut.   This is
a move towards variable retention (VR) harvesting, and away form
clearcutting, it's focusing on what is left and not on what you take.

It's not yet enough but again the
commercial sale of forest products makes progress possible without sales all
the funding for management must come from General funds or the ESA(which is
already very under funded).  Especially on State Forest lands supplemental
funding is needed, why not sell logs your going to cut anyway?

> Clearcutting is the most efficient way to continue the steady loss of
> biological capital of the northwoods of Michigan.
That's why we need to work on changing management, get the focus on natural
disturbance regimes, and get in place a native landscape conservation system
of millions of acres.  National and State forest are a key part of such a
strategy, but not all of it.   Banning commercial sale of all timber product
from just Federal Lands will not stop the loss of Michigan's biological

Clearcuts for commercial sale aren't the only problem, with current
management.   More older rarer remnant forest patches are effected by
selection harvest than by clearcutting of already disturbed younger forests.
It's not the type of harvest as much as it is ignorance of the land and it's
processes that is likely to cause the most loss of birth.

Tim Flynn

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