OPB has been baited by a red herring dangled by the timber industry. Old forests are hard to define. So what. This complication is raised again and again by the timber industry and their allies in the agencies in order to prevent the old-growth discussion from moving forward.
The Oregon Department of Forestry recently framed the issue as "What is old growth?" and "How much old growth do we need?" In reality, we can act decisively and meaningfully without answering either one of these questions.
What is old growth? Answer: It does not really matter where on the forest continuum we draw a precise line that defines old growth, because there is currently such an extreme deficit of old forests that in order to restore old forest ecosystems that adequately provide habitat for endangered species, clean water, and carbon stores we need to protect and restore both mature and old growth.
The real question is NOT "What is old growth?" but rather "Which forests will benefit from human interventions such as prescribed fire and thinning and which forests already have the building blocks of recovery and do not require human intervention?" There is general agreement among scientists and conservationists and the authors of the Northwest Forest Plan and the Eastside Screens that stand-based protection of older forests (>80 years) is appropriate on the moist/westside, while tree-based protection (>21" dbh) is appropriate on the dry/eastside. These standards allow high priority restoration activities such as variable density thinning in dense young plantations on the westside and treating surface and ladder fuels to protect large old trees on the eastside. There is no basis for weakening these science-based standards.
How much old growth is enough? Answer: We don't need to know 'how much is enough' for another 50-150 years, so let's take our time and not be distracted by trying to answer this question prematurely. In order to start acting, we only need to know which direction to move. This much is clear - we logged too much old growth in the past, so there is too little old growth today. Our immediate objective should be to protect all we have and then restore much of what has been destroyed. This is recognized in the Northwest Forest Plan, the Eastside Screens and the statements of elected officials. Since we know which direction we need to move the system, we can start now without answering precisely where we will end up.
posted 4 years, 7 months ago
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