Manzanita Tree
Manzanita: Coordinated Efforts = Profit
People in the private and public sectors are exploring the idea that, with planning and cooperation, market forces and ecological ideals can work in tandem. In 1998, the U.S. Senate held an oversight hearing about non-timber forest products. With the help of American Forests, the Jefferson Center and other organizations, a number of presentations were made from the Pacific Northwest. Several guests spoke about the need to develop complimentary harvesting techniques that will produce more product per acre and cost less to do so.
Melissa Borsting from Ashland's Rogue Institute for Ecology & Economy described her organization's effort in the summer of 1997 to encourage local landowners to thin their Manzanita stands because of the potential fire hazard. They were looking for funding to promote the thinning, as it can be expensive for landowners, and learned of a Japanese pharmaceutical company that sought 3,000 pounds of dried Manzanita leaves for the production of sunscreen. Suddenly, everyone was making money.
"We hired a contractor [to do the thinning] - and were able to pay him a living wage," testified Borsting. "More landowners were involved because the sale of the leaves helped cover their costs. We added value by drying and packaging the leaves locally. By finding a market for this by-product of ecosystem management, we allowed a group of landowners to better serve as stewards of the land."
This theory may play out with wild-harvesting and logging as well. Pre-commercial thinning and slash salvaging can produce whole plants, bark, roots and leaves; if wild-harvesters were allowed into timber-sale areas, they could share their profits with the logging company. Loggers could share their observations of good stands of wild plants.
In Northern California, the Maidu Stewardship project is attempting to bring Native American and loggers' interests together, so that they can bolster, rather than compete with, each other's efforts. Their stated vegetation management strategies include:

  • Culturally appropriate protocols for sharing Maidu knowledge about vegetation management with the USDA Forest Service and other partners.
  • Combination of timber sales procedures and contracts with other authorities to rehabilitate forest understory, meadow and riparian vegetation.
  • Communication to identify and integrate silvicultural and indigenous management strategies that mimic natural disturbance regimes, reconstruct historic vegetative structures and return vegetative diversity to forest, meadow and riparian lands.
The future of sustainable harvesting may depend on bringing forest-product groups together for mutual benefit.