Forests need diversity for their health
To the Editor:
The revised forest management plan for the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests have been under scrutiny lately. One of the main critics of the plan is Will Harlan of the Center for Biological Diversity.
Harlan’s greatest critique of the plan is a perceived lack of old-growth forests. However, the plan calls for 265,000 acres (one-quarter) of the national forests to be designated as old growth forests and an additional 49,000 acres to be designated as Wilderness Areas. Both designations would protect those areas from any type of active forest management. But in Harlan’s eyes, that’s not enough. He wants even more acres of national forest land to be set aside never to be actively managed.
Old-growth forests provide a diversity of forest structure that is needed in a healthy forest. But letting forests succeed to old growth conditions is not the only way to achieve this diversity. Clearcuts, single-tree and group selection harvests, and prescribed burning provide structure diversity as well. A mix of young, middle-aged, and old growth forests contribute the greatest benefits to wildlife, water quality, and forest resiliency.
Furthermore, active management activities such as those mentioned above are in alignment with the management philosophy of the U.S. Forest Service. Harlan is advocating the U.S. Forest Service take a more hands-off approach, one similar to that used by the National Park Service. The U.S. Forest Service was never intended to be an extension of the National Park Service. Both agencies provide balance in natural resource management on our public lands. One aims to sustainably utilize natural resources through active management, and the other intends to preserve areas as they are.
Harlan was recently quoted as saying we are all landowners of the national forests, and we should have a voice in how it is managed. This is true. The public has voiced their opinion, and they want to see a mix of active management and areas set aside to become old-growth forests. This mixed public opinion represents stakeholders from diverse backgrounds with diverse ideas on what the management goals of the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests should be. This diverse set of goals is far more diverse than the desires of Will Harlan and the Center for Biological Diversity.
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Clear cutting in hardwood forests is foolish and poor management. It is often necessary in western forests where confers are shade intolerant. A few hardwood species are shade intolerant, but most are not. Select cutting is far better and allows for a more normal forest growth in hardwood forests.
More wilderness is not the way to go either. It's another extreme in forests that are by law meant for multiple use.