13 Jan 2008, 7:33pm
Forestry education
by admin

Meme Games

I have received a small amount of negative feedback (polite, indirect, but still negative) regarding the term “restoration forestry.” The negativity expressed has some validity; words are tricky things. I am not all that enamored with the term myself.

To be honest, I have been searching for the right buzzword or meme (an idea that spreads from person to person within a culture). Restoration forestry, or forest restoration, are examples of pregnant phrases that might (or might not) resonate politically but actually have no precise definition, and/or mean very different things to different people.

Memes are idea viruses. Every marketer searches for memes to infect the public with notions about his or her product. Things go better with Coke. Not your father’s Oldsmobile. Forests: Tend Them Or Lose Them. Warmer Is Better. Etc.

Our forest problems will not be solved with memes, though. A better approach is to advance the discourse, which is the intention of W.I.S.E.

Forestry does have major conceptual (abstract structure) problems, and “forestry” itself is a meme that means different things to different people. Some folks, like Sen. Ron Wyden the other night, think that thinning is not logging, but of course it is. The conceptual problem here is that too many see forestry as commercial extraction of resources and not as stewardship of ecosystems.

To some foresters, at least to me, the task is the latter, not the former. Unless we are talking about private tree farm land, in which case the idea is to grow and harvest profitable crops, as in any farm business. This is an important distinction. Private tree farming and public forestland stewardship are two completely different land uses. Forestry ought to be adept at both; sadly, in its current manifestations, it is adept at neither.

The fire community now sees itself as “environmental.” Instead of calling them forest fires, or even wildfires, they call them Wildland Fires Used For Resource Benefit (there’s a buzzword meme for you). The implication is that Let It Burn (another meme) is some sort of biological treatment that improves, benefits, and enhances natural resources. That’s phony, and an abortion of the biological paradigm, not an embracement of it. Firefighting is still a militaristic and opportunistic suppression endeavor. Biology plays no role (except as a source of buzzwords that obscure reality).

Our local communities are suffering behind all that. People are getting burned out of their land and homes, in urban settings, not just rural. Recently the Chief of the USFS called for converting 400 million acres of private land to “wildlands,” an obvious excuse and promotion of WFU’s on private land. Note that the USFS owns “only” 200 million acres. Currently the Feds own 55% of Oregon, and roughly that in every other western state. Tripling the “wildland” acreage means every piece of private property west of the 100th Meridian is now fair game for federal holocaust. Talk about mission creep.

There’s not much biological in that paradigm, nor cultural. Instead it smacks of land take-over, another word for warfare. The Nature Conservancy now sits on the Wildland Fire Leadership Council, and they have a serious corporate financial agenda. It’s all about the money, not the forests, wildlife, ecology, biology, watersheds, communities, or even fire. It’s about profit. Pure and simple. It’s about burning out private land so TNC can get it cheap and turn it over at a profit to the Feds.

What is wilderness but a political construct, anyway? Big buzzword. Apparently our super-materialistic culture needs that bauble, just gotta have it, like universal health care or HDTV’s, except wilderness doesn’t actually exist in the real world. So instead we get ersatz wilderness, pretend wilderness, politically-mandated wilderness, thrown at the masses like bread and circuses, which they suck up like good indoctrinees. And then those lands get summarily incinerated and suffer many bad environmental/ecological impacts. All fires are not good fires.

The “environmental activists” are big on politicized memes and buzzwords and group letters from scientists. They seem to think such are useful. So I thought I would write a group letter, get signatures, and play their game back at them.

But after contemplation, it does not amuse me to do so. I don’t enjoy playing games, and especially not that kind. That approach is beneath me. Well, maybe not, but still I don’t like it.

The idea of WISE is to expand the discourse, not be a political bullhorn. That was the problem with SOS Forests (and still is). The rest of the site is a lot more fun for me. I’m about to review Clam Gardens: Aboriginal Mariculture on Canada’s West Coast, Judith Williams, 2006, a lovely little book about the “re-emergence” of ancient, human-built and tended clam beds. I also plan to do a cluster of reviews on works by William Denevan (the real Indiana Jones?). What these authors have in common is landscape history, and the history of our (Holocene) landscapes is one of human stewardship. Human stewardship is the meta-subject that W.I.S.E. is trying to expand the discourse on.

Forestry, like it or not, has to be in the solution set. Forestry is a biologically-based discipline, after all. It is not merely timbering in berths. I don’t want public land used for tree farming, but I do want native forest and landscape stewardship, i.e. restoration forestry, or whatever meme fits the concept.

The fire community also has to be part of the solution, although right now they appear to be acting as soldiers fighting for BINGO’s interests, an invading mercenary army burning out the locals. They are more divorced than ever from biology.

A very wise friend of mine wrote to me (in a gentle criticism of restoration forestry) that “the thrust ought to be to direct those public lands to public purposes, now redefined in more ecological language.”

I absolutely agree; not to meme-ify that, but to expand the discourse about it.

13 Jan 2008, 8:31pm
by bear bait

The concept is already a book title: Tending the Wild. We have to tend the wild, as man has done for millennia. The big brain is a result of securing enough protein to want to obtain more. And to do that, Man had to help the wild provide for him. He had to tend it so that it was available when needed. He had to think about not the next minute but the next year or decade. That was the big jump.

You can tend it, manage it, nurture it, you can call it Johnson, but the result was always the same: diverse productivity…the set table…the unorganized larder…sustenance and sustainability…planned….the result of a plan….an organized life that sustained the species we call human.

So I would like to call thinning a process of “tending the wild.” Not unlike pruning a shrub to encourage shoot growth for basketry, or digging camas and putting small corms back in the hole, and scattering seed from the tops. The wild was used and tended, and both happened at the same time. A tended wild was a protected wild, something that we are not able to accomplish at this time, if only because the wild is no longer tended.

13 Jan 2008, 11:36pm
by Forrest Grump

SPEAKING of restoration forestry, two links of interest:


and, linked from there:


Yes, I am feeling cynical tonight. Log it or Lose it, Baybee.

Tending Eden?
Rainbow Forestry?
Real Forestry for Real Forests?

14 Jan 2008, 12:48am
by Mike

Tending The Wild is okay as a meme, but it has its limitations. Its author/originator, M.Kat Anderson, had some specific reference conditions in mind, and prefers the traditional methods of that era to restore them. Not only are there other eras that could be referenced, today is today and our needs and methods are different than any past era.

Historical re-creations are great, don’t get me wrong. We need them. But the goals of Modern Public Landscape Stewardship (is that a better meme? how about Active Management?) are more than just that. They include:

• Prevention of catastrophic megafires (and reduction in emergency fire suppression costs and fire losses)

• Prevention of large-scale CO2 emissions from wildfires

• Reintroduction of frequent light fires to various ecosystems

• Prevention of forest conversion to fire-type brush and other chronically severe fire hazard conditions

• Prevention of catastrophic fire damage to watersheds

• Preservation of historic features of our shared, cultural landscapes

• Sustaining old-growth trees and old-growth development pathways

• Sustaining wildlife habitat and species populations

• Reinvigorating rural economies, jobs, and restoring local school and county funding

• Reconnecting local residents with their local landscapes

These are the items that belong in the new USFS mission statement, in my opinion. Hard to get meme around all that. But I’m open to suggestions.

Once upon a time I coined Multi-Cohort Forestry (McForestry) and then later, Optimal Multi-Aged Management Activities (O MAMA), but those aren’t quite right.

14 Jan 2008, 6:28pm
by Bob Z.

How about “Common Sense Forestry?” (It may have been Will Rogers or Mark Twain that said the problem with common sense is that it is so darn uncommon, and perhaps that’s the problem with all this discussion in the first place.)

Active Management Forestry?

Proven Methods Forestry?

Multiple Objectives Forestry? (Requires one or more stated objectives.)

Jerry’s Optimal and Environmental Multi-Aged Management Activities (With political backing we could see such stirring pronouncements as: “A vote for Obama is a vote for JOE MAMA.”)

Sorry. I’ll try and get more sleep from now on.



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