7 Jul 2008, 9:31pm
Saving Forests
by admin

Siuslaw NF “Old-Growth”

Guest post by Bob Zybach

To the Editor of the Eugene Register Guard:

I enjoyed the July 5 article on the centennial celebration of the Siuslaw National Forest. For many years I was a friend and neighbor of Rex Wakefield, who was Supervisor of the Siuslaw in the 1950s, when timber harvests were intensified to meet national housing demands. Rex was also a great forester, and pioneered many of the site preparation and Douglas-fir plantation methods that were widely used by federal land managers and industrial foresters in subsequent decades.

About 20 years ago I was commissioned to write a detailed land-ownership history of the Siuslaw, and relied upon Rex for much personal recollection, as well as important historical records he had retained from his years as a Supervisor. One of the most interesting records was a history of the Forest written in 1940 by one of Rex’s predecessors, Dahl Kirkpatrick. This report was later updated during WW II, but I was fortunate to be able to read the original type-written document.

A very common — and important — misconception about the history of the Siuslaw NF is similar to what you report in your paper, that of the “two billion” feet of timber sold from the Forest between 1960 and 1990 “much of it [was] old growth giants that today are a rare find.” That is simply not true. Almost all of the timber sold from the Siuslaw during its entire existence has been second-growth, not old-growth.

In 1940 Dahl Kirkpatrick noted that only 35,000 acres or so of the 600,000 total acreage in the Siuslaw was old-growth. That is about the same figure as exists today. People often think the trees are much older because they are so large and grow so fast, as Phyllis Steeves is quoted as saying in your article.

The reason the Siuslaw has never contained very much old-growth during its 100-year history is because of the “Great” Yaquina, Coos, and Nestucca Fires of 1849-1868 which killed most of the trees over the landscape during those years. Trees logged between 1960 and 1990 were almost entirely large second-growth, between 90 and 140 years of age, not old-growth.

The Great Fires of the 1800s were similar to the Big Sur, San Diego, Biscuit, and B&B wildfires of today in that they killed almost everything in their path and were hundreds of thousands of acres in size. Kay King, also quoted in your article, is entirely correct when she worries about all of the huge fuel build-up of the past 20 years, which she terms “biomass for fires.” If this biomass isn’t reduced by regular burning — such as practiced by local Indians before 1849, by grazing, by logging, or by some other means, the Siuslaw NF is destined to be the site of another “Great Fire” sometime soon, in the foreseeable future. That is its history, and also the nature of untended forestlands.

8 Jul 2008, 5:25am
by backcut

Great article, Bob! I sure hope they print that, opening some minds to the bigger picture. Yes, trees DO grow doggone fast on the Oregon Coast. I cored one Port Orford cedar that was 32″ dbh and was surprised to find it was a mere 59 years old! It was left in a tough spot in the middle of an old clearcut and had all the light and water it could handle.

8 Jul 2008, 8:35am
by Forrest Grump

Hey, wasn’t Jim Furnish supe on the Siuslaw? Or was it the Stanislaus?

8 Jul 2008, 9:08am
by Mike

Furnish indeed suped the Siuslaw. Suped it to death. Worst supe in the history of supes. Absolutely.

8 Jul 2008, 10:50am
by Mike

The critical idea in all this is that old-growth are individual trees, not stands of trees. Real old-growth are those trees that predate elimination of aboriginal anthropogenic fire. In Oregon those are trees are roughly 175 years old or older.

Real old-growth trees occurred in open, park-like stands and were open grown from germination.

Today so-called old-growth stands contain only 5 to 10 true old-growth trees per acre. Unless, of course, second-growth trees are referred to as old-growth, which is the biased and unscientific interpretation that saddles much of modern popular thought.

Abandoning second growth to catastrophic immolation is the result of such unscientific bias. The megafires kill all trees, destroy wildlife habitat, foul air and water, and bankrupt rural economies.

We need to shuck our brains of stupidities founded in racial prejudice and cultural bigotry. We need to grasp the truth for a change. If old-growth trees, abundant wildlife, clean air, clean water, and robust economies are the goals, then active restoration forestry is ONLY way to get there.

9 Jul 2008, 9:18am
by bear bait

The good supe on the Stanislaus was Cornell. On the Siuslaw Rex Wakefield, Dale Robertson, and Tom Thompson did a good job while I used the Forest. After Thompson came a succession of affirmative action appointees in the job to devolve the Forest into a biomass dump of gigantic proportions. The Preferred Use: No Use. Mother Nature became a political appointee, as are all USFS senior management positions since the rat bastard Bill Clinton sidestepped the SES Management Pool, and appointed JW Thomas as Chief. Now we get lackeys and hacks. Lucky us. Just another layer of corruption that can be bought.

Weyerhaeuser and the Timber Barons bought the Under Sec. of Ag for the USFS, Mark Rey. He set up straw dogs like selling surplus land to fund timber share replacement funds, the easement dog and pony show in Western Montana. Whatever the Timber Barons and their support groups, the Trust Puppy enviro NGOs, wanted or needed, he was there to help. You know the shtick: a billion here and billion there of subsidized profits, and the Timber Baron Trusts send money to candidates and NGOs from the Trust Funds that has to be distributed annually to keep the tax break. Not rocket science, this pulling the wool over the public eye.



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