22 Mar 2009, 3:26pm
Forestry education
by admin

Sanderson’s Farm

Hugh Miller Raup (1901-1995) was a giant of American forestry and forest science. He is best remembered as the director of the Harvard Forest for twenty years and Bullard Professor in Forestry there. He was also the author of numerous books, papers, reports, and letters on forestry and forest ecology.

Professor Raup’s biography from the Harvard University Library [here]:

Hugh Miller Raup was born on his family’s farm in Springfield, Ohio on February 1, 1901 to Gustavus Phillip and Fannie (Mitchell) Raup. He attended Wittenburg College, receiving an A.B. in 1923. Immediately following his graduation, Raup was appointed as an instructor in biology, a position he held while pursuing his A.M. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1928, and was promoted to Assistant Professor at Wittenburg. Raup left Wittenburg College in 1932 to serve as a Research Assistant and Associate at Harvard, a position he held from 1932 to 1938. Raup’s association with Harvard included the Arnold Arboretum, the Black Rock Forest, the Harvard Forest, and the Department of Biology.

In 1935, Raup published “Notes of the Early Uses of Land Now in the Arnold Arboretum.” This study examined the historical influences, both natural and man made, that shaped the landscape. He challenged prior conceptions about the ecological history of the Arnold Arboretum, particularly the notion that historically, Hemlock Hill had been a pristine section of land. Much of Raup’s work revolved around such an examination of historical influences on New England, Honduran, and Cuban landscapes, which was a relatively revolutionary approach. Other remarkable research included a phytogeographic survey of the Peace River region of Alberta and British Columbia, returning with thousands of specimens, and studies in subarctic Canada, northeastern Greenland, and the boreal forests of Alaska, some of which was completed in collaboration with the Canadian National Museum.

Following his tenure as research associate, Hugh Raup held a succession of professorial appointments at Harvard. He was appointed Assistant Professor in Plant Ecology in 1938, and rose quickly up the academic ranks, receiving a promotion to Assistant Professor of Plant Geography associate professor in 1945. In 1949, he was promoted to full professor with an appointment as Bullard Professor in Forestry. He became director of the Harvard Forest in 1946, thereafter devoting much of his energies to the Forest through his retirement in 1967. Following Raup’s from Harvard, Raup spent three years at Johns Hopkins as a Visiting Professor. He and his wife Lucy then spent 20 years living on the Common in Petersham, Massachusetts, where he continued to correspond with colleagues, debating and questioning matters in the fields of biology, forestry, and ecology in lengthy letters. Near the end of his life, Raup and his wife moved to Wisconsin to be closer to their younger son. Raup died on August 10, 1995 at 94 years of age.

One of Professor Raup’s most famous papers is John Sanderson’s Farm: A Perspective for the Use of the Land, first published in Forest History, April 1966. A reprint from Forest History Today, 1997, is available on the Internet [here] (2.1 MB).

John Sanderson’s Farm has been required reading in many a forestry class. Correspondent Dr. Al S. of UC Berkeley reminded me of that recently when he remarked that the late John Zivnuska [here], said that he re-read the article every few years to put natural resource management in perspective. I recall Professor Zivnuska (another giant of American forestry) as a forbidding bear of a man with an intellect to match.

Hugh Rapp’s essay was required reading because it cut through a lot of dreaminess about forestry and ecology by explaining that human culture and human enterprise was and is a key element in forests. I don’t mean just by cutting trees down; humanity has had significant and multifarious impact on the ecological development of forests and other vegetation types since time immemorial.

The opening paragraph of John Sanderson’s Farm: A Perspective for the Use of the Land:

John Sanderson was a prosperous farmer in Petersham in the second quarter of the 19th century. He lived on land now part of the Harvard Forest, and his house was one we are still using as living quarters for staff and students. In the 1830’s and 1840’s when the Sandersons lived there, all but about 100 of the 850 acres that make up the Prospect Hill Tract of the Harvard Forest, of which their farm was a part, were entirely clear of woodlands. They were in pasture or under some sort of cultivation. Most of the tilled land was in tiny fields immediately back of the house. The stone walls separating the fields are still there, hidden by the trees.

The first colonists in New England cleared the “primordial” forest. That forest was not actually primordial, but had grown up after elimination of the anthropogenic burning of the agricultural Haudenosaunee. John Sanderson’s stony farm was a going concern until the Erie Canal opened up the New England market to Ohio Valley farm produce.

As Raup explains, by 1870 Sanderson’s fields had been abandoned and native white pine had seeded in. Then, between 1900 and 1920 the “pure or nearly pure stands of white pine” had reached harvestable size and were cut to make “boxes, barrels, and pails.”

White pine containers were subsequently replaced by cardboard and plastic, and the early 20th Century pine industry in New England also went by the wayside, much as subsistence farming had 70 years before. Sanderson’s farm was taken over by mixed hardwood stands (oak and maple, mostly).

Professor Raup’s point is this: natural ecological succession had little or nothing to do with the changes wrought on the Harvard Forest. Instead, people, human industry, and social change and innovation were the driving forces of ecological progression.

It is true that the germules of certain species were present in the vicinity, and those species became dominant at one time or another. But it was humanity that forced the changes, and indeed humanity has been the keystone of ecological influence on the Harvard Forest lands for millennia.

There are some lessons in that, and Professor Raup was not shy about teaching them:

[T]he conservation movement as we know it did not take form until the early 1900’s. From the start it has been plagued by stresses originating from deep cleavages between theory and reality, the former often clouded by emotions.

In one of these cleavages we put moral issues, whether they belong there or not. Merely by being himself and exercising his ordinary intellectual and manual skills, man has learned to produce what he needs for food, clothing, shelter, and amenities. Further, he has shown amazing capacity for innovation and bids fair to take care of future wants. …

Man has accomplished all this against odds. Throughout most of the long period of his early experiments he was dealing with things and processes in wild nature that were entirely mysterious and potentially evil. Only in the last century or so, with the rise of conservation thought in all its manifestations, has he confronted himself repeatedly with the accusation of sin against the same “nature” and “use” that were for so long his arch enemies. This sin has had to be defended by whatever means came to hand-scientific research, favorable cost-benefit ratios, or simple economic necessity. Fortunately for John Sanderson, he lived before his sense of sin against his land became popular, so it probably never occurred to him to defend it.

Another deep cleavage is caused by sharp differences in the time spans of management. When the conservationists began talking and writing about “the future” and providing resources for it. their “future” was not on any time horizon visible to a farmer, or manufacturer, or businessman. It was far over the horizon and out of sight. It had to be imagined, and realists found they couldn’t do this because they knew that change and innovation were going to fast for their systems of calculation. The conservationists still cling to their distant horizons, causing some of the most difficult problems in modern resource planing. I suspect that the root of their idea is the old one that the land is all-important in determining the destiny of the people, that the stage is more important than the players. Foresters have always had trouble with time because the human mind produces changes in the uses of wood several times faster than trees can grow.

Food for thought. When idealism is based on a-historical and a-scientific propositions, that idealism causes more harm than good. When an undefined and misunderstood “naturalism” is the target, the arrow is bound to miss.

The latest “conservation” craze is to “reintroduce fire.” It makes no difference that the catastrophic fires of today are unlike anything visited upon our forests and prairies of the past. It makes no difference that the severe burns degrade forests, soil, wildlife habitat, hydrology, safety, and economies. It makes no difference that the fires of today so thoroughly incinerate forests that forest ecosystems are wiped of the face of the planet altogether.

The mantra “reintroduce fire” is mindless, empty of discernment or rational analysis, a political slogan based on a profound ignorance of history and biology. The mantra is the drumbeat of bible-thumping proselytizers, their bible being blanket condemnation of the human race, which they justify with semi-religious notions of Original Sin but are blind to the scorched earth wastelands that result.

Hugh Miller Raup was not ahead of his time; he was of his time with piercing clarity of observation. His words are still instructive, perhaps now more than ever.

22 Mar 2009, 5:33pm
by Bob Z.


Thanks much for publishing this. It has always amazed me that most foresters — and forest scientists — working in the Pacific Northwest have never even heard of Hugh Raup.

Raup’s work demonstrated that most of the concepts of the Spotted Owl Recovery Plan and the Clinton Plan for Northwest Forests were unworkable from the moment they were conceived. The fact that they were seriously considered and then written into law must have him spinning like a top in his grave.

By listening to modern government “historians” and “scientists” instead of Raup, we have cost the American taxpayers billions of dollars, wasted millions of acres of formerly-beautiful forestlands, killed tens of millions of wildlife, and unnecessarily sacrificed dozens of human lives and thousands of homes in the process.

Raup needs to be brought into our schools, and not just into the forestry classes of a few enlightened professors. Our government foresters and “wildlife biologists” should be embarrassed by their actions and pronouncements of the past 20-30 years, and Raup says why.



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