Forest management is the maintaining and management of not only the
trees in the forest, but the streams, habitat, watersheds, and even the
decaying trees or logs on the forest floor. Managing our forests is not only
important to the wildlife, but to our future economy and way of life. We need
to continue to save the Oregon forests and help the ecosystems within them
because human beings are also part of the ecosystem.
By using forest management, it can help certain species of wildlife.
Some species of birds, such as the pileated woodpecker, which need large
snags to build nest cavities(7). But the worst possible approach to maintaining
a wide diversity of species would be to manage every acre of the forest the
same way. Any change in forest habitat creates ‘winners’; and ‘losers.’; As
forests go through natural cycles of growth, death and regeneration, species
may inhabit or be absent from a given area partly in response to natural
changes in the structure of trees and other forest vegetation(4). The same
occurs when forest stands are managed by humans.
Unless future credible research indicates otherwise, effort should be
made to manage a wide range of forest structures. Maintaining diversity would
be best served by using a broader range of management tools. Those would
include harvesting on federal land – not simply thinning – and increasing the
commitment to old-growth attributes on private forest land through
techniques such as retaining large trees and snags. As long as federal lands
are substantially committed to providing late successional habitat, private
forest land can be substantially committed to younger, intensively managed
stands, provided critical habitat characteristics are available.
The federal lands make up more than 50% to 60% of the forests in
Oregon(3). Because timber harvest in now dramatically reduced on federal
lands, those lands represent a sizable, well distributed pool of both old-growth
forests and forests that could become old-growth, providing habitat to those
species associated with forests with old-growth characteristics. While a large
portion of federal land is committed to sustaining species that need
old-growth, the difficult question remains, how much is enough? Leaving these
forests completely unharvested invites unacceptable, large-scale insect
infestations and catastrophic fires(6).
Because federal lands comprise nearly 50 to 60 percent of Oregon’s
forests, practices on these lands have a major impact on forest-dwelling
vertebrates(2). These lands are well distributed throughout the state.
Private land ownership accounts for approximately 40 percent of the states
forests(5). Of this private ownership, over half is in industrial ownership and
the rest is held mostly by small woodland owners(7).
Since 1992 harvesting on federal lands has dropped sharply. In contrast,
many industrial private lands are intensively managed(6). Oregon law requires
prompt replanting, and stands are often fertilized and thinned. This split
ownership, in addition to diverse management practices on private lands,
results in a wide range of habitat conditions.
No species studied appears immediately threatened by forest practices
in Oregon(3). In fact, many species are abundant. While that finding appears
hopeful, it does not ensure that these will not be future problems. Current
practices may not be adequate to keep the present range of species in the
future. While some species thrive in the habitat provided by younger forest
stands, a considerable number of species either requires, or reproduces
better, where large live trees, large cavities, and large pieces of downed wood
The Oregon Forest Practice Act currently requires that some trees be
retained after harvest. But the question is: how much is enough? Will trees
being retained be sufficiently distributed to meet the future habitat needs of
all vulnerable species? For example more than 60 species are associated with
downed wood such as; fallen decaying trees or logs, 14 of them considered at
risk(8). One species would be the rough skinned newt which live in and around
decaying wood. Few studies to date have focused specifically on intensively
managed stands where old-growth characteristics, such as large snags and
large pieces of decaying wood, are most likely to be in short supply. However,
research is looking toward this need.
Harvest levels in the future will likely be at least 40 percent below what
could be cut on a sustainable level(1). That’s because of reduced exaggeration
on timber production on federal lands. In the past, federal land provided half
the states timber production, but in 1996 provided only 17 percent(2). That is
the lowest level since 1934, in the depths of the Great Depression. An
understanding of Oregon’s timberland and its importance to the state’s
economic and social well being, particularly in rural areas.
In Oregon, reforestation is mandatory and carefully spelled out in the
Oregon Forest Practice Act, which governs all management related activities in
Oregon’s privately owned forests. Private lands must be replanted within two
planting seasons of harvest, and within six years of harvest, the site must be
certified as free to grow, meaning the trees have topped the brush and can
grow successfully. If the replanting job fails, the state can compel compliance
with the act through civil penalties, including civil court action and fines of up
to $5,000(3). More than 90 percent of harvested forested acres are
replanted to stocking levels that meet of exceed what is legally required.
So in order to help our forests, we need to continue with what is being
done today. The hard work that is being put into saving the forests habitat,
the streams, and the trees themselves may not show in the short-run but will
have dramatic effect in the long-run. Wood products remain an important
component of Oregon’s robust economy and contribute to the long-awaited
diversification of the state’s economy.