It's encouraging to see Northwest voices come out in support of active forest management. As we wrote last month, forest management is sometimes pushed aside in the discussion over forest health and climate change, and that's unfortunate.
Steve Mealey, a vice president of the hunter and conservation group Boone and Crockett Club, wrote in the Eugene Register-Guard recently about how forest management can make forests healthier. Meanwhile, Julia Altemus of the Montana Wood Products Association wrote in the Missoulian this week about how forest management can slow the impact of climate change.
Mealey, writing in response to authors who argued that climate change is a reason to stop managing forests, said our nation's poor forest conditions "reflect the long-term policy of fire exclusion and the dramatic reduction of timber management since 1990. Cycles of natural disturbance have been altered, and have not been replaced by managed systems."
Mealey cites the U.S. government's national wildfire prevention plans whose primary goal is to use active forest management to make the forests "more resilient to disturbance and to protect human communities."
Proposals currently in Congress to increase the federal timber harvest should be lauded, Mealey writes, because "active management is imperative, ecologically and economically."
Proposed timber harvests not only benefit local communities economically but can, if well distributed, create habitat beneficial to a wide array of wildlife species — including elk and deer, which are in steep decline.
Altemus, in her column in the Missoulian, writes that well managed forests are good for the environment.
Harvested areas regenerate. In any year, there is substantial new carbon sequestration occurring on the areas previously harvested. The idea behind using forests to help mitigate climate change involves managing to reduce their potential to be a net carbon emitter (as in the case of wildfire) and increase their potential to sequester or store carbon. The amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from harvesting is small compared to the amount released due to forest fires and other disturbances such insects and disease.
It's time for the benefits of forest management to get more attention, she says.
While experts engage in the climate change debate, one thing is certain; forests and the products they produce will continue to remove and store carbon, as they have for centuries. Recognizing the importance of sustainable forest management is up to our state and national leaders.