Old hands contribute to timber industry’s future


Jerry Franklin, a retired professor of ecosystem science at University of Washington, and Norm Johnson, a retired professor of forestry resources at Oregon State University, are veterans of the timber wars of the last few decades. They even helped write the Northwest Forest Plan, which is still in effect today.

And now, in Roseburg and Medford, Ore., Franklin and Johnson are helping lead pilot projects on federal land that might be a significant step toward timber solutions that address the needs of not just timber companies but rural communities and environmental groups.

It’s a tricky proposition, but if anyone has the know-how, it’s Franklin and Johnson.

(The professors) have proposed two strategies based on the type of forest being managed.

Moist forests — flush with Douglas fir and western cedar that experience fewer but more catastrophic fires — would be treated differently than dry forests dominated by pine and which experience more frequent but lower-intensity fires.

Managing dry forests would mean leaving the oldest trees, thinning to reduce the fuels that can drive intense wildfire and increasing the diversity of age classes among the trees.

Management on moist forests would put an end to regeneration harvests, a technique also known as clear-cutting, in favor of “variable retention harvesting,” a strategy that leaves 20 or 30 percent of the trees.

Tom Partin, the president of the American Forest Resource Council, told the Eugene Register-Guard that his group supports the dry forest strategy but not the project for wet forests.

Francis Eatherington with the environmental group Cascadia Wildlands said she’s not so sure about the projects and that there is no gridlock to solve in how forests are managed.

But the pilot projects are a start. And we’re glad to see two veterans of the timber wars out there trying to come up with new solutions.

Another compelling project, at Evergreen State College in Olympia, is studying the feasability of growing moss commercially. There is a high demand for moss from the floral industry, which consumes 37 million dry kilograms of moss each year. Because of the high demand, many people harvest moss illegally from private and public forestland, which can hurt the health of forests.

The commercial viability of moss is another example of the richness of our working forests. Our forestland is about much more than just trees.