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Chapter 7.1

Ecoforestry & Special Forest Products

Oregon's forest products industry is evolving from one which was historically dominated by the extraction of "virgin" or uncut forests -- for use in a relatively unprocessed products (lumber and plywood) -- to diverse second growth industries with products from a wide range of plant species.

TJ International, a Boise-based company focuses on production of "engineered" products -- laminated veneer lumber and other products used in home building. These products require only a third to a half of the wood volume of traditional solid-wood lumber. TJ International's 1992 annual report states, "This technology makes it feasible to set aside old growth forests to enjoy and for wildlife to use -- without shutting down the construction industry."1

As Oregon's ecosystems become more and more strained from decades of unsustainable forestry, pressure is being put on the forest products industry to move to ecologically sustainable practices. Demands come from several quarters: grassroots conservation organizations, commercial and recreational fishing groups concerned about dwindling fisheries, and government agencies overseeing environmental laws.

In addition, ecologically-minded foresters are networking, sharing information and skills they've learned practicing ecological forest management and tree cutting. And new alternatives to clearcut logging are creating a win-win solution for businesses and the environment. While OLIFE and other conservation groups are coming up with proposals for implementing stricter standards for forestry in Oregon, some organizations, like the Ecoforestry Institute, the Rogue Institute for Ecology and Economy and the Institute for Sustainable Forestry, and the Silva Forest Foundation are working with forward-thinking professionals in the forest products industry throughout the Pacific Northwest to understand and implement ecological forest practices on the ground.

The Ecoforestry Institute (EI), is based in Glendale, Oregon, a tiny community about an hour south of Roseburg, in the heart of Douglas County, where forest product industries continue to play a major economic role. The mission of the EI is "to foster ecologically responsible forest use, through education and related programs and services; to perform and integrate research" concerning ecological forestry. The EI brings together ecoforesters from throughout the Northwest.

The EI's mission is "reflected in leading edge work in conservation biology, landscape ecology, forestry, and related disciplines."2 They communicate to a wide audience the deepening knowledge of the multitudes of values and function of natural forest ecosystems. The EI publishes a quarterly magazine called International Journal of Ecoforestry. It covers current projects involving both the theory and principles of ecology and describes a variety of examples of hands on work in the forest.

Rogue Institute for Ecology and Economy

The Rogue Institute for Ecology and Economy (RIEE) is based in Ashland, Oregon. RIEE's mission is to develop, advocate, and support forest resource management which restores and sustains forest-based communities, jobs, and ecosystems primarily in southern Oregon. RIEE publishes a quarterly newsletter called Community Ecology.

RIEE also sponsors educational projects like the workshop they coordinated at the Mountain Grove Center (home of the Ecoforestry Institute) in Glendale, Oregon in October 1997. The workshop included a demonstration of the state-of-the-art portable small log processor called the "Economizer." According to Community Ecology the "Economizer" mills three- to ten-inch diameter poles of all species into high value timber products. It fills an important niche in log processing, milling small diameter logs in efficient amounts (6,000 to 14,000 board feet per day).

Requiring three people to run, the mill creates jobs and requires a relatively small investment -- $141,000." Over a five day period, they were able to mill 20,300 board feet of lumber in dimensions from 2x2 up to 6x6, ranging from 8 to 12 feet long.3

Other ecological forestry organizations

Silva Forest Foundation is located on a 1,600 acre forest reserve near Salmo, in Southeastern British Columbia. Silva's workshops provide practical training in ecosystem-based forest management. Ideas and methods presented in all workshops are based on ecosystem integrity -- focusing on what to leave in the forest during management, rather than what to take from the forest. Workshops are designed for the general public and for professionals in forest management.4

The Institute for Sustainable Forestry working out of Redway, California promotes rural sustainability in the Redwood Region with the following proactive programs: 1) Pacific Certified Ecological Forest Products -- a certification and labeling program for ecologically harvested forest products, 2) economic development strategies for watershed-based forest-products enterprises, (3) public education and professional training in all facets of the ecological forest products industry, and 4) research and development on all of the above.5

One of the issues being faced by activists in the ecoforestry movement is the issue of forest ownership. By and large, corporate owners of forestland have focused on clearcutting as the rule in forest management. State forest practice laws have placed few restraints on this policy. Many conservationists feel that only by amending these regulations will we see the kinds of changes necessary to protect native forest ecosystems. For this reason, OLIFE is promoting the Oregon Forest Conservation Initiative, a statewide ballot initiative to prohibit clearcut logging and require new rules for ecological forestry.

Networking in rural communities

Almost all of the old growth forests on private lands in Oregon have been clearcut at least once. Since regulations requiring replanting have been instituted in the last couple of decades, most of these lands have been replanted, primarily as single species monoculture tree plantations. Few inroads have been made in developing meaningful dialogue with industrial forest product companies about forestry practices.

Ecoforesters are beginning to make efforts to build the level of trust necessary to get corporate foresters and public agency foresters on the state and federal levels to cooperate in efforts to initiate watershed-wide plans for forest management planning. One such project, the Woolford Creek Watershed Partnership, is an effort to work with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to cooperate on management of lands surrounding the forest of the Mountain Grove Center, home of the Ecoforestry Institute.

The Woolford Creek Watershed Partnership decided to begin their cooperative effort by contracting with Dean Apostol, a Landscape Architect who was hired to conduct a three-day Landscape Analysis and Design workshop. By coloring maps representing watershed flows and ecosystem types, the Partnership put together maps detailing the current condition of the watershed and then following a Forest Assessment, developing a detailed map of a "Desired Condition" to use for management decisions. The work on BLM land was done through a contract with the Rogue Institute's "Jobs in the Woods" program.6

Creating an ecological connection to the forest

A major element of ecoforestry relates to understanding and respecting forest ecology. Great care is taken in ecoforestry to minimize the impacts of roads in management and taking care of the soil, a most important component of the healthy forest. In her article, "The Ecological Role of Coarse Woody Debris," Victoria Stevens describes the importance of healthy soils in the forest ecosystem: "Forests grow in soil. The health of the soil is reflected in the health of the forest. Soil health is a result of the myriad biological interactions that are a part of the forest ecosystem we call soil. Healthy soil includes soil anthropods, fungi, bacteria, animal waste and among other things decaying wood... Downwood provides 1) sites for nests, dens, and burrows, 2) primary energy source for a complex food web, 3) hiding cover for predators and protective cover for prey, 4) moist microsites for amphibians, insects, plants and the ectomycorrhizal fungi, 5) travel ways across streams, across the forest floor and beneath the snow, 6) structure to slow stream flow and create pools, 7) places for food to accumulate and 8) cover from temperature extremes and predators."7

When the forest is compacted by heavy machinery, clearcut and slashburned; a crucial element of the forest is removed -- the woody debris that feeds and protects the multitude of organisms the rely on the native forest. Soil erosion further decimates the forest floor washing away both soil and woody debris and creating an ecological wasteland.

According to Stevens, "Natural levels [of downed wood] are not possible if material is removed from the forest for human use; however, the more that managed forests resemble the forests that were established from natural disturbances, the greater the probability that all native species and ecological processes will be maintained." The role of the ecoforester is to maintain and restore this balance.

However, following clearcutting, it takes many decades for the forest ecology to return to anything resembling the diversity of the native forest. Some forests may never be allowed to fully recover.

Clearcutting harms non-timber forest products

Fertile, healthy soil is also an important source for special forest products called "non-timber forest products." In addition to trees, forests contain a huge variety of useful products for food, medicine, farm and garden, and ornamentals. Non-timber forest products are a largely under-appreciated forest products sector which is strengthening Oregon's economic health and stability, while enhancing Oregonians' unique quality of life.

Unwise management of forest resources negatively impacts special forest product businesses. If care is not taken by public officials and resource gatherers to minimize environmental impacts, further resource losses will occur. Already, decades of careless timber harvesting have contributed to immense destruction of forest soils that took millennia to develop. Tons of these soil resources have been washed away.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, clearcutting in the Pacific Northwest can generate an additional one ton of sediment runoff into streams and waterways per acre logged! Clearcutting plus roadbuilding can generate 3.5 tons of sediment per acre for about 25 years. These numbers indicate that offsite environmental externalities that logging imposes on others forest users because of sediment-related damage, alone, can be worth more than $250 per acre.8 In addition to harming forest wildlife and the natural production of non-timber forest products, clearcutting ruins soil conditions necessary for regeneration of trees.

We can learn economy from Native Americans

Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest found a multitude of uses of plants and other forest organisms. Several studies have documented these uses in detail.9 One important study by Erna Gunther called "Ethnobotany of Western Washington -- The Knowledge and Use of Indigenous Plants by Native Americans" was published in 1945. Gunther's study was drawn from dozens of interviews with traditional people who still spoke the indigenous languages. In addition to documenting the uses of the plants for foods, medicines, materials, implements and other purposes, Gunther recorded a list of the traditional names for the plants used by each tribe.10

A more recent study, done by Dennis Martinez and the Ecoforestry Institute and presented to the World Wildlife Find as an ethnobotanical report, raises some current concerns about protecting rare and endangered plants. Martinez describes one of their concerns: "Native Americans are increasingly experiencing difficulties in locating cultural plants and animals -- for utilitarian, cultural and spiritual uses. Without healthy land with healthy plants and animals, traditional culture cannot long survive. For example, it takes a basketweaver from 3-8 hours (and a lot of gasoline on a typical weekend collecting trip) to find a suitable patch of basket plants. There is little time left over for making baskets, let alone teaching children these traditional crafts."11

Martinez is working with the Ecoforestry Institute to restore, enhance and conserve cultural plants and their communities and ecosystems for Native American tribes and tribal people in southwestern Oregon. They are also establishing a seedbank through the growing of rare or threatened cultural plants in fields plots and sharing the seeds and knowledge with tribes and tribal people.12

Economic studies in the tropical rainforests, in the Amazon and elsewhere, have shown that indigenous peoples' uses of "agroforestry" (propagating useful species within forests, which are appropriate to a forest's successional stage) actually generates greater income than harvesting the overstory timber.13 In the Pacific Northwest, non-timber forest products can be derived from every successional stage. Even our overabundance of cutover lands and monocropped tree farms can provide a supply of products if they're carefully managed and restored to their native diversity.

Public agencies promoting special forest products

Public pressure on the US Forest Service (USFS) to manage federal timber lands more ecologically has helped save some lands from being clearcut. It has also given the USFS encouragement to focus more energy on non-timber forest products. The USFS has produced several publications on uses of non-timber forest products.

One publication, "Conservation and Development of Nontimber Forest Products in the Pacific Northwest: An Annotated Bibliography," provides an extensive list of publications researching non-timber forest products. The editors state, "The precise economic value of non-timber forest products has been difficult to assess, primarily because much of their value is not market-based. In many cases, the primary value of non-timber forest products lies in their personal consumption value as food, medicine, building materials, or other uses... Recreational collection of non-timber forest products may be valued in some cases as much for their cultural and recreational experience of collecting as for the product [value] collected."14

Another excellent publication about non-timber forest products published by the USFS is entitled "Income Opportunities in Special Forest Products -- Self-Help Suggestions for Rural Entrepreneurs." This booklet was produced by the Midwest Research Institute, an independent not-for-profit organization. The booklet provides much detailed information about the harvesting and marketing of a broad variety of non-timber forest products. These include: aromatics, berries and wild fruits, charcoal, chips, bark, pine straw, cones, seeds, cooking wood, smoke wood, flavorwood, decorative wood, botanicals, flavoring, medicinals, greenery, transplants, floral products, honey, mushrooms, nuts, syrup, weaving and dyeing materials and specialty wood products.15

Non-timber forest products play an important role in helping us understand how to live and prosper within our unique forest environment. Yet, by not understanding or respecting environmental parameters for using these resources wisely, we risk killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Oregonians must enact conservation strategies quickly if we are to protect these precious environmental resources. Legislation like OLIFE's 1998 Oregon Forest Conservation Initiative is gaining strong support as a proactive approach to ecological forest management in Oregon.

References and notes

1 Lance Roberstson, "Earth-friendly approach," The Register-Guard, May 20, 1993, p. B1. back

2 Alan Wittbecker, "An Ecoforestry Research Program," International Journal of Ecoforestry, Summer/Fall 1997, p. 41. back

3 Glen Brady, "The Economizer visits Southern Oregon," from Community Ecology, Winter 1997-98, p, 1. back

4 Native Forest Council, "Silva Forest Foundation offers Unique Workshops," Forest Voice, Winter 1997, p. 14. back

5 Mission statement of the Institute for Sustainable Forestry from Forestree News, Summer 1993, p. 2. back

6 Mike Barnes and Twila Jacobsen, "Working Models for Ecoforestry: From Theory to Practice," from the book Ecoforestry, New Society Publishers, 1997, pp. 143-144. back

7 Victoria Stevens, "The Ecological Role of Coarse Woody Debris," from the book Ecoforestry, New Society Publishers, 1997, p. 93. back

8 Ibid. p.101. back

9 G. E. Grant and A. L. Wolff, "Long-term pattern of sediment transport after timber harvest, western Cascade mountains, Oregon, USA," in Sediment and stream water quality in a changing environment: Trends and explanation; General Assembly, 1991; Vienna, Austria; Wollingford, United Kingdom: International Association Hydrological Sciences: 31-40. back

10 Erna Gunther, Ethnobotany of Western Washington -- The Knowledge and Use of Indigenous Plants of Native Americans, University of Washington Press, 1945, pp. 7-12. back

11 Excerpted from a paper presented by Dennis Martinez to the World Wildlife Fund on November 27, 1996. back

12 Ibid. back

13 For an excellent account of the history of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, see the book The Fate of the Forest, by Susanna Hecht and Alexander Cockburn, Harper Perennial, 1990. The political struggle to save the Amazon and other tropical rainforests continues today. back

14 Conservation and Development of Nontimber Forest Products in the Pacific Northwest: An Annotated Bibliography, compiled by Bettina von Hagen, James F. Wiegand, Rebecca McLain, Roger Fight, and Harriet H. Christensen, US Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, OR, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-375, November 1996. back

15 Income Opportunities in Special Forest Products -- Self-Help Suggestions for Rural Entrepeneurs, United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Agricultural Information Bulletin 666, Washington, D.C., 1993. back

Table of Contents
Chapter 7 Intro/Chapter 7.1/Chapter 7.2/Chapter 7.3/Chapter 7.4

Copyright (c) 1997-98 OLIFE -- Oregonians for Labor Intensive Forest Economics. All rights reserved.

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