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Chapter 7.4

All-Age Multiple-Species Forest Management

By Bill Oberteuffer

I get excited when I get a tree paint can in my hands! I know that I am determining what that piece of forest will be like long after I am gone. Perhaps the experience has some of the same qualities as does the composing of music or painting in oils. It is a giving as much as a taking.

All-age multiple-species management (from here on to be referred to as AAMS management) is used exclusively on the 240-acre tree farm in northeastern Oregon that my wife Margaret and I own. We use AAMS management because it allows us to use our creativity. It makes sense (and cents, too). It is really the only system of management that is kind to the forest.

AAMS management of a forest is a system in which all species of plants that naturally occur in an area are allowed to continue growing in some number, and all age classes of these plants are encouraged. A continuous crop of trees is available from the forest yearly and management which encourages maximum production is continuous.

In presenting the 1986 Tree Farmer of the Year award to us, Paul Oester, Oregon State University Extension Forester, said, "He could have taken all the big trees and left a lot of junk -- a lot of what I call coniferous junk. Then you'd not be able to come back into the area to log for another 50 or 60 years." What we are doing is a far cry from the clear-cutting that took place on our property about 1895.

We think that AAMS management takes the best care of our soil. Without good soil we aren't going to grow good trees. Our soils are good and we will do the best we can to keep them that way or even to improve them. We use light-weight, rubber-tired machinery to cut down on compaction and leave the soil relatively undisturbed.

Do we slash burn? No, not any more. Slash is too valuable to waste into the air. Ours is all put to use.

Heavy slash is left in place to rot for future homes and food for many forest organisms. Some slash is piled, either by hand or tractor, for hiding cover for small mammals and birds. We chip slash that can be approached with a tractor-operated chipper capable of handling 7-inch diameter material. Some slash is simply chopped enough with a chainsaw so that the next snow will put it close to the ground. Surface soil temperatures are much lower and soil moisture retention is much better where a mulch of organic material remains on the surface of the soil. Nutrients from the fine twigs, where most of the important nutrients are, will get back into the soil soon where they will be used by the largest and the smallest inhabitants of the forest community.

You can see here that we are building an ideal nursery for new plants by using the AAMS approach. Tree seeds, which are not produced every year, usually find a suitable place to germinate. Surface moisture, shade, enough warmth and protection are available in many places because of our trashy, natural-like surfaces. Reforestation, one of the most expensive operations in modern forestry, is not needed with AAMS management. We find that natural reproduction is more than adequate for replacement purposes. So much so that we still must thin our young stock.

The market system penalizes us for doing a good job of forest management. The market system says to sell now and don't worry about tomorrow. The tax system is also stacked against the non-industrial forest owner, who is penalized in many cases for keeping trees on the stump until maturity. Education (the purpose of this article) will be too slow to save our producing forests from ourselves. Only federal and state laws which prohibit clearcutting and all variations of the same will force conditions which not only lead to better forest health but to an even flow of forest products which in turn will produce a stable forest economy.

Our forest property had been clear-cut in 1895 and mostly cut a second time in 1957. It was a mess. We have a great variety of plant species including trees (pine, tamarack, true fir, Douglas fir, spruce, etc.). Ages of trees, mixes of species, slopes, soils, and aspects are quite variable. This all makes management more interesting. We now have a few good examples of AAMS stands. Most of our woodland is in some stage of becoming an AAMS stand. We believe that any forest land can be managed with an end product of an AAMS stand in mind. If you want to change your management, you can literally start tomorrow.

We have a forest landscape that contains: some stands of 100-year-old trees, some pure stands of one species, some very mixed species stands, some thickets both large and small used by game animals as both hiding and thermal cover, open forest stands used for supplemental grazing, an area left untouched in its "natural" state, and some fast growing 20 to 30 year-old stands. They all fit well into an AAMS management plan.

The landscape must be a principal focus. We know that the landscape is continually changing and that our management plan must change with it. This keeps us thinking and alive. We can't know enough. We never will. But as one member of an ecosystem who has the power to effect all the other members of that ecosystem, we feel a tremendous responsibility to make the best decisions we can under the circumstances. It's fun! It's satisfying.

No, we are not making a natural area out of our whole place. Last year we produced 45 thousand board feet of sawlogs, 2500 fence posts, 50 cords of firewood, and some peeled poles. We produced jobs and taxes for the local economy and we kept ourselves a young 72 and 73 years old. We often tell people that sawlogs, fence posts, and firewood are by-products from our forest. We go on to tell them that our principle product is "a healthy, well balanced, producing forest." And we mean it.

We are harvesting (and spending) the interest from our forest while at the same time more than protecting the principal. Someone told us long ago that this is good economics. We wish our federal government felt the same way. If each forest that we can see from our place were being managed as an AAMS forest the next generation would have lots of options. Many of their options are presently closed out. This doesn't seem morally right.

AAMS management will produce just a much economic benefit over the long haul as clear-cutting, perhaps more now with all the multiple products that we are now realizing from the forests. AAMS management demands more thought (hence better trained foresters) than any form of clear-cutting. AAMS management demands more skilled loggers and more careful woods operations. AAMS management will employ more people. Loss of logging jobs seems to be a current problem that is not going away. AAMS management will benefit the fish and all other stream dwellers. It will produce more forage for wild and domestic animals. It will produce more reliable and cleaner water supplies for people and our fellow organisms.

Let's take a look at just the all-age part of AAMS management. Having a stand of all ages means that a continuous flow of trees will be reaching maturity. Mature trees may be harvested every year, as some do, or every two to 10 years depending on the size of the operation and the needs of the owner. This method would provide a much more even flow of raw material into our mills than the present happenstance system which has so many variables. Not only sawmills but the entire community affected by those mills would experience better stability.

Another benefit of AAMS management is that many insects and diseases tend to attack only trees of certain ages. If one age bracket within an all-age forest does get wiped out the effect in a few years to the forest as a whole will be negligible. We should hasten to add here that one advantage of multiple species is essentially the same. Diseases and insects tend to be species specific; they prefer only one species for a host. Monoculture of trees has all the same hazards as monocultures of other crops.

We are very careful of our leave trees (trees not harvested when logging). They, of course, are a future crop. It takes some skill and some caring to leave them unscarred and in good condition. Everyone on the logging team has to understand that. Payment for labor must be related to getting out a good product and leaving behind a good future product. Payment for work must not be geared to speed.

We must be very careful to differentiate between the selective harvesting done over much of the last 75 years in northwest forests and the selective harvesting practiced in our AAMS system and the others practicing AAMS management. The kind of selective harvest done for so long and still being practiced is generally known as "highgrading". All trees that will sell are cut and the remainder, including all the junk, is left behind to propagate the next crop. This is distinctly not AAMS management.

In the AAMS management system we select individual trees to be harvested based upon such things as maturity, species, health, spacing, form, etc. Once a selected tree is removed the surrounding forest remains relatively unchanged except for the entrance of more light.

Our good neighbors in Wallowa County, Leo Goebel and Bob Jackson, have harvested sawlogs from 160 acres every year for 22 years for an average yearly production of 63,149 board feet for an average yearly harvest per acre of 412 board feet. Are you doing that well over the long haul? Their stand volume has been maintained and it is difficult to find scars on their land. Of course, they are using AAMS management. They have been an inspiration to us.

Neil Sampson, Executive Vice President of the American Forestry Association, in June 1992 testimony before a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, relating to returning our western forests to a state of health, suggested that "The forestry to be done will be aimed at maximizing the quality of the forest left behind, not maximizing the quantity of the product removed...this demands professionals on the land, making decisions on a tree-by-tree basis in many cases." This sounds to us exactly like what we do on our place with AAMS management. Sampson further states that, "Public involvement needs to be intense, and early." That is part of why we're writing this. You can express an opinion to your representatives in government.

Perry Brown, Assistant Dean of the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, has said that the science of forestry is in its infancy. He has stated that our forests are ripe for scientific discovery. We think of this as we practice AAMS management. Our forests are largely there. There to teach us. There for adaptive management. There for continuing observation by the next manager, and the next -- all the while producing crops. If we had clear-cut, what would we have learned from our destroyed forest? AAMS management counts on feedback for its functioning.

Born in Spokane, Washington in 1919, Bill Oberteuffer is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Ecoforestry Institute. Bill has twice won Union County Tree Farmer of the Year award. Bill also received an Outstanding Woodland Management Award in 1993 and was originator and coordinator of the Rebarrow Community Reforestation Project.

Table of Contents
Chapter 9 Intro/Chapter 7.1/Chapter 7.2/Chapter 7.3/Chapter 7.4

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