The western United States is a vast area representing thousands of square miles of rugged terrain. People like Michael Taylor, Zane Moore,and Mario Vaden are doing wonderful things in California with tree measurements. Western tree hunters like Chris Morris and many others have posted on the region. Don himself is coordinator of the Alaska Big Tree Program http://www.akbigtreelist.org. Others have visited the area and made their contributions. We have a growing membership in the region and are collecting data that includes measurements of the tallest trees in the world and the oldest trees in the world.
The membership is growing – but growing slowly. I wonder if we would be better off as an organization to try to create another chapter of the Native Tree Society centered on the locus of interest in the Rocky Mountains. We could capitalize on the interest created by Bob Leverett’s western trips and the WNTS rendezvous held in Colorado over the past few years. We have a beginning with contacts within the US Forest Service, retired forest service members, and groups such as the Great Old Broads for Wilderness.
I propose we create a third chapter of the Native Tree Society under the previously suggested name Rocky Mountain Native Tree Society. This is not meant as a reflection on the excellent work being done by the members and officers of the current WNTS, but just an attempt to take advantage of the opportunity we have in the Rocky Mountain region.
From an ecological standpoint the two areas are distinct. Many of the giant trees on the west coast – from giant redwoods, sugar pines, to western red cedars are found only in the western-most states along the coast. The temperate rainforests are restricted to the coasts of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.
Another listing http://www.encyclopediaofforestry.org/index.php?title=BioEco12 shows the forest types of the North America:
Young, R.A., and R.L. Giese (eds.). 2003. Introduction to Forest Ecosystem Science and Management. 3rd edition. John Wiley and Sons. 560 p.
We could nitpick about the classification schemes and boundaries, but the diagram makes it clear there is a distinction that can be made between the two regions. The article breaks the two regions under discussion into the Rocky Mountain Forest Complex and the Pacific Coast Forest Complex.
Rocky Mountain Complex
Rising to over 14000 feet above the Great Plains and Great Basin Desert is the continental divide of the Rocky Mountains. These mountains stretch from northern New Mexico into Alberta and British Columbia and into Alaska to Mt. McKinley, the highest point in North America at 20320 feet. The distribution of forests in the Rocky Mountains is controlled mainly by two factors: elevation and latitude. As elevation increases, there is a decrease in average annual temperature and generally an increase in annual precipitation. Increasing latitude has a similar effect on temperature and also causes the elevation range of forest types to decrease. For example, the southern Rockies have a timberline around 11500 feet whereas in the northern Rockies near the Canadian border, timberline is above 6000 feet and only 2000 feet in Alaska. The majority of the Rocky Mountain forests have not experienced heavy logging due to their rugged geology and inaccessibility. The major disturbance agents in these forests are fire, avalanches, windthrow and insect and disease outbreaks such as those currently occurring with bark beetles and western spruce budworm. There are generally six major forest types in the Rocky Mountains that change as elevation increases, as well as riparian forests that form along rivers and streams:
• Pinyon-Juniper Woodland
• Ponderosa Pine Forest
• Aspen Grove
• Lodgepole Pine Forest
• Spruce-Fir Forest
• Subalpine Forest
• Riparian Forest
Pacific Coastal Complex
The Pacific Coast of North America is very young and active in geological terms. As part of the “Ring of Fire,” earthquake and volcanic activity is common, and glaciers dramatically shaped the landscape in recent history. Despite the upheaval, the largest conifers on the planet reside in this region supported by the ample winter rainfall of a maritime climate, young volcanic soils, and a low frequency disturbance regime. Mountains like the Coast Range and Cascades, with peaks reaching 14000 feet, also have a profound impact upon the distribution of forests in the region. Not only do forest types change as elevation increases, but due to the rainshadow effect, annual precipitation is often less than 10 inches east of the mountains. Compared to annual precipitation totals often exceeding 100 inches along the coast, this creates a dramatic divergence of species and life history strategies within relatively close proximity. Land use history has also had a significant impact upon much of this region. The timber industry was extremely active from the late 1800s to the early 1980s, often clearcutting forests to allow young, vigorous trees to reestablish the sites. In recent decades, harvesting has slowed and there has been a political push to preserve the remaining areas of uncut forest. There are four general forest types common to the mountains of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, and three forest types that dominate the coastal fogbelt from southern Alaska south to central California:
• Northwest Oak-Pine Forest
• Northwest Riparian Forest
• Douglas-fir Forest
• Subalpine Forest
• Spruce-Hemlock Forest
• Redwood Forest
• Closed-Cone Pine Forest
For or purposes we could fudge the boundary of the chapters. There is overlap of the ranges of some species, but that doesn't really create any problems.
The RMNTS would include - the Rocky Mountains and eastward to the eastern edge of the Great Plains. The WNTS would include the Pacific Coast Forest Complex, the Great Basin and areas eastward to the base of the Rocky Mountains. It would also include the boreal forests of western Canada and Alaska.
This is my suggestion. I am trying to work on the organizational structure of the organization so that it both promotes our own goals, and presents a professional appearance to people outside of the organization. I think this idea would help on both of those fronts. So what does everyone else think? Let the hate mail begin.