Why do we need to know maximum tree dimensions?

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#1)  Why do we need to know maximum tree dimensions?

Postby dbhguru » Mon Nov 23, 2015 3:18 pm

Ents,

  For a long time, my friend Joe Zorzin, a private consulting forester for over 40 years, and an active member of NTS, has been asking me to write an essay on why we need and should value big/tall/old trees. He has suggested a related essay on why we need to know the maximum age and dimensions that a species can attain. I have written on these topics in spurts, but struggle to complete the task. Part of the reason is that I’ve been focusing on a particular group that I think has a fair amount to say on whether or not we actually see big trees across the landscape and logically should be interested in the maximums, i.e. people in the timber profession. I regret to report that I have had limited success. As I explained to Joe in a recent communication, those in the timber community who are already interested in big trees probably don’t need me to sharpen their interest, and the others remain unreachable. After I related this belief to Joe, he gave an excellent response. I quote.

Bob, well…. Hmmm…  why do want to know how big/old trees/forests can get? Perhaps…. I dunno, that it’s inspiring to know what nature can do? Not knowing what nature can do- like not knowing about evolution and the age of the Earth- and the scale and contents of the universe and the subatomic world and the existence of whales and past existence of dinosaurs, is to diminish our comprehension of the scope of Creation that we are part of. Not knowing such things makes the human race a lesser race. Knowing what nature at its best can do is uplifting. Seeing nature at its best and appreciating it- is necessary to become something other than groveling apes.

The timber people will never get it- but there are other, thoughtful people out there, who may not yet get it- but who will get it when they see it.

I wish I had said what Joe said, but didn’t.

In thinking of arguments and approaches, I’ve been influenced by the Internet chatter that I’m privy to on topics of interest in the local timber community. Courtesy of Joe, I’m copied on topics often relating to government regulation of timber operations here in Massachusetts. The coverage occasionally extends to nearby Vermont and New Hampshire. Some of what I hear of a critical nature from consulting foresters and other timber community representatives makes sense to me. Others, who should be part of the discussions, are often silent. I’m speaking of government officials and members of environmental groups who are copied on the emails.

All these public and private sector people have a substantial influence on what the forested landscape looks alike. However, I’ve thought that those who actively manage timber, in one way or another, are the single most important group to address. Shouldn’t they want to know about the maximum sizes and ages attained by each species and where that occurs? If nothing else it is a case of them getting to know important timber species better, and actually being the expert sources of information that the public assumes them to be. Well, it’s time for them to get out and examine that 14-foot tall elephant.

I suppose that if the strictly private sector folks don’t immediately take the bait, I can understand – sort of. But in the case of DCR’s Bureau of Forestry, the almost complete absence of interest leaves me continually shaking my head. The lack of raw curiosity has been absolutely puzzling. If you are a zoologist and a credible source reports an African elephant standing fully 14 feet at the shoulder, you’ll immediately want to see it. But the counterpart analogy here in Massachusetts with the big Mohawk, Monroe, Bryant, and Ice Glen pines versus the timber community doesn’t work. And it isn’t a case of them having alternative sources of information and discovery to turn to. They don’t. In Massachusetts, when it comes to the accurate measurement and numeric description of these huge trees, NTS runs the only game in town. So, why aren’t they interested?

I guess Joe is right. We must look to other groups who may not be aware, or if so, haven’t made up their minds. I trust others of you, our NTS companions, have ideas on how to make the pitch, and to whom, for the importance of knowing about tree maximum dimensions and ages. Joe and I are anxious to hear your arguments.

Bob
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#2)  Re: Why do we need to know maximum tree dimensions?

Postby mdvaden » Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:38 pm

Does he really want to know, or does he actually think its unimportant, but offering you the challenge to make a case?

I have a couple of ideas, but will wait for your next reply.
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#3)  Re: Why do we need to know maximum tree dimensions?

Postby dbhguru » Mon Nov 23, 2015 6:24 pm

Mario,

  No, Joe thinks big and old trees are important just as much as any of the rest of us do. He is just looking for help with material coming from those of us who live and breathe the big ones to help him convince others he works with and around. BTW, Joe is very articulate and can come up with reasons on his own, but mainly, he's looking for our help - lots of heads being better than one.

  As a bit of background, Joe was one of those from the forestry side assigned to the reorganization of Mass DCR lands into actively managed forests, parks, and forest reserves. I helped delineate the boundaries of some of the reserves, but for health reasons at the time, couldn't participate on the committee than ran for months. I can't commend Joe highly enough for his staunch defense of the forest reserve concept. Other committee members representing some aspect of timber management were openly hostile to the idea. I think they though Joe was a traitor to their cause, but Joe knows the timber skeletons in their closets, so they mostly just mumbled in their beards. And Joe went for the maximum amount of acreage in reserves.

  Joe is a proud silviculturist who values a balanced approach to taking care of our forests through active management, conservation, and preservation. Any help we can give him will be time well spent. Thanks in advance.

Bob
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#4)  Re: Why do we need to know maximum tree dimensions?

Postby mdvaden » Tue Nov 24, 2015 1:40 am

There are a few economic factors that would provide an edge.

For example, if nobody ever measured a single giant sequoia, but say Africa measured their largest Baobabs, then Africa could, and would advertise having the world's biggest tree trunk. Or whoever ... could be Australia with their Eucalyptus. The point is, if zero was documented for the giant sequoias, then nobody would travel to the USA, or California to see them. All the millions would be lost.

In fact, enough revenue is involved, that if a larger coast redwood is found than General Sherman, the Sierra Nevada area guides, motels and businesses would see a drop in revenue if Humboldt for example started advertising having the largest trees and the tallest trees.

Also ...

I think it builds enthusiasm. For some reason, a lot of people take a keen interest in extremes. What's the biggest, the fastest, the tallest. I think it can help boost education. One aspect that comes to mind are all the pamphlets, junior ranger programs and outdoor schools associated with some of the biggest tree areas.

If the specimens are photogenic, some photographers will capture nice images and provide artwork. Maybe more so than had they not known about how unique the tree was.
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#5)  Re: Why do we need to know maximum tree dimensions?

Postby dbhguru » Wed Nov 25, 2015 4:51 pm

Ents,

  A line of argument that I have used in the past goes something like this. When we lose sight of what a species can achieve in the way of size and age, we become desensitized to what may be happening to it. Each generation may lower the bar and exploit the species until it is a mere shadow of its former self. When this happens to many species, the natural environment that sustains us all suffers.

  In New England, people are accustomed to seeing twisted weeviled white pines growing in abandoned fields and young limby trees growing in cluttered stands. Ugly! These examples give them little hint of the former glory of the species. The result is that collectively we lose perspective on, if not respect for, the species. By contrast, increasing our knowledge of a species usually results in greater respect and advocates for its protection, if it is in danger, at least to some degree.

  Over the past 27 years, I have led walks in the special Massachusetts forests. The majority of attendees develop a greater appreciation for individual trees, particular species, whole stands, and even larger forested areas when they get a lot of input. They leave the walks proud that we have these natural features/resources. I should note that the backgrounds of people who accompany me vary, and I'm careful not to disrespect those who harbor a traditional old yankee perspective. In addition, I explain that I support responsible forest management, and attempt to define it for them. I hammer home the value of preserving our special forests as not only places of inspiration, but to allow us to avoid losing sight of what Nature has engineered  each species to be. I'm, therefore, critical of terms like 'trash species', and point to the niches filled and ecological benefits derived by the species that have been called pejorative names.

  Taking the opposite path, I don't know any good arguments for living in a state of ignorance about a species, ecosystem, etc.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
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#6)  Re: Why do we need to know maximum tree dimensions?

Postby Joe » Thu Nov 26, 2015 8:56 am

dbhguru wrote:
(snipped)
  In New England, people are accustomed to seeing twisted weeviled white pines growing in abandoned fields and young limby trees growing in cluttered stands. Ugly! These examples give them little hint of the former glory of the species.

(snipped)

I explain that I support responsible forest management, and attempt to define it for them.

(snipped)

Bob


Improving these degraded forest stands - ought to be the mission of good forest management. One of the reasons I like biomass as a forest product- despite the good argument that burning wood for energy will contribute to global warming- is that it's the only way to remove very poor quality trees (based on health and/or economics). No logger wants to cut weeviled pines with only a chainsaw- too much trouble.  But a logger with a feller-buncher and a biomass market will be happy to cut such trees. After my first biomass type harvest- I made the following video, showing ugly weeviled pines being cut: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDSSBNyIRbE As for defining good forest management- it certainly isn't about maximizing the short term profit- the usual motive. It's unfortunate that forest owners aren't compensated for ecosystem services. If they were, more would do excellent forest management.
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#7)  Re: Why do we need to know maximum tree dimensions?

Postby mdvaden » Thu Nov 26, 2015 1:59 pm

dbhguru wrote:Ents,

  A line of argument that I have used in the past goes something like this. When we lose sight of what a species can achieve in the way of size and age, we become desensitized to what may be happening to it. Each generation may lower the bar and exploit the species until it is a mere shadow of its former self. When this happens to many species, the natural environment that sustains us all suffers.

Bob


I think the line of argument you mentioned may need a different or extra twist.

Because it could be that identification and awareness alone suffice wthout even measuring.

For example suppose we could time-travel back to the 1800s and enter the coast redwood forest before it was logged, and have to report back what we found. I don't think I would need to find out what the tallest tree is that I could find, although I may share the girth of some samples.  But if I went back and said, "hey, these trees are well over 200 feet and I can tell from some shadows on the ground that some are 300 feet tall, and trunks up to 25 feet wide, I think that could suffice for awareness.

Native American tribes lived around the redwoods and used various resources. there. It would surprise me if they ever tried to calculate the height of any tall redwoods, but they knew they were big. Although, they may have been so accustomed to them, that they had no idea the rest of the world had trees so much smaller.

Could you imagine being surprised about tree sizes across the world that way. Not learning where they are huge. But learning where they are not huge.
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#8)  Re: Why do we need to know maximum tree dimensions?

Postby dbhguru » Thu Nov 26, 2015 5:48 pm

Mario,

 You make good points, and I think you are correct with respect to the general public. Most folks don't want intense numeric descriptions. However, I'm often making my arguments to botanists, ecologists,and people in the timber professions. These folks drink in numeric information and are supposed to know about species ages, rates of tree growth, stand basal areas and volumes, etc. to one degree or another. I don't always make it clear that this is the group that I'm mainly talking to.

Bob
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#9)  Re: Why do we need to know maximum tree dimensions?

Postby Joe » Fri Nov 27, 2015 7:45 am

dbhguru wrote:Mario,

 You make good points, and I think you are correct with respect to the general public. Most folks don't want intense numeric descriptions. However, I'm often making my arguments to botanists, ecologists,and people in the timber professions. These folks drink in numeric information and are supposed to know about species ages, rates of tree growth, stand basal areas and volumes, etc. to one degree or another. I don't always make it clear that this is the group that I'm mainly talking to.

Bob


Bob, and of course, you wisely talk to forest policy makers, especially here in Mass., because they may have the power of life and death over the remaining old growth in our state. And, all of those you mention may influence those policy makers. If you haven't already, you might reach out to the new state Secretary of Energy and Environment, Matthew Beaton or even the new governor Baker. That would be something if you could take him for a tour of MTSF.
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#10)  Re: Why do we need to know maximum tree dimensions?

Postby dbhguru » Fri Nov 27, 2015 11:42 am

Joe,

  I've not had any luck coaxing the big wigs out to western Mass to see any of these places. When they do make trips to a DCR property, they always have an entourage and are perpetually running their mouths. Their brains absorb nothing of what passes through their eyes that is associated with the forested landscape.  

  The disconnect with the natural environment happens all the way down to the lowest levels of management. Yes, there are some exceptions (really good people) and I try to cultivate working partnerships/friendships with them and work through them. That has been the story of whatever successes I've had. But if a test were devised for DCR managers on the history and outstanding features of the State parks and reserves, I shudder to think how low the average score would be. And nobody more than you has felt the dearth of their knowledge and understanding on forest management.  Still, we must press on.

Bob
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