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.
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder and Executive Director
Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest