Some really good work has been done with uneven-aged hardwood management, and studies of this go back many years. But this has nothing to do with MAI and CMAI calculations. About 42 years ago I was given a tour of two such uneven-aged hardwood research plots by H. Clay Smith. I have a copy of a research report on one or more of these plots "buried" somewhere. I have moved three times since, so it may take some effort to find it. I can also check to see if reports of this research project are now on-line anywhere. Clay Smith passed away a few years ago, I believe. He was a wonderfully helpful to me when I contacted him shortly after I bought my timberland--he spent most of a full day giving me a personal tour of the Parsons, WV research forest.
The uneven-aged research plots were just a part of what Clay Smith showed me that day, but they were perhaps the outstanding highlight. The plots were quite beautiful, and contained a mix of at least 8 or 10 species, and a mix of all size classes, up to the maximum commonly achieved by each species, which for red oak, sugar maple, black cherry, etc. was something between 32 and 38 inches or so. Once a determination was made for what the largest size for each species was to be, size classes were established for the rest of the trees in the stand, moving down, I believe, by 2" diameter classes to a point where the trees were below a specific size, and those were ignored.. A formula was devised so that specific numbers of trees would be reserved in each of these size classes--a formula that I once understood, but cannot now clearly explain. In any case, the result was the preservation of a specific ratio between the size classes, so that periodic cutting from all the size classes would maintain a constant proportion of trees in each size class. Of course as the size classes increased, the numbers of trees in each class declined, so that in the largest size class, there were just one or two trees per acre.
The beauty of the stand was the result of each tree that was left to grow into the next size class were the healthiest and best formed trees. The largest trees were something to see for their size and beautiful form/structure. Also, the mix of trees of different sizes, with some openings created as the larger trees were removed, created a wonderfully aesthetically pleasing forest. On the economic side, this management regime would produce a constant "flow" of sawtimber and pulpwood far into the future, with the quality of trees perhaps even improving over time. This management was the exact opposite of the "high-grading" so often done.
So why aren't more forests managed this way? Well, it is time consuming and expensive. The tree selection process, which I think was done every five years or so--maybe 10--required an expert forester and took time. Then, the excess deer population very often destroys the needed reproduction. Also, the harvesting had to be done with extreme care so as to leave the trees not harvested undamaged. Loggers who can, and/or are willing to do this, are either extremely rare, or non-existent. I have seen logging done with horses that would not make the grade. Myself, and the Amish man who logged with me on my timberland for four winters, using a 4-wheel drive farm tractor and a special winch, and snatch blocks, would make the grade. We usually worked with snow cover, and so little was disturbed that in spring, a person walking where we had worked might not notice that any trees were cut and logged.
But, I am not practicing this kind of uneven-aged management. I talked to Clay Smith about the possibility of converting my basically even-aged stand into one managed as these plots were managed, and he told me that such a conversion would take a long time, and could be complicated. And, in my area, deer wipe out any and all reproduction, except in areas of large clear cuts, where the deer have so much browse that they can't get everything. But, even then, they do manage to destroy all the reproduction of oaks and sugar maple, etc, leaving only the less "tasty" species, mostly black and yellow birch, and some hemlock, to grow.
Well, I miss Joe. I don't like the biomass production for power plants either, but.... No, I can't believe that Joe has gone over to any kind of "dark side." I believe he was a very committed and "concerned" forester who loves forests much as we do, and perhaps understands them better.
Well, over time we may see some changes in how our forests are managed. As for privately owned forest lands, not much can be done except to impose some decent regulations to protect the environment, including the soil and endangered species, etc. On state owned lands, our voices can matter, and maybe the ballot box can help also. Keep advocating for what you believe is the best use/management of these lands.