Social and economic values also matter

The April 16 commentary “Forest ‘management’ does far more harm than good” was insulting to me as a forestry educator, researcher and practitioner.

No one disputes the fact that dead trees are important and that fire is an important natural process (this is not new science). However, the commentary commits the classic “cherry-picking” of unspecified “studies” to support the author’s notions about forest ecology and naturalness. The statement that “It is questionable whether we can remove substantial quantities of live or dead wood from the forest without serious long term biological impoverishment ...” is itself highly questionable.

Another statement, that “we probably do not have enough dead trees in our forest ecosystems,” is a head scratcher. What about all the recently created snags? Since 2000, 43 percent of the Sisters Ranger District burned in large wildfires, creating millions of snags with only a fraction being salvaged logged. That isn’t enough?

From the tenor of the commentary, I got the feeling that people and, especially, foresters do not belong on this planet lest we spoil it. As scientific knowledge about forests has increased, foresters too have evolved in applying this new knowledge. Sustainable forestry aims to balance ecological, social and economic values. The commentary argues exclusively for ecological values, as if human and community values don’t matter.

In reality, it’s not just about the ecological values in these debates. Social and economic values are essential concerns too. How we effectively integrate all three is the challenge.

Stephen A. Fitzgerald