By Ron Boldenow

Do you have a point you’d like to make or an issue you feel strongly about? Submit a letter to the editor or a guest column.

I feel compelled to respond to the guest column concerning Forest Service harvests on the west side of Bend in the Dec. 12 edition by a representative from Oregon Wild.

I agree that the term thinning is often misused and misunderstood. In the strict sense, thinning is done in only even-aged forests to remove weak trees and promote the growth and health of the remaining trees. It is not intended to promote regeneration of trees.

On the west side of Bend, the Forest Service’s objectives are more complex than simple thinning and aim to create a forest of varying density with trees of different ages and sizes. This will promote resistance to wildfire, disease and insects.

In my opinion, managing carbon sequestration is but one use of public forests and will depend on fostering forest productivity while considering the carbon storage in vegetation, soil and usable forest products. Both the dry and moist forest types west of Bend are likely to become drier as the climate changes. Particularly troubling is the predicted loss of snowpack and the more rapid drying of the soil due to rain rather than snow.

Thinning to keep these forests actively growing while promoting larger trees is likely our best method of management. Variable density will be a hedge against unpredictable conditions and should keep some stands in an optimal condition.

Additionally, carbon is stored in the harvested forest products; for example, solid wood products used in constructing single-family dwellings are considered to have a storage half-life of 100 years.

Thinning is not a panacea and will not work everywhere. The projects west of Bend do have a seed tree and clearcut regeneration harvests in the short-lived, naturally even-aged lodgepole pine stands where thinning is futile. Other types of harvests and treatments are also planned. Our forests are not uniform, but diverse with differing topography, soils and forest types and require diverse, site-specific treatments.

I agree that the term restoration is problematic. The term may be interpreted as the forest being “restored” or returned to some past condition. But our forests should not be restored to past conditions; rather, given climate change and the dynamic societal importance of forests, we need to be actively managing our forests for future conditions, uses and values.

If restoration means creating a forest that is robust, resistant to disturbance, resilient when disturbed, and useful to society; then I’m all for it. We need to actively manage these public forests in a new ways for the future. Borrowing from an adult root beer brand: “This is not your father’s forest.”

I disagree about the size of trees being the main factor affecting their value. Current log values are largely determined by quality.

We likely disagree about providing additional rings of wildfire defense outside of the urban interface. Although the efforts of Project Wildfire and the creation of defensible space are to be applauded, we need to treat fuels well outside the urban interface.

We cannot suppress all fires and we cannot alter the weather or terrain; but we can treat fuels to minimize the occurrence of stand-replacing fires and in doing so buy additional time for suppression and evacuation at the interface when fires move in their direction. The benefits of fuel treatments have been demonstrated in several recent wildfires across the West. A high-severity, stand-replacing fire adjacent to Bend would dramatically alter the livability of our city.

We likely agree that the process of planning and implementing management on federal forests is cumbersome, with multiple laws and levels of planning.

But we are making decisions on the management of federal forests with far more public input and collaboration than just a few decades ago. The plans for the west side of Bend went through the current process with input from a collaborative group, were approved and will provide multiple benefits. We are making progress, and I’m glad to see these plans being implemented.

— Ron Boldenow is a forester living in Bend.