Saturday, January 05, 2008

Sustainability a Meaningless Concept?

A few days ago I recieved a forwarded email originating from the North Coast Earth First! email list. Along with an SF Chronicle article on Mendocino Redwoods bid to take over Pacific Lumber, the message contained a note from "Shunka", the list moderator. Though I didn't agree with most of what he wrote, a few sentences especially stood out.

" "Sustainable" means practically nothing, nowadays, it's a certification that can be bought and sold on the market; it's a concept that's been co-opted to such a degree that it has become practically meaningless."

Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water. The concept of sustainability is not meaningless. A certificate of sustainability is meaningless if given by a disreputable organization, but the concept itself? To me, sustainable logging means taking less wood in a year than will be replaced in a year at the rate at which the trees are growing. Very importantly, it also means logging practices that avoid harming the health of streams and rivers and preserve biodiversity in the forest.

" should be noted that the Mendocino Redwood Company has logged nearly all of their Old Growth Redwood holdings, so I wouldn't say that they're "a cut above" anyone."

Like others who have made this claim to me, he hasn't backed it up with any evidence or references. If there is evidence of this I would really like to know about it. A friend of mine who lived in a tree-sit in Kaisen Gulch years ago told me that the MRC ended up making a deal with local activists to not cut the disputed trees and to log several smaller trees with a comparable total volume of wood.

"The campaign to boycott the Gap, and shed light on the Fisher family and their relationship to both entities, has been active for many years, and deserves at least a mention by local organizations, who should know. You can check out the website at the following link:
http://www.gapsucks .org/"

The campaign to boycott the GAP was active for several years but it appears that the website has not been updated since 2004. I don't know if they are still active or not. One thing I noticed is that they were considering a boycott of all Redwood products. I'm glad that never happened. It's one thing to boycott a certain company or companies, but a boycott of all Redwood products? That would hurt small time businesses way more than the big companies. It also assumes, much like Shunka, that there is currently no sustainable production of Redwood products. Logging aside, what about businesses selling wood salvaged from old barns and other buildings that would otherwise have been destroyed?


At 1/06/2008 02:47:00 PM, OpenID olyecology said...

I thought this blog represented the interest of biodiversity? It's absurd to say that a forest growing more than loggers cut preserves biodiversity. Biodiversity is about species extinction, which is something that is easily sustained with simple-minded arguments like sustaining wood volume. Protecting biodiversity is about restoring the original species composition, which mostly means restoring original structural diversity, which means wood volume, which means growing back the original biomass that occured before logging. Anything less than that is a sham for threatened and endangered species.

At 1/06/2008 02:48:00 PM, OpenID olyecology said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 1/07/2008 11:12:00 AM, Anonymous Bolithio said...

Punditry, in all its forms, renders words meaningless. This is how doublespeak evolves. Words are watered down and "spun" out of control. Shunka is doing just that by making statements like that. It is not that simple. I mean really, I can think of all kinds of terms, philosophies etc, that I can question: " democracy really occurring in the united states? Is the constitution a valid document that holds any weight? Is that person really an environmentalist?"

Sustainability is another philosophy that shouldn't be chalked down to these simple black and white assumptions. Its just a word. Think of organic products. At some point you have to call where the BS ends and realize that once you invite everyone along, certain people are going to envision it differently. This is why the environmentalist community remains so polarized. "My idea of sustainability is different than yours. Oh, and you work for the timber industry so you are obviously a brainwashed tool." (Someone said that to me once - lol)

Seriously though - I think people confuse preservational theory with sustainability; which is a concept firmly rooted in Conservation, not the latter. This means that in this discussions' context; yes, it is all about the ebb and flow of harvestable volume in relation to stand growth.

Maintaining bio-diversity is an entirely different animal. Just as important, but the distinction is equally important.


What do you mean by "protecting biodiversity is about restoring the original species composition, which means, which means..." Aren't restoration and protection two different things? Fore example the National Parks are mainly interested in preservation, which means leave it all alone, where as the State Parks do restoration work, which implies active management. (there are various levels of impact for both of these policies)

Ask yourself; Is change something that shouldn't occur within a forest? Or do forests change with or without people? Remember that we are not even a blink of an eye in the time line of ecology of these environments.


I think we may be on the same page with MRC (for the most part). Still, I haven't seen any real evidence of how the GAP is still engaging in these negative practices. It looks like they have in the past, but it is it possible that they have corrected the problem and have improved their practices?

At 1/07/2008 11:57:00 AM, Blogger John Doe #86 said...

Hold yer horses Oly. I did not say that sustaining wood volume preserves biodiversity. Read it again. What I said was that my definition of "sustainable forestry" includes sustained wood production, protecting watercourses and preserving biodiversity.

At 1/08/2008 01:40:00 PM, Blogger John Doe #86 said...

We may be a blink of an eye in the grander scheme of things but the extinctions we cause will be forever.

Restoring habitat structure and restoring biomass can be two completely different things. What do you think is the fastest way for a forest to return to old-growth like characteristics?

At 1/10/2008 01:28:00 PM, Anonymous Bolithio said...

John - Your dead on about human related extinctions. There will very little success in attempts to restore the recently extinct. I think that it is reasonable to consider advances in genetics will allow us to breath life into some species, but I seriously question there ability to survive in nature once they are gone. Tigers are a good example of this. Presently, they exist in remnant populations at best, and once they are extinct from the "wild", I seriously doubt any introduced tigers breed in captivity will survive in any substantial numbers.

Solution? I have no idea. Inevitable outcome? Big time reduction in our quality of living in the next century.

Since I think Oly may have just been passin through - IMO - the fastest way to restore "old-growth" like conditions is to remove humans from the planet completely.

One a side note you may find this interesting, the Board of Forestry just adopted the 2007 Incidental Take Assistance for Coho Salmon into the Forest Practice Rules. This means alot more watercourse protections and road requirements for all THPS from here on out. I couldn't find a link to the new rules, but I found the 2007 draft language which I dont think has changed much. Check it out:

At 1/10/2008 05:07:00 PM, Blogger John Doe #86 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 1/10/2008 05:08:00 PM, Blogger John Doe #86 said...

Thanks for the link.

the fastest way to restore "old-growth" like conditions is to remove humans from the planet completely.

whoa there buddy, I thought you were a forester.

At 1/11/2008 10:29:00 AM, Anonymous Bolithio said...


Ya well, I guess being a forester does not prevent me making that statement. Perhaps its even irrelevant. The question was what is the fastest way to return to old-growth; not the most practical.

As a forester I believe in management for the benefit of habitat for humans. Is that anthropocentric? Yes. Im ok with that. Humans are what we are. I have found that this philosophy is compatible with a environmentalism philosophy too. Buy enhancing our habitat, we inevitably maintain the environment for all of the other values that are important. Clean water = clean rivers = well managed riparian areas = well planed roads = high quality fisheries = food supply for Humans & other organisms; etc, etc.

I do think, as a concept, that this sustainable theory IS achievable. It is being practiced too, especially in the timber industry here on the north coast. (Not by all, obviously)

Still the real threats are world wide, and humans do not have the best track record. So while it is nice to think of what we can do, sometimes I defer to cynicism and predict our inevitable crash as a species - like a bacteria colony that exhausts all its resources and dies.

If this does happen, the environment will continue to evolve, habitats will mature, climate will fluctuate, and cockroaches will rule the world!

(sorry for the off topic rant)

At 2/03/2008 10:20:00 PM, Anonymous amanita said...

whenever i hear the word sustainable forestry I think "sustain what"? seems to be the only problem with the term. like they say, you can manage a christmas tree farm sustainably.

bolithio, what do you think is a good bf/ac target for production (as opposed to preservation) forestlands? 50 mbf/ac? 100, CMAI? is there a point where the diameter classes get to big to handle with the available equipment.
in other words, in a perfect world what would we try to restore human habitat/production forestlands to?

narrow that to say, site class II timberlands...
with the reorganization and all its been on my mind a lot, you seem like youd have thought about it before too.

At 3/17/2008 04:48:00 PM, Blogger XANTAR!!!!! said...

MRC's Option A from their site states:

Option A

Wildlife Habitat Old Growth

MRC will not harvest old growth as defined below:

Terrestrial – Un-entered stands of more than 20 acres.

– Stands of 5 acres or more with an average of 6 old growth
trees per acre or more (old growth trees defined as trees over 250
years old and 48 inches d.b.h. or larger) .

– Individual residual old growth trees with significant wildlife
value (eg. large limbs, cavities, nesting platforms, limited available

I have to ask:

-Can the MRC log "entered" stands containing old-growth?

(Most TPZ's have been entered, in fact, I'd like to see an unentered stand that is not a park or refuge)

-Can the MRC log old growth stands less than 20 acres?

(Most of the old growth stands left in TPZs are very small residual groves)

-Can the MRC log stands of old-growth that are more than five acres containing 5 or less old growth trees per acre?

(An acre is a very small piece of land, how many old growth trees can you fit in an acre? To achieve this requirement, 30 OG trees would have to exist on 5 acres. Furthurmore, residual Old growth trees and groves are extremely rare on TPZs, and the chance of finding 6 or more OG trees on one acre is extremly low).

-Who determines the "significant wildlife value" of residual old growth trees? (Besides wildlife surveyors, who else but the MRC?)

Our old growth may be safer if MRC takes over, but they better get up, walk, and clump together in a central location. Saftey in numbers, right?


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