During the week, I am a CLM Intern, but during the weekend, I work as a Lichen surveyor in the Siuslaw National Forest performing lichen community analysis for air quality monitoring. This is no roadside analysis, this is bushwhacking through thickets of prickly Salmonberry and Himalayan Blackberry for as far as a mile off an old logging road that was decommissioned 10 years ago and has become a temperate rain forest jungle right-of-way.
Two weekends ago I followed the Alsea River East in from Waldport, OR on Hwy 34. After about 20+ miles, I turned North for several miles up a Siulsaw logging road, and boy did the name fit the description. Large segments of the ridge sides were clear cut. I thought “I have to be on private or state land, there is no way the Forest Service would clear cut to this extent now a days.” Alas, to my che-grin, I concluded that it had to be USFS land due to the fact that my survey plot was on it (they’re almost always on USFS land).
Some logging began in the PNW as early as the 1830’s, but it did not kick off until the turn of the century. In the 1990’s PNW timber contributed to 1/3 of America’s plywood and had fed the housing boom since WWII. Chances are that any wood house built since 1946 contains materials from the PNW. Douglas-firs are the most valuable tree in the timber commerce worldwide. In the 90’s, the USFS had proclaimed that timber is the nation’s number 1 agricultural crop. Timber companies obtain logging units from Private, State, and Federal lands. In fact, virtually all old-growth forests on private forestry company lands have been logged.
The Oregon Forest Practices Act is the legislation that Private and State logging operations have to adhere to and compared to California and Washington legislation, it is pretty lax: comprised of minimal regulations for timber harvesting, road construction and maintenance, slash treatment, reforestation and pesticide and fertilizer use.
To give you some perspective of the amount of timber sequestered from the PNW; there has always been focused attention on the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, however according to 90’s statistics, only 15-30% of the ancient Amazonian rainforest has been logged, compared to about 87% of the ancient PNW forest logged, in less than a century.
And now Oregon Public Radio just aired that a new study found that over the last decade an increasing amount of Pseudotsuga menziesii trees on the Oregon Coast Range have been infected with the Swiss needle cast fungal disease. Oregon State University research has suggested that the epidemic has grown by as much as 30% over 1 year.
The fungus does not actively kill the tree, but instead clogs the needle stomata and thereby greatly reduces tree vitality. The effect can slow the growth of commercial timber by up to 50% which results in an estimated $128 million dollars in economic losses per year! However, it has also been shown that if one plants Tsuga heterophylla, Thuja plicata, and Picea sitchensis with the Pseudotsuga menziesii, then the trees are less susceptible to it. So, in conclusion, if we STOP clear cutting and treating Doug Fir as a crop and instead replant with a variety of trees and lightly thin over longer periods of time, OH YEA, and not export most of our domestic harvest from private and state lands overseas to Japan and Korea, then we might just save little chunks of our coastal temperate rain forests and still keep Oregon’s economy alive. And maybe we’ll be able to see more Giant Pacific Salamanders (Dicamptodon tenebrosus).