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  • Hannah Hammond

Saving Old Growth through Forest Management

by John K. Kelley, The Beck Group, Inc.

Tired of wildfires? Worried that they’re on the rise?

So are we at The Beck Group, on both counts. Fires have shifted the narrative and the solutions.

Everyone who remembers the spotted owl controversy learned that the Pacific Northwest has finite stands of old growth forests, which we may define as tree stands never harvested during the period of European settlement. Old growth has an essential place in the ecosystem, and there were and are good arguments for preserving significant tracts.

The greatest threat to old growth forests today is not logging, but wildfire. Old growth does not exist in a vacuum, but is surrounded by other vegetation. Left to become an impenetrable thicket, old growth areas achieve densities that make them an arsonist’s dream and a property owner’s nightmare. We can all agree, surely, that old growth destroyed by wildfire is as lost as old growth harvested for timber—but the wildfire is more harmful, because the carbon from wildfire all goes into the atmosphere and harms air quality over vast regions of our country and others. By contrast, harvested timber is mainly converted to products that store sequestered carbon for years, decades, even generations.

This is an area where goals harmonize. No one is proposing to clear-cut all remaining stands of old growth. The proposed handling is to permit judicious thinning and cleanup (generally referred to as “management”) among the old growth and other overstocked forest stands. This achieves all sorts of things everyone would like to hear:

  • It will make wildfires slower to spread and easier to fight, thus saving old growth and protecting local property while keeping trees from turning into atmospheric carbon.

  • It will help the remaining forests, including old growth, to flourish and sequester carbon in drier climates thanks to less competition for groundwater.

  • It will sustain a modest number of jobs in sparsely populated regions that need willing rural residents to perform general management activities. (Who’s going to fix the roads if no one lives there?)

  • It will help pay for itself through sale of the manufactured products, and in some cases power.

  • Rather than burn the logging slash (waste) where it falls, that material can be combusted in controlled circumstances that reduce carbon emissions and generate electricity.

  • Where the landowner is government, it will lower government’s costs (which ultimately become taxes) while generating revenue as forest products producers pay for the privilege of managing forests.

Most people who work in the timber industry appreciate forests, including the wildlife and ecosystems those forests preserve. If allowed, their knowledge and capacity can carry out careful management to protect homes, battle climate change, and help sustain the health and beauty of our timberlands. It is no longer 1981. We must all work together toward the common objective.

At The Beck Group, Inc. we help timber stakeholders identify the best strategies for sustainable, prudent forest management that works for families, workers, businesses, government, and the environment. We help companies find solutions to utilizing material removed during forest fuels treatments. Those solutions usually result in wood products, ranging from posts and poles to mass timber, which store carbon for decades. Our client base includes mills which have been producing carbon-storing wood products for years while satisfying society’s need for homes and other goods.


Contact The Beck Group, Inc. For Forest Products Planning & Consulting Needs


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