Our travels to Virginia provided many opportunities to observe an array of forest conditions which continues to heighten my concerns for current forestland management. We passed acres and acres of tree plantations as we traveled through Michigan and Ohio. Many of these plantations are the result of reclamation of abandoned lands that had been cleared for agricultural purposes in the past. Almost all of the plantations were non-indigenous species of conifers, planted far to close with the same species and age class. Diversity was totally lacking, natural relationships had been lost and the plants no longer function together as forest communities. The multitude of community relationships that are a part of the natural world have been lost, plus the lose of diversity has set the stage for future catastrophes which will wipe out the entire plantation. We then entered the State of West Virginia with its mountainous forest cover of central hardwoods. The mountainous topography allows one to observe vast areas covered with native species of vegetation that is obviously second growth forest communities. Yes, even at 60 miles per hour, I could observe many of the changes in vegetative conditions that represent the mosaic of communities that make up the forests.
During the hours of driving, my mind was at work attempting to translate my observations to current management concepts of the science of forestry. The time spent in contemplation resulted in supporting my over whelming concern that the science is not adequately linked to the human element, and must change for future needs of the human species. My conclusions were:
- Nothing will change until leadership changes the driving goal of managing our remaining forested lands. Instead of managing the resources we can take from the forests, we must manage the forests for health and diversity with the resources becoming the by-product of proper management.
- With the establishment of the proper goals, we have the scientific knowledge to enhance, and hopefully improve forest diversity using indigenous species. You simply can not create natural forest communities from a seed bag!
- To achieve the desired health and diversity will require a much more in-depth knowledge base and appreciation for the complexity of forest communities and the multitude of relationships that exist within each community.
The magnitude of the problem will only expand as our world population continues to grow. It is time for us to start the process of change!