Keeping people informed

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dbhguru
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Keeping people informed

Post by dbhguru » Wed May 02, 2018 7:51 am

Ents,

The following may be of interest to some of you. Although the information pertains to Massachusetts, it obviously has wide applicability. The email containing the information was sent to 67 recipients including a goodly number of DCR employees. The purpose of the communication is to challenge the timber and wood products industry on their oft-repeated claim that trees (here in the East) over 100 years old basically are senescent. We in NTS know how absurd that claim is, yet it gets repeated fairly often in public pronouncements without challenges from sources that should know better. The communication has two attachments. I've included them. The 140 list continues to grow because more and more pines are reaching that height threshold, not because the trees were always there, and we just didn't know about them. but because they have been growing steadily.

Yet despite the growing number of pines making the list, they are not obvious to the vast majority. This is to be expected among the general public, but also applies to forest professionals. Go figure.

Bob

========================================================================================================================
Hi Folks,

First, as a heads-up, there is a long list of people being blind copied. Please understand that I'm not trying to hide who they are - just keeping the address list manageable as seen by recipients. That said, it is time to update my list of Massachusetts sites with trees reaching a threshold height of 140 feet or more. Yes, I've done that before. So, a valid question is why am I sending this information out again, and to so many. My answer is plain: to give all of you information to combat the continuous stream of misinformation that is routinely spit out by those with only economic designs on our woodlands. Can there be any doubt about who I'm referring to? But, before getting into my list of 140s, first some background.

The 140 list began in the early 1990s. My friend Jack Sobon, timber framer and architect, of Windsor, MA and I undertook a mission to locate and measure every tree in Massachusetts reaching a height of 140 feet or more. It seemed a manageable task. After about three years, we could verify only a handful of sites and had no expectation of finding many more. We were measuring heights using Jack's transit. So, we were accurate, but the process was slow. Then in the mid-1990s, the infrared laser measuring device hit the market and tree-measuring was changed forever. I acquired my first in 1996.

With a laser rangefinder for distance and a clinometer for angle, we were no longer dependent on labor intensive transit measurements, or the error-prone tape and clinometer combination. Tape and clinometer and the associated tangent method still has a long list of committed users, but that approach to height measuring is fatally flawed, especially for trees with complex forms.

Let's now take a look at the updated tree list. Please see the first attachment. Each column to the right includes the counts of all columns to the left, e.g. the count of 21 trees over 160 feet includes the ones over 170 feet.

The numbers speak for themselves, individually, but they also carry a collective message that is getting lost in the battle for control of our forests. The message is the main reason for this email. Considering the list that Jack and I started with, the lesson from the table is that if we let the trees alone they will continue growing. This conclusion is invariably contested by timber and wood products interests, which hang on to the mistaken belief that growth basically slows down to a crawl, or stops, after 100 years. I see statements to this effect made repeatedly. It really isn't hard to refute such a self-serving belief, but the question of how much and for how long do mature trees continue putting on significant growth beyond 100 years, begs for lots more data. We do have some, and will get more in the coming years, but you can get a taste of what we have now in the second attachment with its graph.

In that attachment, note the accumulation of carbon in the Jake Swamp white pine in MTSF from sprouting until now. If you've seen earlier numbers on Jake, this chart incorporates my latest trunk modeling. Future efforts will tighten these numbers even more, but the upward trend is not contestable. Projections at 25, 50, and 100 years are based on our knowledge of what fast growing white pines in stands can do. Jake is given the benefit of the doubt at the early ages. From 1992 on we know exactly what Jake has done growth-wise.

In the coming months, we hope to speed up our work in measuring annual growth in mature white pines by making use of a new generation of equipment with unprecedented accuracy. We will combine the new equipment with our current measuring methods - which are mathematically sound. I personally plan to acquire one of the new devices in July while Monica and I are in Colorado. It is called the LTI TruPoint 200h, and it is pricey! What will I get for $1,800?

The TruPoint 200h combines a pulse-based infrared laser with a class II phase-based red beam laser. The former is accurate to +/- 1 centimeter and the latter to +/- 1 millimeter. This extraordinary improvement in accuracy, combined with Bushnell's Legend Ultra-HD 10x42 monocular with reticle, will allow us to achieve tighter results in determining trunk taper on the larger, older pines - a requirement for improving volume modeling.

By way of comparison, my LTI TruPulse 200X is accurate to an advertised +/- 4.0 centimeters, but in tests, it regularly beats LTI's specifications. Actual accuracy for my particular instrument is between +/- 2.0 and 2.5 centimeters. By comparison, the displays of the early laser rangefinders were calibrated to intervals of a yard or a meter. We could beat that limit by following a process, and usually come within about one foot. Not bad, but we wanted to see the envelope pushed farther.

I should emphasize that modeling the bigger, irregularly shaped pines cannot be adequately done using standard forestry allometric equations, which were developed primarily on young, even-aged plantation stock. I'm told that the approach was to derive stand-based statistics. Of course, individual tree measurements were involved, but the process didn't account for the significant shape variability that we see in the larger, older trees, and in particular, how wood is accumulated in the upper trunk and in the limbs.

In mid-July Monica and I will head to Denver Colorado where I'll be conducting a workshop on tree-measuring for the ISA chapters covering the Rocky Mountain States (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico); the Colorado Tree Coalition; and other groups. Laser Technology Inc. will be there demonstrating their latest and greatest.

In the way of history, the push to measure tree dimensions with increasing accuracy began independently in three places: Washington State, California, and Massachusetts ........... yep, in Mohawk trail State Forest.

Best to all,

Bob
Attachments
JakeSwampGrowth-a.png
140Club.png
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Keeping people informed

Post by Larry Tucei » Thu May 03, 2018 12:02 pm

Outstanding Bob! Your numbers speak for themselves. Hopefully the results of your tireless work will affect the outcome of future Forest MGT. in your region. Great job! Larry

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dbhguru
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Re: Keeping people informed

Post by dbhguru » Thu May 03, 2018 2:12 pm

Larry,

From my perspective, the biggest challenge we have in NTS is to make our collective efforts count for something. Nothing wrong with practicing our craft as a hobby, but it is in my DNA to put our labors to work for worthy causes. We have a huge reservoir of very good tree measurements in NTS, and a number of our members have developed good understandings of the growth capabilities of several dozen species. When we pool our data, we can paint a pretty good image of say what the white pine does, and can do, across its native range. We can do this better than any other source of which I am aware. But where can we take the kind of information?

On of the big challenges of our time is understanding the rates of accumulation and absolute amounts of carbon stored in trees. The reason is that the exploitative interests out there are waging a propaganda war to convince the public that keeping our woodlands perpetually young is what we need to mitigate climate change. From the measurements I and other Ents have made, I just don't see that as being the case. The perpetually young and shrubby paradigm is obviously self-serving. This isn't to diss forest management. There is a way of managing our woodlands to sequester more carbon and concurrently leave stately groves of trees scattered across the landscape, but lots of luck in seeing that happen.

My friends Drs. William Moomaw and Joan Maloof routinely give presentations that speak to the value of big trees in storing carbon compared to their younger counterparts. However, Bill and Joan have very little information that would allow them in their briefings to profile carbon accumulation in trees with size and age. That's where we come in. Here is a simple accounting of the Jake Swamp white pine that I prepared for Bill and Joan.

JakeGrowthandCarbon.png
Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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gnmcmartin
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Re: Keeping people informed

Post by gnmcmartin » Fri May 04, 2018 11:14 am

Bob:

We talked about the need for research on the growth rates of older white pines some time ago. I am glad that progress is being made, and the capabilities of the new equipment will reduce the labor involved significantly, which is a big plus. I believe this research is extremely important.

A part of the overall effort must be to maximize the impact of the research, and that involves carefully understanding the points of view of those who come at the issue of the value of old growth from different perspectives, and also making it clear that we do understand, and see the value behind those perspectives. Showing an understanding of these other perspectives can help reduce the resistance to accepting the value of the research we are doing, and perhaps even encourage cooperation. Of course, such efforts may fail.

The obvious division here is based on different perspectives on value. Much of the motivation behind forest management and research has been on relatively short term, and relatively narrow economic value. This will continue, although I do see a slow trend towards the recognition of longer term and broader understandings of “value.” There are too many issues involved for me to summarize them here, and many of these are complex. I know you and other NTS members have a good general grasp of them.

One of my questions, something maybe we could get a better grasp of, is the use of the term “senescent” by the wood products industry. Is this term also used by foresters? What is the “operative” definition of this term in this context? What are the criteria for deciding that a tree is “senescent” at 100 years of age? On the face of it, this seems quite ridiculous, if only because different species of trees have different changes in their growth rates as they age. To lump all species of trees together like this would, to any forester, regardless of his way of looking at forest “values,” seem quite ridiculous. Of course, some might define a kind of “financial” senescence, although the term I am more familiar with would be financial “maturity,” that is the point at which the rate of return based on the increase in the value at sale of a tree falls below the rate on other available forms of investment.
So, if I were trying to consider how to counter an argument about whether a tree—or forest as a whole--were said to be “senescent,” would be to find just where this idea was “coming from.” I find it hard to believe that there has been any reputable research done anywhere to support the idea that just because a tree is 100 years old it has become senescent. I know that many foresters are focused, and have been employed, to find ways to maximize what we consider relatively short-term gains based on a narrow set of values, but I find t very hard to believe that there could be any—I can’t rule out some “idiot” exception somewhere—who could support the 100-year senescence idea.

I have not studied the concept carefully, but I can imagine that biologically, the concept of a tree’s senescence is complicated, and would involve the use of various criteria, and very possibly things other than “raw” growth rates.

Well, I am oversimplifying here, but first we need to understand, carefully, what this “senescence” that our opposition is referring to. If it is imagined to be “scientific,” then debunk it by referencing the available research, including our own. BUT, if that term is used to argue for the importance of short-term economic values, then we need to recognize that, recognize why this is important to so many people who are in charge of the management of our forests. We can’t argue against that perspective on “value, but recognize it, accept it, and then work to broaden the set of values that can be applied as the opportunities present themselves.

So, to conclude my little “sermon,” (yes, I have to admit I am giving a sermon--sorry), yes it is obvious that a 160 year-old white pine is not, based on its age anyway, “senescent” according to any biological concept of senescence I can imagine. The research we are undertaking can add to the evidence that this is the case. But, when it comes to trying to convince forest managers, or those who “command’ forest managers, to adopt a broader set of perspectives on forest value, I think we must begin to understand, with “sympathy,” where they are coming from. Confronting them, contradicting them, may not get us the best results. I am not suggesting that this is what we are doing. I see that our efforts have been to find ways to work with those who have different perspectives, and as you, Bob, have been reporting, we have had some considerable success on important issues. But the more we can understand, and show that we DO understand the legitimate motivations of others, the more progress we can make. Of course, there will always be a conflict between the wood products industry’s need, or perceived need, for relatively short-tern profits, and the broader sets of forest values we at NTS all recognize. We need to work to achieve the recognition of a broader set of values without trying to deny the view point of the wood products industry. Then maybe, some in the wood products industry can begin to admit that there is more to a forest than the wood products value they are focused on, and those broader sets of values can be applied in forest use decision making in at least some situations. Of course through the years this has been done with exceptional forests such as the Redwoods, etc. We must recognize the successes that have been achieved. But more, especially here in the East, should be done.

--Gaines

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dbhguru
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Re: Keeping people informed

Post by dbhguru » Fri May 04, 2018 4:37 pm

Gaines,

Excellent points. I think we can grant forest managers an understanding of when a tree or stand has reached its economic zenith. As you suggest, we need to assure them that we respect their expertise in this area. When I speak publicly, I try to make a distinction between economic maturity and biologic maturity. I’m not sure I always succeed.

The above said, I think there is a part of the timber and wood products industry that takes shortcuts in their thinking and make these generalizations, especially when speaking to the public. However, we shouldn’t project their statements onto all of forest management - nor should we take shortcuts in our thinking. Your comments remind me to try ever harder to sharpen my thinking and be precise when I’m speaking.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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gnmcmartin
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Re: Keeping people informed

Post by gnmcmartin » Sat May 05, 2018 10:23 am

Bob:

I must join in to praise your work for NTS and the outstanding leadership you have been providing. I for one, have often wondered where we would all be here without you. I only wish I could make some decent contribution myself, but so far, for reasons I won't go into, I haven't been able. BUT, even had I the time, I could never have done any faint shadow of the work you have been doing, and I want to emphasize especially my admiration for your leadership.

The importance of understanding the opinions, and the bases, of those opinions, of those we may have to oppose, can't be overestimated. A number of years ago, when I was a professor in a university English Department, we had a serious, and seemingly intractable conflict with our dean over staffing. For reasons I won't go into, things had reached a rather ugly impasse, and we all were thinking that this dean, new in the position, was simply "impossible." It all came to a head in a meeting of the dean with the English Department's "Executive Committee." It got so bad that I began think about how I could get our people to end the meeting. There were kicks under the table, hand signals, and the idea that continuing the meeting was destructive was understood, and we ended it as gracefully as we could.

Afterwards, I volunteered to be the department's "ambassador," and went to see the dean. I began by asking her to explain the difficulties she was facing allocating the colleges resources. She explained, I asked follow-up questions, and I could see how appreciative she was of my interest and understanding. At that point she was very open to listening to what the English department was facing, understood, and the result was amazing. This new dean, who everyone in the English department thought was impossible to work with, turned out to be, from our perspective, the best dean to work with that we had ever had--a real "gem." We didn't get everything we wanted, but we actually did get what we really needed.

I could relate two or three other stories of this kind from my university teaching/committee tenure.

BUT, unfortunately, this approach will not work miracles. There are, simply, intractable "issues," and at bottom, the conflict between the basic economics of wood production for our economy, and the desire of NTS and others to maximize the broader values of our forests will always remain the source of conflicts that are not resolvable. But we need to do all that we can where there are opportunities. Sometimes it has to come down to a nitty--gritty struggle that can't be mitigated by shared understandings. I have been involved with the Save-the-Redwoods League, off and on for years. The solution most often employed by them is "money" to buy properties. This is a peaceful exercise--mostly peaceful--of sheer power.

In this "forest senescence" issue, it is clear to anyone with any understanding of trees and forests, that the fundamental idea is simply "bonkers." Of course, there are legitimate arguments that after 100 years, according to some models, a forest becomes less productive. One thing stands out to me in this: 100 years is not bad for a rotation length in the east, and is somewhat longer than the norm. My intensively managed forest is now 80 years old, and I would be surprised if it is not the most valuable stand of timber in the entire county, in private OR in public ownership. Give it another 20? WOW!

But, considering a broader understanding of timber value, and potential increases over even more time, it might make sense "economically" to continue to manage my timberland with selective harvesting for a somewhat longer period of time. But, I don't think I could find one forester working in the county, who if I hired him to advise me about what to do with this woodland to maximize financial returns, would not argue for a silvicultural clear-cut. Of course, I would like to see my forest land preserved so the much, much broader set of values it can have would be realized, but an honest assessment of its value for that treatment VS other sites/forestlands, would not make it one of the top candidates. If I donated it to the Nature Conservancy, they would sell it for the timber value, it would be soon cut, and they would use the funds to preserve "higher priority" sites. Our focus, of course, must likewise, be on the sites with the most potential for reflecting the most value in the broadest sense. Of course our primary focus, as I now understand it anyway, is on research that can support such preservation efforts, not on the task of natural resource preservation itself, as the Nature Conservancy and The Save-the-Redwoods League are doing.

Bob, sincerely, keep up the wonderful work. I appreciate it more than I can express!

--Gaines

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