Evolving strategies

General discussions of measurement techniques and the results of testing of techniques and equipment.

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#1)  Evolving strategies

Postby dbhguru » Wed Jun 06, 2012 2:39 pm

NTS,

I’m feeling the need to discuss a topic with my fellow and lady Ents that’s been on my mind for a long time. It is about strategies for winning converts to our methods of measuring trees. I’ve had a number of useful telephone conversations with Don Bertolette and Will Blozan on this topic.  It isn’t as though the subject of strategizing has only recently surfaced.

In recent months I along with fellow Ents have lobbied American Forests and equivalent state-level programs, Laser technology Inc. the Society of American Forests and associated state groups, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and indirectly, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, individuals, and helped organize tree-measuring workshops. I’m forever explaining our methods to the groups on interpretive walks, and in lectures presented to nature groups. I strongly support Dr. Don Bragg in his efforts to win wider acceptance for our methods in the U.S. Forest Service. Of course, I use the NTS BBS has a tool to win converts because anything posted on tree measuring may eventually find its way to the eyes of an individual with a receptive mind. The problem is that some of these strategies are very time consuming, and carry relatively low probabilities of success, but the payback could be high.

Some of the above routes are nobrainers. For example, working with and through the U.S. Forest Service has great potential because of Don Bragg. I think our efforts supporting Don is time that can’t be better spent.  I hope the rest of you agree. Don has his hands full, but he has the credentials to make headway.

It remains to be seen if our efforts to form a partnership with American Forests will pay off, but as of now, this avenue holds great promise. Two webinars this summer could be the start of something big. Then there are the state programs. However, in terms of my participation, lobbying the state champion tree program coordinators is something best left to others including Don Bertolette, Scott Wade, Bob Van Pelt, Turner Sharp, Michael Taylor , Will Blozan, etc.. The same can be said of lobbying the arborist and recreational tree climbers. Communicating with them is best left to the Ents who are also tree climbers. I see my role here as playing a behind-the-scenes role. But all the above are logical routes to pursue.

Now to the “non-nobrainers”. Heretofore I’ve believed that reaching the forestry community, at large, should carry a high priority. After all, in the eyes of the public, foresters are most commonly associated with tree measuring and forest mensuration is about measuring trees. Additionally, American Forests and the state champion tree programs have lots of tree measurers who are foresters. How does one reach the forestry community, at large?

Although I may be off base, I’m not optimistic about lobbying the professional forestry agencies, be they private or public. Nor do I see much daylight in pursuing the academic foresters.  My impression is that these people are convinced that they know all they need to know about measuring trees and have no need of input from outside organizations and people. Still, despite the pessimism, I’m pursuing members of these groups. For example, I haven’t given up on Massachusetts DCR's Bureau of Forestry.

Nor do I see much headway to be made with nature organizations/groups.  Their interests lie in broader issues. I expect that tree measuring seems much too narrow and relatively unimportant to pursue. I can understand their thinking, but it leaves them vulnerable when they need to measure trees for whatever purpose.

Is there reason to pursue the forestry agencies and forestry academics even if they continue to be unreceptive? The answer is simple. They present themselves to the public as the experts in tree-measuring.  As an example, Joan Maloof tells me that in Maryland, a tree making it onto the state’s champion tree register has to be certified by a state forester. I think there are other states with similar rules. This is a strong statement by the profession as to who it thinks is qualified to certify trees. So do we actively lobby these groups despite our prior lack of success, or go our own way with each party ignoring the existence of the other? What steps should we be taking?

This isn’t a simple matter, and the path can become convoluted. I’ve had multiple occasions to be in the forest with PhD level forestry academics where trees were being measured. In all cases involving the academics (ones not in NTS), they deferred to me to do the measuring and unquestioningly accepted my measurements. Yet, I doubt that any went back and told their students that: hey, if you want a tree measured accurately, go get old Bob’s help. What had they been teaching their students to do? What they are willing to acknowledge privately might be embarrassing to them publicly. This said, I always appreciate their private vote of confidence and don’t want to lose their tacit support. So, I tread lightly. The door isn’t entirely closed, but there is no path to public acceptance that isn’t labor intensive - none that I have found.

One group that I have mixed feeling about pursuing are the old-line foresters who have led distinguished careers and are respected by their peers, but who have not yet bought into our methods. Here I speak of individuals separate from their group identities. Don Bertolette and I have discussed such individuals. Don sees value in reaching out to them. When I talk directly with Don, I am persuaded to his point of view. Afterwards, though, I develop misgivings. The reason is that it is a course with an unknown payback. After acceptance of our methods, are these old-timers going to dash out into the field and measure trees on behalf of our cause, or just acknowledge that there is a new measurement technique out there that can be used? I suppose I’m asking myself who is going to be proactive on our behalf versus simply refrain from throwing stones at us?

At this time, I’m content to leave the individuals to others such as Don, and back him up if called upon. What complicates this route for me is hearing invalid arguments made by the individuals who express doubts about our methods. Don is much better at threading the needle than I am or my buddy Will Blozan is. Will employs a bigger hammer than I do. Best to keep us out of the debate.

There are other groups that we might think of actively lobbying, e.g. landscape architects. But as the list grows, the need to target certain groups at the expense of others and think in terms of the biggest bang for the buck becomes critical. Tree measuring is our bread and butter. If we are to be taken seriously by others who measure trees, we have to find ways to reach the ones with a genuine desire to get it right.  Beyond what has been outlined above, I’m out of ideas.

Bob
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#2)  Re: Evolving strategies

Postby ElijahW » Wed Jun 06, 2012 5:31 pm

dbhguru wrote:hey, if you want a tree measured accurately, go get old Bob’s help


This may become my new strategy.  I have a long list of trees I need to measure.  When are you available?  I'm kidding, of course.  

The more trees I measure, the more I enjoy doing it, and the more I strive to be as accurate as possible.  You're an inspiration, Bob.  I think, in the simplest sense, what we're (especially you, Ed, Michael, Will, and the rest of the core group of Ents) doing right now is the best approach:  Measure lots of trees as best we can (some better than others), using the most accurate methods (sine-sine, tape-drop, etc.), let others in on what we're doing and why, and be open to criticism and serious verification.  In the end, those who want to use inferior standards and techniques will be choosing to do so willfully, and those who want to get it right will find us.  Some people prefer living in a fairytale world.  Some do not.  Maybe that's too broad of an analogy, but I think it works.  Keep up the good work.

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#3)  Re: Evolving strategies

Postby dbhguru » Wed Jun 06, 2012 6:29 pm

Elijah,

   Thanks. Your advice is wise. We do it right, explain how we go about measuring, remain open to suggestions and criticism, and the genuine players will find their way to us, and/or share with us even better ways of measuring.

Bob
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#4)  Re: Evolving strategies

Postby Larry Tucei » Wed Jun 06, 2012 7:43 pm

Bob,  You always have been my inspiration for measuring trees. I have learned much from you and our other members.  While it is way cool to know the actual height of a tree the real beauty of a trees height is in the eyes of the measurer. You have made many valid points that said I would like to see the State Champion Programs adopt NTS methods. For sure the National Forest Service, and everyone you mentioned, etc. Some people just don't seem to want to know the exact heights.  Spending many Falls and Winters in Forests I always saw such beauty and often wondered just how tall the trees in my area really were. Thanks to you and NTS I now have my answers. It amazes me how inaccurate tree books, guides, magazines, etc., can be when it comes to heights. I think NTS is making it more known than you realize. Thanks mostly to your tenacity  in accuracy of measurement and love of trees. Bob I would be honored to be your wing man anytime.    Larry
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#5)  Re: Evolving strategies

Postby Joe » Thu Jun 07, 2012 8:55 am

As one of the "old time foresters" I find the advanced measurment techniques interesting because:

* not so much about the technique or accuracy but because I really dig huge and old trees for aesthetic/philosophic reasons
* because being able to measure tree accurately means being able to measure entire forests accurately- and, this is very, very important because foresters need to know so they can do their work better, that is, know how healthy the trees are, how fast they are growing in VALUE, know how fast they are sequestering carbon, so they can know how well the forest responds to their silvicultural work, etc.
* ecologists, biologists and especially conservation biologists really should want to know extremely accurately the condition of forests- not just size but also growth and health because this is information human society needs in order to manage and protect forests for the benefit of the human race- the very rough estimates done by most foresters and others just isn't good enough- especially given all the political battles that go on regarding forests- if we don't have good scientific information about the forests, then all those political battles are never going to find good solutions based on facts

So, I think what's important is to inform all those groups you mention, Bob, that this work is important, not just so we can measure the height of a tree to a centimeter but because it's important for the long term well being of the human race and the overall well being of the planet's ecosystem.

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#6)  Re: Evolving strategies

Postby Joe » Thu Jun 07, 2012 9:07 am

As for the scientific need for really good information from the forests- read "Evidence of Impending Tipping Point for Earth" at:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 132308.htm

Not only should the great specimens of big/old trees be measured accurately, but many other trees need accuracy too- over time, as a way to determine how the forests are being affected by global warming- as that info may tell us something about the potential for being near or beyond a tipping point.

Most foresters of course in their daily work will continue to use the rough methods we use out of necessity, we don't have time to do it right, but we do it right enough for our purposes, but every state needs to have researchers and many of them, doing it right.

The first paragraph in that article is:

"ScienceDaily (June 6, 2012) — A group of scientists from around the world is warning that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth toward an irreversible change in the biosphere, a planet-wide tipping point that would have destructive consequences absent adequate preparation and mitigation."

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#7)  Re: Evolving strategies

Postby dbhguru » Thu Jun 07, 2012 9:09 am

Larry,

  Thanks. I think a lot about the role, reputation, relevance, and reputation of NTS. So do others of you. I expect that we're in agreement that we want to see our work count for something. In the bigger picture, I'm comfortable with the idea that we fill niches. What we do is not heavyweight stuff, but fill the gap stuff. And to this end, discovering and accurately describing in numbers the greatest remaining trees on the planet should count for something. Consequently, when our contributions get watered down by bogus information from big tree hunters looking for publicity, we feel compelled to improve the situation. Thus our initiative with American Forests. besides, they need all the help they can get. Implicit competition from timber professionals who are far from our equals keeps the pressure on us to explain/justify our techniques. Well, I really shouldn't complain, it keeps us from becoming complacent.
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#8)  Re: Evolving strategies

Postby edfrank » Thu Jun 07, 2012 5:00 pm

Bob,

I applaud your efforts to convert the “old guard” in the forestry profession.  It is hard to avoid a political discussion on this point, but many of the people in the extractive industries – coal, oil, timber, fisheries, etc. view the resource as something that is there for their taking and benefit.  Going along with this is a general disdain for anything new and a suspicion of science if it does not directly enhance their ability to extract the resources.  If it was good enough to do the job 50 years ago, or 200 years ago, there is no need to try new-fangled methodology.

There is a cult of ignorance that permeates some aspects of our society.  Do you remember when in many circles it was a badge of honor to espouse that you could not program your VCR or make the clock stop flashing?  There is a bigger and more virulent form of the same mentality sweeping our nation today.  If it is new, it must automatically be suspect or rejected out of hand.  The worship of deliberate ignorance and the pursuit of such will be the downfall of our society.  I think this same pig-headedness is present when thinking about adopting newer laser rangefinder methodologies.  It doesn’t matter if it is right, or better, it is new and therefore must be opposed.  Laser rangefinders were not very common even ten years ago, so these techniques are new in comparison to many of the techniques still being used in forestry today.

There also are the remnants of the old master-student relationship.  It is much more prevalent in some fields than others and in some areas of the world more than others.  I recall a paper published that showed the results of water tracing in a respected European journal.   The old and famous geographer reported that the water from a single sinkhole appeared at springs around the entire region in essentially a radial pattern.  It was published and was treated as the gospel in the field, even though everybody knew it was wrong.  The results were because of contamination of the sampling devices and not because the water flowed in all directions.  But until the old professor passed away, his work and methodologies could not be questioned.    

In the Unites States, we are less deferential to the older generation of researchers, but still there is this influence.  We are still being taught the older methodologies by the people in the universities even when these methodologies are known to be flawed and out of date.  There is a carry-over from what people are taught, but I do believe that the newer generations of foresters and researchers will not be bound by what has been done before.  I believe they will be a receptive or at least respectful audience for our NTS methods.

People getting into forestry these days are computer literate.  They do appreciate and understand technology.  They are not afraid of using new-fangled devices if it gives them better results.  The older generation of foresters and managers may be a lost cause, aside from some exceptional individuals.  They may be too comfortable in the older methodologies and unwilling or even unable to change.  The people we should be targeting to get our message out there is the new generation of forestry professionals and managers that are just starting their careers.  These will be the ones making the decisions in the future and the ones I believe we can reach.  Your goal maybe should not be to convert the older generations of managers, but to convince them your methods are valid and get them to allow the laser rangefinder/clinometer methodologies to be presented and taught to those people just starting out.

Edward Frank

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#9)  Re: Evolving strategies

Postby DonCBragg » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:15 am

Bob--

I'm not sure what it will take to influence how my agency measures tree heights--some of it is of course worked into the equipment-related expenses, and I'm sure many would argue for the need to maintain "continuity" in how measurements are applied...of course, we know these are just lame excuses and will only serve to perpetuate errors that don't need to be...  I hope that the work we've done on the height measurement improvements will eventually translate into two key opportunities--changes to the USFS Forest Inventory & Analysis (FIA) program, which conducts the national-level inventories of trees and forests, and (hopefully) at least inclusion or mention in all standard forest mensuration texts.  I think this last opportunity will have the biggest impact on changing the forestry profession over, but I also suspect the first opportunity (adoption by FIA) may have to happen first in order to provide the needed momentum.

I'll keep looking for opportunities to promote the sine method as often as I can--I've given talks at a number of measurement-, forestry-, and ecology-based meetings on the technique, and I know of at least one biometrics/measurements professor who had starting teaching the technique (he has since moved up into university administration, however...).

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#10)  Re: Evolving strategies

Postby dbhguru » Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:28 am

Don,

  What you have said makes sense. We are behind you. Let us know of anything we can do to help, e.g. collect data to meet an experimental design that would satisfy the requirements. Consider us your troops. To this end I recently posted an Excel spreadsheet that computes crown-offset. It requires two additional measurements (azimuths to trunk and crown), Then the spreadsheet does the rest. If we all contributed data through this spreadsheet, would it provide you with information of value?

  I've attached the spreadsheet for your review. I'd be pleased to modify it in any way that would make it more useful.

Bob
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