Restoration Forestry

Restoration Forestry

There has been considerable discussion among foresters in recent decades about what is meant by the terms "restoration forestry," "eco-forestry" and "sustainable forestry."  At a minimum, the implication is that this type of forestry would be much less oriented toward exploitation of forest products, but that it would still produce some high quality timber and other forest values.

In my personal view, the ideal "restored forest" would consist of high quality stands growing the highest value products (veneer logs, grade sawlogs) at moderate rates.  It would be a forest with a mixture of even-aged and uneven-aged stands, and with diversity of age classes.  A wide diversity of wildlife habitats would be conserved and enhanced wherever possible.   

Access would be very good so that low impact harvesting systems could operate efficiently, removing low volumes of selected trees as markets allow.  This of course would require investments in road construction and permanent structures for stream crossings.

There would be very little extraction of tops and firewood/pulp.  All that organic material would be left for wildlife habitat enhancement and to go back into the soil.  Even the low-grade pallet logs and tip logs could be left in the woods.  There would be relatively low volume extraction, but relatively high value extraction. 

There's little doubt that this kind of forestry is possible based on the conditions of some high quality stands that developed either by accident or by intention.  We know that many existing stands can be progressively improved by thinnings to create high quality stands.  We also know that very high quality stands can be created by careful planning of regeneration cuts.

However, many stands which have been high-graded repeatedly will require more drastic treatments to restore them to diverse, productive stands.  The same applies for abandoned pastures that developed in the absence of adequate seed sources.  Such drastic treatments may entail heavy regeneration cuts, and possibly control of undesired regeneration. 

In general, it would seem that restored forests will require intensive management in the early stages of development, often yielding little short-term return, but that such initial sacrifices and/or investments will reduce the need for ongoing management over time.