Saving old growth forests step by step

Forests provide important natural resources for animals and humans from timber to paper to medicinal wmpondersa000191cplants to helping purify our water and build soil for all living things to thrive on..  They purify the air we breathe, help to improve the quality and quantity of freshwater supplies, and stabilize soil to prevent erosion.  Many of the world’s most endangered and exotic animals depend on the forests for their survival along with 60 million indigenous people depending on forests for their subsistence and worldwide an estimated 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods.

Ninety-five percent of the Southwest’s old growth forests have been cut down in the past century. Perched on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Kaibab Plateau is home to the greatest remaining density and distribution of these ancient pines and the species that depend upon them for survival,” states Dave Sherman, the campaign coordinator.(1)

Every year, the world loses nearly 36 million acres of natural forest – an area roughly the size of New York State.

Preserving and restoring the old growth forest biome, its plants and animals depend on taking corrective steps:

1. Identifying , then stopping or modifying the causes of ecological degradation

2. Re-establishing the natural processes like natural fires, floods, and predator-prey relationships that sustain and renew ecosystems over time.
Even if all remaining wildlands in the United States were protected today, species would decline without an unyielding ecosystem defense and tenacious endangered species protection, an effective restoration strategy is critical to addressing the extinction crisis.

An example of determination and dedication to save old growth forests
The Southwestern ponderosa pine forests once stately old-growth cathedrals frequented by grass fires are often today biologically impoverished thickets of small trees, the legacy of more than a century of livestock grazing, industrial logging, fire suppression, and predator control. In addition to our on-the-ground efforts to safely restore beneficial fires in these forests, restoration actions in southwestern forests include winning protection for the Mexican spotted owl, northern goshawk, and reintroduction of Mexican gray wolf as a top predator. Thank you-Mother Nature

Projects involving small-tree thinning, prescribed burning, erosion control, and road removal are aimed at developing policy guidelines that will set rigorous standards for management in ponderosa pine forests and ultimately all publicly owned forests in the West. Along with local and regional allies, we’re developing both general and site-specific restoration prescriptions.

In our broader forest restoration program, we’ve prepared a series of Geographic Information Systems maps on land uses within Forest Service Region 3; the Center is using GIS technology to analyze the effects of the government’s fire-reduction program on sensitive species and develop comprehensive recommendations for alternatives to the harmful practices that are now standard in forest management. We’ve instigated an exhaustive review of photographic archives to understand historical conditions in ponderosa pine. In 1996, along with our allies at the Southwest Forest Alliance, the Center produced an historical review of ponderosa pine based on early forest surveys conducted in the region. Presettlement Conditions of Ponderosa Pine Forests in the American Southwest remains the most comprehensive look at the subject to date.

Fire and Ecosystem Health
Fire is a natural, vital component of most western forest ecosystems. In dry forest types like ponderosa pine, fire was historically present as a frequent, low-intensity disturbance. Fire is necessary for the health of forests, which have evolved to depend on fires to clean out underbrush and maintain biological diversity. Dead trees serve as important wildlife habitat and contribute to the nutrient cycle, and patches of dead trees allow for forest succession. Even stand-replacing fires have historically occurred at some level in almost every forest type in the West. Unfortunately, the fires of recent years have been burning large areas with relatively high severity, as well as burning into communities.

“Other Interventions employed in restoration vary widely among projects, depending on the extent and duration of past disturbances, cultural conditions that have shaped the landscape, and contemporary constraints and opportunities. In the simplest circumstances, restoration consists of removing or modifying a specific disturbance, thereby allowing ecological processes to bring about an independent recovery. For example, removing a dam allows the return of an historical flooding regime. In more complex circumstances, restoration may also require the deliberate reintroduction of native species that have been lost, and the elimination or control of harmful, invasive exotic species to the greatest practicable extent. Often, ecosystem changes have multiple, protracted causes.

A long tern comprehensive approach agreed to by all parties involved is needed. Ecological restoration aims to initiate or facilitate the resumption of those processes which will return the ecosystem to its historic wellness if possible. Ideally  the restored ecosystem can manage itself but often requires continuing management to counteract the invasion of opportunist species, the impacts of various human activities, climate change, and other unforeseeable events.

Although ecosystem restoration and ecosystem management form a continuum and often employ similar sorts of intervention, ecological restoration aims at assisting or initiating recovery, whereas ecosystem management is intended to guarantee the continued well-being of the restored ecosystem thereafter.”(2)



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