Influencing The Outcome
Ecological Forestry Today
For three and a half decades, we have worked to prove that our theory of "Ecosystem Forestry, the Ecological Approach", is feasible, and can create a known outcome- healthier, sustainable, forest ecosystems. Though our original intent was only to influence the outcome of our own forest, over time we developed a hope that our example could influence the outcome of forest management on a grander scale.
Growing up on ranches in the southwest as a kid, I had an inbred understanding of the interconnectedness of all living things within an environment. We had to work hard to derive what we needed from the resources present, make use of the abundance that nature provided, be frugal in what we took, and nurture the remainder so that it could continue to produce even more. To me, it was simply our way of life, and it made perfect sense that we should take care of the Earth that we love so much.
My innate understanding of how biology, geology and botany operated, along with good grades in these subjects, enabled me to study "Desert Ecology" in a U of A scholarship program. My eyes were opened to the science of what I understood about nature. Learning Latin names for all the plants & animals, earth functions, and lifeform interactions, was beyond enlightening to me. Combining education and life experience gave me a viewpoint that others could not seem to identify with at all. While I saw myself as a true Earthling, most people just saw me as a strange, reclusive, nature weirdo.
That is, until later, when I met my husband. We were true environmentalists long before it became fashionable. Together, we dreamed and planned of our life and our land, which became reality when we found our beautiful piece of Southern Oregon forestland. While others of our generation protested, complained & talked endlessly about influencing forest management, we decided to walk the path of our beliefs. We were convinced that our ideas regarding ecologically sound management of forests would bring about better results than what was currently practiced, and understood that we could only have real control or influence over land that we owned. So, we backed up our convictions with actions. We abandoned our comfortable life, for one of struggle, self-sufficiency, and endless physical labor. It was also one of fulfillment, discovery, and wonder each precious day.
If you have read our website, book, or articles, you already know what our ideas are regarding ecosystem management. For those who haven't: We view our forest as a grouping of individual ecosystems, and management for the health of these ecosystems is of paramount importance. These ecosystems are comprised of all the myriad living organisms, physical components, landform, solar aspect, weather, water, soil and many other inputs within an area that create an interwoven web of life. Our forest has many individual ecosystems; from wetland & shady riparian areas, to mossy, damp, north aspect slopes & dry, south aspect slopes. Our aim is for these systems to be healthy & capable of sustaining the plethora of native trees, plants & forest creatures in each. For us, sustainablility means what the earth is able to sustain- not what man wants it to sustain. Man will always demand more.
In this area, after generations of logging, forested ecosystems have become out of ecological balance and cannot sustain themselves. They have devolved from conifer forests, to oak /madrone slopes and savannahs. By carefully manipulating natural processes (mimicking those that take place in nature over time) we attempt to accelerate bringing the ecosystems back into balance. We remove unhealthy, insect infested, and damaged trees; Replant tree & shrub species that were native to the area, but which were lost due to human impacts; Thin overstocked areas to allow healthier, larger trees to have more available nutrients, water & sunlight; Remove human debris, such as old cars, junk & trash; Replant & naturalize riparian areas & waterways; Enhance habitat & food sources for wildlife; Prune lower limbs on trees, so that they will not become fire fuel ladders... and many other activities specific and necessary to improve the health of each area, and the forest as a whole.
It has meant hard, solitary work, without incentives; large investments of both time & money; and withstanding the slings & arrows of those who do not understand- nor want to understand, what we are doing. My writings have brought curses, threats, taunts & mocking from both sides of the issue over the years. We have wondered, at times, if the sacrifices were worth it... if we made any lasting difference at all. Of course, just walking through our forest makes it all worthwhile on a personal level. In the past few years, we have been encouraged as we speak to people; see that my writings have been utilized & copied; our website widely visited, linked & referenced as being an authoritative example of sustainable forest management. This gives us hope that others may learn from our experience in our own forest experiment here in our private "nature lab" on the forest farm. If we have influenced the outcome of even one forest ecosystem, we have served our purpose as responsible Earthlings.
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