Timberlands Tomorrow

By Clark, Earl | American Forests, May-June 1990 | Go to article overview

Timberlands Tomorrow


Clark, Earl, American Forests


TIMBERLANDS TOMORROW Industrial foresters hear the winds of change shrieking as they gear up to supply the nation's appetite for wood products in the 21st century.

When America's industrial foresters peer into the crystal ball to foretell what lies ahead in the 21st century, they see a big dark cloud that wasn't there a decade ago. It's a cloud that shapes itself into the letter E. And the E-word is Environmentalism.

"No question about it," says Scott Wallinger, senior vice president of Westcavo Corporation and immediate past president of the American Forestry Association. "Industrial forestry is operating in a new arena. We're dealing today with a population that is better educated, better off financially, and essentially urban. They're concerned with such things as water quality, estuaries, and recreation, and we're going to have to address these environmental issues more aggressively than we have to this point."

On the other side of the country, John McMahon, Weyerhaeuser's vice president in charge of the corporation's 5.6 million acres of timberland and an AFA director, agrees. "Our biggest challenge is convincing the public and its elected officials that the industrial forestlands can be managed for timber production while ensuring a high degree of environmental protection," he says. "Environmental concerns are sure to increase in the decade ahead of us, and our challenge is to achieve full productivity and an economic return to our stockholders while meeting those concerns."

"Industrial foresters are on the firing line," sums up Glenn Wiggins, vice president of Washington state's pioneering Merrill & Ring timber firm. And from New England's north woods to California's redwood country, his colleagues agree that nothing looms more menacingly in the future of industrial forest management that his battle over the environment. And no other factor will have more influence on how industrial forestlands will be managed in the decades to come.

"We're past the point where we're making muddy water," admits Bradford Wyman, woodlands manager of James River Corporation in Berlin, New Hampshire. "And we need to work on limitations on clearcutting, although I don't see how we can eliminate it." All across the nation, industrial forest managers say their companies are having to pay more attention to such matters as erosion control, slash burning, road construction, riparian zones, wildlife habitat, and recreational values.

Even so, few are ready to jump on Jerry Franklin's New Forestry bandwagon (AMERICAN FORESTS, November/December 1989). New Forestry includes such practices as leaving eight to 15 large green trees for each acre of cutover land, leaving behind woody debris rather than burning or chipping it, and bunching clearcuts adjacent to existing cutover areas.

"Franklin has some interesting concepts, but I question if they are applicable to industrial forestlands that have to be managed with economic return as the fundamental consideration," says Weyerhaeuser's McMahon, and that lukewarm concession is about as far as most industrial foresters will go toward accepting Franklin's sweeping proposals.

Yet all the forestry managers I talked with agreed that industry absolutely has to do a better job of getting its story across. (See "Industry Takes Its Show on the Road," page 60.)

"Property ownership is a collection of rights granted by society," Wallinger explains. "But the public concept of these rights is changing. If we aren't willing to change too, we'll get into a tug of war with industry on one end of the rope and everybody else on the other. We just can't win a tug of war unless we get some of the people in the middle to come over and pull with us."

Steve Berntsen, director of an ITT Rayonier limited partnership that controls 400,000 acres of Washington forestland, agrees: "Industrial forest owners will have to make adaptations in their management philosophy. …

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