Jul 10 2018

Forestry in a changing world: Terry's thoughts

By Terry Campbell

Late last month I spent an amazing two days at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, at the Northwest Natural Resource Group (NNRG) conference on ‘Forestry for resilience, carbon storage, and wood products in a changing world.’  Along with another 80 or so attendees, I learned about many interesting scientific research projects that are currently taking place to determine the survivability and role of our Western forests in a warmer world with increased CO2 in the atmosphere.   

To be honest, being a humble sustainable wood products salesperson, these presentations challenged me and forced me to broaden my understanding of contemporary forestry.  However, sometimes it is important to dive into the deep end of a subject and struggle to better understand the complex world in which we live.  

The conference started with Dr. Jerry Franklin, of the University of Washington, who set the tone when he stated, “Today, we are going to talk about how we can manage [forests] for resiliency, carbon storage and wood products. How the hell are we going to do all that?”  

I went to this conference to answer the same question.  How can we continue to improve forest ecosystem health and biodiversity on a planet where the climate is changing, and which has a high risk of being overpopulated?  

Sadly, not all my questions were answered, nor were my fears soothed, but I did walk away with a growing curiosity about the future of these complex ecosystems, and an appreciation for them that compels me to learn more.

The highlights of the conference were a walk in the Capitol State Forest with a panel of forestry experts to view the Blue Ridge Unit.  The Blue Ridge Unit is a section of forest that is being used by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to research various forestry and silvicultural practices and better understand the benefits and detractors from different methods. Many of the topics that flew over my head in the morning sessions were much easier to understand once we were walking in the woods.  

That evening, Emma Marris, the author of Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World, opened my eyes to the possibility that some of my preconceived notions, which are widely shared with others, are foolish. One such foolish notion is that ecosystems should be properly managed to be returned to a pre-European utopia when flora and fauna was more in balance. Rather than aiming to return ecosystems to a state that, with our changing climate and other modern variables, will likely never occur again, I learned that a smarter approach may be to manage those ecosystems for a future where the planet is warmer and overcrowded.  

This change in perspective is the result of spending two days learning from scientists, foresters, ecologists and other professionals at NNRG’s great conference!