The Relationship Between Old-Growth Forests and Public Land in Oregon

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Previously here on eachandeverypeace.com, I touched a little bit on the stand to defend public lands in America and the diverse crowd it as brought together. Most of you know that one of my biggest interests these past few years has been the study of trees. Because of my passion for trees, especially the big guys, I felt like this post would be a nice contribution to the growing library of posts I have on here. While old-growth logging is not exactly an “issue” at the moment, the selling of public lands is and unfortunately, the two are related.

Old-growth is classified as a stand of forest usually about 180 years old and up. Old-growth forests are often recognized based on their varying canopy layers (or structural heterogeneity) and rich biodiversity. In terms of ecological services, old-growth plays a role in the purification of nearby watersheds, supportive vegetation for wildlife in neighboring areas, carbon sequestration, and ecosystem biodiversity. Basically, mature forests act as our water and air purification system and support ecosystem biodiversity through providing specific vegetation for animals, but also an environment for slow growing vegetation within the forest canopy to thrive and remain a valuable piece of the ecological pyramid. For example, some lichen varieties take 25 years just to grow a matter of centimeters! So what does all this have to do with public lands in Oregon?

 

A representation of Oregon old-growth and the biodiversity thereof, photographed on public land in the Oregon coast range.

The relationship between public land and old-growth in the state of Oregon is simply that nearly all of our old-growth forests remain on public land. Unless old-growth groves are purchased by conservation or preservation driven non-profits, when these lands are sold they are logged for the purpose of profit or general land clearing for development of some kind. While logging is a necessary and very important part of societal well being, some logging processes leave soils in a state of never being able to support an old-growth ecosystem ever again, even if left for hundreds of years.

 

A representation of a replanted section after having been logged, on public land in the Oregon coast range.

And so if we believe in old-growth forests, we must believe in the fight for our public lands. Since Oregon’s statehood, 1,600,000 acres of our original 3,500,000 acres has been sold to private parties which means we have lost access to recreate on over 1.5 million acres of land. Whether you simply like to hike, camp, fish, ride, hunt, climb etc. on our public lands, we now only have 1,900,000 acres to do so on. That’s less than 1/2 an acre of public land per Oregonian. What we have left is precious and should be fought for in terms of all recreation purposes, not just for old-growth.

We all have a reason for caring about our public lands and this is one of mine. What’s yours? Speak up! Let representatives, organizations and those who have the power of the pen hear your voice through sharing your public land stories and values.

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