Ecoforestry is the practice of growth and harvest of forest products from a true forest ecosystem with the intent of maintaining a constant and sustainable yield over many years. Basic to ecoforestry is respect for the four cornerstones of forestry -- air, water, sunlight and soil. Each of these building blocks is severely compromised by clearcut and plantation forestry as it is practiced today. (Chris Maser, 1988, Restoration Forestry)

A sustainable forest ecosystem is one that provides a wide range of functions in addition to providing harvestable forest products. It is a forest that has vertical thickness and many layers of vegetation, diversity of types of vegetation and habitats, a forest floor of water absorbing humus, dead and dying as well as young and growing trees, snags and downed logs, and a balance of insects.

A visit to The Ecoforestry School at Windhorse Farm provides insight to some of the key concepts of a system where forestry is viewed as a science but practiced as an art. (R.R. 2 New Germany, Nova Scotia, B0R 1E0 Fax: 902-543-9950)

Slow Grading: Slow grading as opposed to high grading, low grading or Silviculture is practiced here. Essentially, slow grading maintains the thickness of the forest by not harvesting the tallest and best trees that are valuable for their genetic contribution. It does not harvest trees that are the smallest because they have a low value-to-biomass ratio and are better left for their ecologic value. It does not harvest trees that are one of a kind in an area to maintain species diversity. Trees not meeting the above exclusions for harvest are examined by clumps; in any clump the trees with the fastest growth as indicated by crown/trunk development are taken. When in doubt, a tree is left.

Harvesting: There is no waste in the forest. The ecology of the forest is as important as the immediate economic return of the harvest so both must be considered in tree selection and the practice of felling. Trees are cut and milled in the forest. The slash is left in the forest and may be used as brush hedges or sheet mulch. The sawdust is returned to the forest floor or used to construct roads. Use of machinery is limited and use of horses is maximized.

Patching: The forest is diverse and made up of varied patterns of tree covers. Some areas are thick and dense, some areas are trees felled by a wind storm, other areas have been opened by harvest, yet others are filled with small saplings reaching and competing for light. This is the patchwork of the forest. It is not a uniform stand but is diverse with many habitats and microenvironments. In ecoforestry this patching is observed and emulated to create a sustainable forest.

Meditation: The forest is respected. When people go into the forest they do it with a sense of the spirit of the forest. Besides a place in which to gain a harvest of products it is also a place to renew ones' self and ones' connection to nature. Quite places are kept and respected and meditation huts are built to honor the place. Trees are not the only product of a forest.

Chris Maser offers an approach to restoration of forests that must occur for ecoforestry practices to prevail.

•1) We must shift our focus from products to the forest;

•2) We must balance the energy we remove from the forest in products by allowing the forest time to repair its processes and reinvest nutrients -- some of the product capital -- into itself in a way that is available to the next forest. And we must simultaneously minimize and account for cumulative effects or we will alter plant communities in ways we do not want;

•3) We must accept and learn to manage in long-term trends, which means industry must be flexible and accountable to the forest that produces raw materials;

•4) Given a chance, the most desirable successional stage will probably recur, and the probability is higher in some areas than others. It is therefore wise to carefully select areas for different intensities of management and harvest based on the sustainability of the forest at the selected level of harvest;

•5) We must develop practices appropriate for the management of our forest and cease trying to force incompatible practices onto our forest;

•6) We must practice landscape management with the aid of satellites; and

•7) In humility we must accept Nature as our teacher.
(Restoration Forestry, pg. 181-182)

 

Ecoforestry

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