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11 Introduction Fed by plentiful winter rains and nourished by a mild summer sun, lush temperate rain forests flourish on the Pacific edge of North America. From the cool fog of far northern California, stately Douglas fir ranges north toward Alaska and spans from the western slopes of the Cascades to the ocean. Coast Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii) forests are some of the richest in the United States, both ecologically and economically. American lumber companies began to log these forests in an organized and concerted fashion around the turn of the twentieth century. The wood proved so lucrative that the tree took on new value and meaning for the regional lumber industry, allowing it to grow at a furious rate. The early twentieth century’s massive harvest of the Douglas fir did not happen mindlessly; behind it lay specific decisions made by professional foresters intent on controlling the flow of lumber and the forest itself. These foresters were employed by the government, the logging companies, and the forestry schools of American universities. Despite their academic training, they often worked with very little knowledge or expertise about an undeveloped and little-understood type of forest. The profession of forestry was itself forced to evolve to accommodate the fast-growing Douglas fir industry. The histories of American forests and professional forestry have been locked together for more than a century. The first true foresters in the United States were Europeans who arrived in the late nineteenth century, but the profession took root domestically soon after. As the nation’s lumber activity centered in one or another region, the focus of forest management moved with it. Loggers, empowered by new clear-cutting technology, worked quickly in the Douglas fir, leaving behind denuded hillsides. As the lumber industry of the Northwest became increasingly lucrative, managing logging in that region became a central focus for American foresters. Every ecosystem is unique and presents foresters with different challenges. In the case of the Douglas fir, its unusual attributes would include its dominance as the main species in the forest canopy, unusual physiology, and immense size and height at maturity. The almost impenetrably rugged terrain in which the forest flourished posed challenges too. These Douglas fir forests would prove both interesting to scientific researchers and challenging to loggers. The nascent community of American professional foresters struggled to learn all it could about the Douglas fir while also keeping control of its rapidly escalating harvest. As foresters worked to manage the forest, the federal structure 12 introduction of public forest management, and indeed the very profession of forestry, evolved. An entity that began the century as the small, loosely organized, research-centered Bureau of Forestry became the massive, centrally controlled, economically centered US Forest Service of midcentury. Logging changed too: the cut-out-andget -out logging concerns of 1900 turned into the Tree Farms of the 1940s. The changes on the ground in the Douglas fir reflect the shifts in how foresters did their work and planned for the future. When one walks through a Douglas fir forest today, the traces of the past are evident all around: fire scars, abandoned rail spurs, roadbeds built with New Deal dollars, grid-like stands of second growth. In a place where each tree lives so long, decisions made a lifetime ago may still haunt the forests of the present. To understand why the contemporary forest looks as it does, we need to delve into its past.1 But the freewheeling heyday of Douglas fir logging did not involve just cutting down trees. American professional forestry was shaped by both the ecology of the Douglas fir forest and the realities of its harvest. In every place and era, forestry is grounded in local environmental realities, even as it simultaneously focuses on national—even global—trade and policy. If we want to know why the forests of today look as they do, we must examine the careers of those who set the agendas for American forest management. Aldo Leopold and What We Think We Know about Forestry One of the most studied, and most revered, foresters from the first half of the twentieth century is a man who famously rejected forestry altogether. The former US Forest Service employee Aldo Leopold, in the central essay of A Sand County Almanac, examined the role of ecological understanding in creating a permanent, mutually beneficial relationship between land and people. That essay, “The Land Ethic,” is widely recognized today as the distillation of Leopold...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780870718106
Related ISBN
9780870718090
MARC Record
OCLC
914153343
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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