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Redwood Forest Foundation

Fall 2013 Newsletter

Vegetation Management for Usal Redwood Forest
by Greg Giusti

When I lecture at the UC Berkeley or Davis campuses on the topic of forest management, I often talk to the students about the lingering legacies from past decisions and actions that continue to influence forest development and ecology. These legacies can linger both in the environment and in society and can affect how people view the forest environment and their actions towards it.

The issue of herbicide use in forests is an example of how environmental and social legacies continue to dominate the conversation. Past decisions and uses of herbicides have left a legacy of skepticism in people's perception of how chemicals are used on the landscape. The image of helicopters dropping liquid from the sky is etched in many people's minds. Though such practices are in the past, their social legacy persists.

These concerns and fears are real and are not taken lightly. The debate today centers on very real health and environmental concerns and the "hard science" that cites the absence of empirical data suggesting that modern materials and application techniques limit their impacts to the application site.

Biomass Historical management decisions regarding the Usal Forest left an environmental legacy of nearly 31,000 acres in which tanoak and other non-conifers are choking out the conifers, competing with them for nutrients and light.

To address the social and environmental aspects of community forestry, the RFFI Board has elected to not use forest herbicides to manage competing vegetation for the next three years. Instead it will use more costly non-chemical techniques, i.e., manual cutting, mastication, etc.

Over the course of the three years, RFFI will evaluate the costs and effectiveness of these methods of arresting competing vegetation. Evaluation criteria will most likely include worker safety issues, costs, and seedling response (growth). Herein lies the greater social and environmental struggle of the North Coast as the past continues to haunt the forest condition and the minds of those attempting to right the wrongs of the past.

Greg Giusti is the UC Forest Advisor for Mendocino County, chair of the Usal Forest Management Committee and an ex-officio member of the Board of Directors.

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