Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scandinavian Forestry

Pine trees mixed with oaks, maples, and other production confers and hardwoods. They grow on wood lots, true wood lots, no more than a hundred acres at a time.  Between them are cows and barns in fields, homes with rural parks and football fields for the youth and intramural leagues.  Finally, I see a pick-up truck, a Toyota, but a truck none the less.  Silvicultures vary in Sweden and Norway, anything from seed-tree seed step, shelter wood prep steps, commercial and pre-commercial thinning, and single tree selection.  All scattered in view sheds designated for the railroad.  This is forestry on a pure farming basis, removed from our feel good forestry in California.  Give these men and women a dangle-head single grip harvester to chop, limb, and buck.  Or give them an International harvester for the wheat and grains growing in the adjacent fields of their wood lots. 

Not all site is created equal. Flat rocky expanses of scrubby pine lay below the dense stands of confers on the rich foothill slopes.  A stand of manicured 15 year old Douglas-fir sticks out like a sore thumb in the endless pine.  They have been planted within a 50+ acre clear-cut. A small 300 foot buffer extends between the plantation and the railroad tracks could've fooled a less discerning eye.  Then homes, steep pitched roofs, more welcoming pick-ups, and a broadcast over the train intercom welcoming us into Norway.  I attempt not to scoff at the low productivity of their timber land.  I have not been away from the Pacific Northwest long enough to ignore the differences.  They have beautiful trees and great management difficulties that a Californian forester never needs to ponder.  From my view in the train, I can imagine everything covered in snow and ice, a world outside the reach of a Fanny Trekkers arsenal.  High school students gossip can be heard a few seats in front of me, their words are indistinguishable, but familiar.  I highly doubt they are discussing the forested view we are passing.  But, that is the whole idea, to make it unnoticeable; at least to the untrained eye.  It is my curse as a forester to not see beyond the forest at the beauty of an individual tree.


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