National Geographic : 2009 Oct
are logged roughly every 50 years. When asked if the company was EPIC s next target, Greacen says, "I think we re going to have something to say about short-term, even-age forestry." "HERE WE LOVE even-age forests," says Greg Tem- pleton, one of Green Diamond s veteran forest- ers. "Both redwoods and Doug r grow faster in full sunlight." He was standing on a hot, sunny hillside, watching with pride as a logging crew reduced a 70-year-old stand of 150- to 200-foot redwoods into an organized tangle of slash, limbs, and logs. In the 1990s California reduced the maximum allowable size for a clear-cut from 80 acres to be- tween 20 and 40. e heavy tractors that caused so much erosion have largely been replaced by smaller, lighter shovel loaders---tracked machines that look like old-fashioned steam shovels with an articulated grapple on the end. By picking up entire logs instead of dragging them on the ground, shovel loaders eliminate the erodible skid trails that were the hallmark of Cat logging and the bane of salmon-spawning creeks. For target trees on steep hillsides, for- esters use a cable yarder, a setup that hoists cut logs along a cable running from a tall tower placed at the top of the hill to a massive stump on the opposite slope. According to Templeton, the switch to such machinery, along with fewer, better-built logging roads and mandated bu er zones along streams (where some selective cut- ting is allowed), signi cantly reduces sediment going into salmon-spawning waters. Green Diamond s puzzle-piece forests, with blocks of tightly packed small trees up to 20 years old separated by slivers of older trees in the 150- foot bu er zones around sh-bearing streams, will ultimately provide good wildlife habitat, says Neal Ewald, the company s vice president and general manager. "Fi y years from now 20 per- cent of this landscape will stick up like veins on a maple leaf, with a network of old trees around the streams," he explains. "We re on target to cre- ate the same kind of trees you see in Redwood National Park in a hundred years," to the bene t, he says, of salmon and northern spotted owls. In the early 1990s Green Diamond s senior biologist, Lowell Diller, was among the rst to nd high densities of spotted owls in second- growth forests. His research indicated that the owls can survive in the smaller forests as long as they have enough old snags and large trees with cavities and platforms for nesting. And the mix of young forest blocks of various ages created by clear-cuts provides good habitat for dusky-footed wood rats---the owls favorite prey in California. Diller s ndings helped Green Diamond secure the rst Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for spotted owls from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser- vice in 1992, which allowed the company to con- tinue logging in spotted owl territory as long as they had a plan to maintain a minimum amount of owl habitat. Yet owls have been declining by about 3 percent a year on Green Diamond lands since 2001, Diller says, as they have over much of their range. Part of the problem is a mysterious drop in the wood rat population, as well as increased competition from the more aggressive and adaptable barred owl, which has muscled into the spotted owls territory from the east. Young forests have shown other unintended wildlife consequences. In spring, before ber- ries and acorns come in, black bears depend in part on the sap just under the bark of red- woods and other conifers. They prefer the young, fastest growing trees and have done so much damage to commercial stands that some foresters call them the biggest "pest" in the red- woods. But bears became a problem only when companies began growing trees like a crop. Clear-cutting and Caterpillar logging unleashed a torrent of soil into streams. Salmon runs dwindled, and so did other species.