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Old-growth Policy

Diane Vosick, Ecological Restoration Institute
David M Ostergren, Northern Arizona University School of Forestry
Lucy Murfitt

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Abstract

Most federal legislation and policies (e.g., the Wilderness Act, Endangered Species Act, National Forest Management Act) fail to speak directly to the need for old-growth protection, recruitment, and restoration on federal lands. Various policy and attitudinal barriers must be changed to move beyond the current situation. For example, in order to achieve the goal of healthy old growth in frequent-fire forests, the public must be educated regarding the evolutionary nature of these ecosystems and persuaded that collaborative action rather than preservation and litigation is the best course for the future of these forests. Land managers and policy makers must be encouraged to look beyond the single-species management paradigm toward managing natural processes, such as fire, so that ecosystems fall within the natural range of variability. They must also see that, given their recent evidence of catastrophic fires, management must take place outside the wildland–urban interface in order to protect old-growth forest attributes and human infrastructure. This means that, in some wilderness areas, management may be required. Land managers, researchers, and policy makers will also have to agree on a definition of old growth in frequent-fire landscapes; simply adopting a definition from the mesic Pacific Northwest will not work. Moreover, the culture within the federal agencies needs revamping to allow for more innovation, especially in terms of tree thinning and wildland fire use. Funding for comprehensive restoration treatments needs to be increased, and monitoring of the Healthy Forest Initiative and Healthy Forest Restoration Act must be undertaken.

Key words

diameter caps; federal employee liability; institutional barriers; Mexican spotted owl; northern goshawk; preservationist philosophy; public education; wildland fire use
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087