Redwood Forest Foundation
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.
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.
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.