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Wildlife

We Sea Ranchers are not the only inhabitants of this land. One of the aspects of a forest, in particular, is the wildlife that inhabits it and forms a vital part of its ecosystem.

Logging, especially modern logging involving heavy equipment, is a severe disturbance of the forest environment and disrupts the lives of the creatures that inhabit it. As the NTMP itself puts it (p. 146): “Potential negative impacts to wildlife habitat, associated with timber harvesting, include the alteration or destruction of nests, dens, migration routes and essential cover.” Noise and the additional presence of humans in the forest are not mentioned, but they are also obvious disruptive factors.

The NTMP follows this admission with an assurance that “species of concern” are protected by various mitigation measures.

But these negative impacts are not limited to “species of concern.” All forest wildlife will be affected. And, as with erosion, to provide mitigation for a harm is not the same (nor is it as good) as avoiding that harm. Mitigation is worth pursuing when a harm is unavoidable. But there is nothing unavoidable about logging this forest which was meant to be a preserve. Thus, we are contemplating gratuituous harm to the wildlife in our forest.

Wildlife Habitat

One of the stated goals of the NTMP (p 73) is “Restoring and improving wildlife habitat.” But there is very little to back up this claim, if anything. The NTMP purports to address this (p 74) as follows:

The proposed selective timber harvest encourages and protects wildlife by creating an all aged, multi-storied stand, which is capable of providing refuge to more species than an even aged stand could.

We have no quarrel with the claim that an even-aged stand is inferior habitat. But our forest is not an even-aged stand, as the NTMP itself acknowledges (see the Forest Health discussion). The above claim is therefore irrelevant at best, dishonest at worst.

To the credit of the NTMP planners, there is much attention to preserving important habitat components, notably snags (standing dead trees), at least in the current draft. This change from the previously published draft was thanks to the intervention of Diane Hichwa, a Sea Rancher with extensive natural-history expertise, who was alarmed at the declared intent of an earlier draft to drastically reduce snag density. While preserving existing snags as habitat is good, it does not constitute an improvement in habitat.

Because of the cyclic, ongoing nature of the logging proposed in the NTMP, there may over time be degradation of habitat in spite of the effort to retain existing habitat components. Cooperrider et al note that “many terrestrial vertebrates surviving in managed (i.e., ‘cutover’) forest stands may be there largely because of the legacies remaining from unmanaged forests. ... These observations leave us to wonder what will happen to native wildlife over subsequent, short rotations as the structural legacies from the natural forest gradually return to the soil.”

“Short rotations” seem an apt description of logging a given section of our forest again every ten to sixteen years.

Fragmentation Effects

Logging involves both direct fragmentation of the forest (by creating openings in the canopy) and indirect fragmentation (by infrastructure work to widen and clear roads, and clear old skid trails).

According to Cooperrider et al, “Foresters and wildlife managers have often claimed that logging and creation of edge effects is good for wildlife, but in fact, many native species are sensitive to fragmentation and increase in the amount of edge habitat.”

Trombulak et al. specifically studied the effects of fragmentation caused by roads, and found many negative impacts. While some of those do not apply to the kind of restricted road use proposed for logging the central forest, several do:

Roads alter animal behavior by causing changes in home ranges, movement, reproductive success, escape response, and physiological state. Roads change soil density, temperature, soil water content, light levels, dust, surface waters, patterns of runoff, and sedimentation ... Roads promote the dispersal of exotic species by altering habitats, stressing native species, and providing movement corridors.

Although most of the roadways proposed for logging the NTMP are not new, the widening, rocking, and clearing of old roads (particularly those that had been allowed to become narrow trails) can be expected to have some of these negative effects.

Invertebrates

We are used to thinking primarily of terrestrial wildlife as birds and mammals, and to a lesser extent amphibians and reptiles. To the extent that the NTMP discuses the effects of logging operations on wildlife (it considers only endangered or threatened species), it follows this common prejudice: it devotes the most discussion to birds and mammals, and mentions a few amphibians and one reptile.

But it turns out that the wildlife that is most important in the redwood-forest ecosystem is of a class we rarely consider (and the NTMP considers only to mention three butterflies): invertebrates. This is not an esoteric academic issue; invertebrates are the primary soil-building mechanism in redwood forests. As Cooperrider et al put it, “Forest invertebrates and their activities drive many key ecological processes, including control of decomposition processes and nutrient cycles, checking epizootic outbreaks, catalyzing natural disturbance and successional processes, and regulating growth and reproductive success of fungi, plants, and vertebrates.”

What does logging do to this invertebrate community?

According to the same source, “Selective logging of redwood forests can significantly alter guild structure, abundance, and diversity of invertebrates for long periods of time.” They note in particular that “predisturbance species composition may be absent even fifteen years after logging”. (This observation is from work by Hoekstra et al., which specifically studied the effects of selectively logging coast redwood forests.)

Since the NTMP contemplates renewed logging of each section after an interval of only ten to sixteen years, it is in effect proposing permanent damage to this essential, soil-building ecosystem component.

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