Deforestation, Reforestation, and Afforestation

Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek


Deforestation, Reforestation, and Afforestation


The continuous evolution of digital technology across written, audio, and pictorial media has resulted in each medium of expression having an ever-improving capability to create and to share our personal expressions of gratification.  That is to say, if we wish to share things, we have by virtue of video, camera, tape recordings, and written text, the ability to create live-action films, pictorial mementos, the sweet sounds of music, and the voices of our loved ones.  We can re-create endearing words of our own heartfelt feelings; and these days we have the tools to do it ourselves. 
Video of animated, active children tells us a story, whether or not we know or understand the story we see on film.  Still photos also tell us a story, although the animation and action may be missing.  Tape recordings contain the sounds of the action and the dialogue of those who are the subject of the recordings.  And written text communicates the personal views of the person writing the text.  When you put them all together, all of the media enable us to communicate with others in ways that are more sophisticated than we perhaps realize.
If the main purposes of communication are: To Instruct…To Inform…To Entertain, then each medium of the modern forms of communication are sharp tools created to do our bidding.  Perhaps the oldest medium and the most ubiquitous tool is the written word.  It is also the most versatile in many ways because modern word processing technology allows practitioners to blend in photos and videos into communiques with others.  In addition, the written word allows the writer to explain the content of videos and photos that may not be apparent to others.  Internal editors within computer programs also allow for additions and edits to the text, to further explain or clarify the text.  In the case of recordings, the written text allows the writer to interpret the words and the sounds on the recording, if that is necessary.
As a forester, the subject of good forest and land management has always been the compass by which I am guided.  To the layman who only observes the state of affairs of environmental circumstances by a cursory or passing viewing of snapshots or short documentary videos, an underlying analysis or the pros and cons of land management may never rise to the level of contemplation beyond what is offered in the photos or videos, themselves.  That is the bailiwick of the professional land manager.  But without transmitting a clear understanding of what is good management, what is bad management, and what proposed improvements might look like, land managers are constrained in their ability to secure the financial and administrative support needed to maximize their effectiveness. All too often, that support is tied directly or indirectly to political encouragement and backing at the local, state and national levels.  When it comes to support at the national level, the needed resources are almost exclusively tied to political support, from which financial backing flows.  Or not. 
To a typical layman, some environmental issues pique their interest by way of verbal comments. Standalone comments, as filters through which the issues migrate upward or downward in seeming importance, do; however, weigh on where the issues land on the scale of national priorities.  Land management issues may be vitally important in the scheme of national or even global priorities, but public opinion and survey polls have a way of distorting their actual significance.
Going beyond the philosophical background of forest and land management practices as intellectual precedents, the pedestrian viewpoint may always be the controlling stimulus.  A few raw observations may be used as examples. DEFORESTATION is bad for the environment.  REFORESTATION is good for the environment.  AFFORESTATION is an unknown land management practice, thus does not rise to the level of significant interest in polling results.  In general, most people might agree with those findings but land managers must take careful stock what is actually meant by deforestation, reforestation, and afforestation; and then tailor their approaches to minimize the negative aspects and maximize the positives.  The long, involved process is not as obvious as it might seem. 
For example, cutting down trees in the tropics or elsewhere does not equate to deforestation.  It could mean selective harvesting of forest products, with a view to improving existing stands and with the goal of sustainable yields in the future.


Are these sawn logs a part of a logging operation or an indication of deforestation?


Reforestation is generally regarded as a good thing, but there have been plenty of cases wherein the choice of species used in reforestation have proven to be unsuccessful, ill-suited to the climates or the soils where they were planted, or incompatible with the needs and/or wants of the local populations regarding their expectations.   Land managers must first obtain support for reforestation efforts but then must be successful to a sufficient degree if they are ever going to attract future administrative, financial, and political support.


Private companies and landowners who own the land and pay taxes on them are inclined to replant and replenish. The old adage that if you cut a tree you should plant a tree, has been followed for decades. Statistics from some commercial forestry operations in the United States show that for every tree cut, there are 11 or more trees planted to replace them. That is an example of recycling.  Recycling also applied in other countries that deal with forest management issues.

But we don't support recycling just to "save" trees.  Unlike nonrenewable materials like coal and oil, we can always grow more trees.  And we do.  Last year, forest landowners planted nearly 1.7 billion seedlings and managed the natural generation of millions of other trees--creating two and half million acres of new, growing forest.  Which means:  In the United States, at least, for decades, we've been growing more wood than is harvested or lost to insects and disease.  As a result, since the beginning of the 1980s, America's total forest base has actually increased by 27 million acres.




            There are many benefits to reforestation




Afforestation is becoming increasingly popular in desert lands.


Anything that can be said about deforestation and modern large-scale campaigns of reforestation might also have a common link to afforestation.  By definition, afforestation is the process of re-establishing forest and/or shrubs to land that previously contained forests and shrubs, or was never vegetated. Thus, choosing the species that meet societal needs, ideally on a sustainable basis and within the context of the present-day biological imperatives of climate, soils and population pressures are huge challenges.  The factors that caused the land to become deforested in the past may be the same ones that newly afforested land may face in the future, not least of which are the demands made on the land by uncontrolled access by humans and grazing animals. 

Smoke Along The Rubicon Trail
The Merry Cherry Farm, Williamston, NC

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