The forests of the Mattole River's largest tributaries, the North Forks, have many lovers; a remote, wild beauty, a long history as prodigious fish habitat, and more recently as a war zone during the MAXXAM era, have given them great charisma. These forests are now mostly owned by Humboldt Redwood Company, and recently two HRC foresters graciously escorted three truckloads of Mattole residents and young students worried about the climate crisis out to learn about the company's timber harvest plans.
The fate of oaks, as described in the NCJ article "March of the Conifers" (April 28) was the subject of much agitated discussion. We saw tanoak, a beech with oak characteristics. HRC regards them as weeds. The visitors, challenging this disrespect, argued that tanoaks support the entire web of life of the forest. An average mature tanoak produces 200 pounds of nuts every other year. Old-growth trees can produce 1,000 pounds. Insects boring into the nuts provide bird food. Mammals, like woodrats, bears, deer and pigs, eat the nuts. Then spotted owls, goshawks, wildcats, coyotes eat them.
Tanoak is more fire-resistant than Douglas fir. Tall ones condense fog, adding to the water table. Fallen leaves and nuts enrich the soil. Deep roots stabilize steep hillsides in torrentially rainy places like the Mattole. HRC, however, wants them suppressed to less than 15 percent on their lands. Though leaving some big ones, they will not recruit more. Worse, the company plans to poison the tanoaks with Imazepyr, an herbicide which has a long half-life and high mobility potential.
Our HRC escorts heard us out courteously. But corporate forestry management is market-driven and legislation cannot sidestep this contradiction, stop the march of the conifers or bequeath to our grandchildren the healthy forests, fish runs and clear waters we inherited from our parents.
Ellen Taylor, Petrolia
Good thing I didn't call out Linda Stansberry last week on "genuses" after she flaunted her mastery of Latin plurals with Quercus (in a dubious construction). Three nitpicking letters in one issue would have been too much.
Susan Nolan, McKinleyville