Some actual facts about old growth forest

by Brain Gossett

Pittsboro, NC – After reading the multitude of posts on clear cutting and old growth forests and all of the associated claims being made, I thought it might be useful to share some actual facts.

An old growth forest is a forest that has attained great age “without significant disturbance.” Sadly there is not much of that type forest that remains in the Eastern US. Check out this list of old growth forests. None of these forests are in or near Chatham county. Our trees have typically been “harvested” multiple times either by nature or man.

Duke forestMany of the claims made recently about about the relative biodiversity of each type of forest sound emotional rather than based on fact. Clearly, there is a richness of flora and fauna found in true old growth forests, but there is also biodiversity in Chatham county forests. There is an impact when trees are cut, but nature has amazing powers of recovery and regeneration. Consider West Virginia. During a drive along Interstates 81 or 77, one passes through dense forests, yet almost that entire state was clear cut during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Check out this article and the pictures.

Secondary forests typically were thought to lack biodiversity compared to primary forests, however this has been challenged in recent years.

I am an avid backpacker and enjoy spending time in forests with large trees and few people. I am not a fan of those areas of the state that have been clear cut and left as ugly scars. While these scars will eventually regrow, I prefer when land owners replant. Land owners who do so are practicing good stewardship.

I recommend visiting the Joyce Kilmer Memorial near Robbinsville, NC. There are two large relatively accessible groves of huge trees (six to seven feet thick and well over a hundred feet tall). The trail is about 1.25 miles long and well worth the walk. (There are benches for resting.) The huge ferns and rhododendrons that make up a lot of the underbrush will give you the sense that hobbits and dwarves may live there.