Intensive management – can the South really live without it?
Over the past five years, the public and private sectors have debated the future of forest management and its implications for the next century. In the public sector, resource managers have debated the meaning and significance of "ecosystem management," a term coined in 1992 by then-Forest Service Chief F. Dale Robertson; he suggested that this approach to forest management would "blend the needs of people and environmental values in such a way that the National Forests and Grasslands represent diverse, healthy, productive, and sustainable ecosystems." Resource managers in the private sector have also debated among themselves and with their counterparts in the public sector about ecosystem management. The forest products industry’s dominant view is that ecosystem management is a process with different meanings and applications, which are based on ownership and objectives.
Within the private sector, debate also has focused on the traditional application of multiple-use forestry, using the principles of sustainable forest management. Sustainability as defined by industry is about more than assuring a sustainable timber supply; it is also about sustaining the full spectrum of forest values.
Among the most prominent questions in the debates about ecosystem management and sustainability has been the role that intensive management plays as an element of a broader, nationwide forest management philosophy. The clearest advantages of plantations are immediate occupancy of a deforested site, rapid growth, and high yield. Extensive use of plantations can contribute significantly to the South’s fiber supply over time. Intensively managed plantations may provide most of the world’s demand for wood pulp or construction material. However, intensive management has its detractors. There are major concerns about adverse environmental effects that result from harvesting, site preparations, use of herbicides, reforestation with a single species resulting in a "monoculture" using genetically improved seedlings and reliance on short rotation lengths. Concerns also exist about the effects of clearcutting a stand within the context of a larger area – a "forest fragmentation" effect. Some suggest that the South can live without intensive management. In this paper, the authors will attempt to show that, in the context of southern forestry, intensive management is of great economic importance and can be applied in ways that have a sound ecological basis.