Our forests are under siege. Climate change, drought, insect infestations and wildfires are devastating what’s left of our old and second growth forests.

Some consider clearcutting a viable forestry management option. Forest conservation if you will.

Image courtesy of Debra Atlas

With clearcutting, every tree is removed, regardless of size, from an area. This can create environmental hazards including land degradation and destruction of local rivers and streams. Lost tree shade means increased water temperatures, which can devastate native fish, plants and amphibians. Without trees, water won’t fill the aquifers, becoming runoff. Heavy rain washes topsoil away, its nutrients carried out to sea where they may harm marinelife.

There’s a growing need for stewardship and better land management practices.

Land stewardship – used throughout the world as a tool for conservation and nature and biodiversity management – partners public and private groups in supporting users and land owners to responsibly manage and protect land and natural resources. Stewardship involves managing natural resources to meet the needs of the present without compromising the future. It’s reforestation with conservation, enhancing air and soil quality, fostering biological diversity, wildlife habitat, recreation and aesthetics.

Calls for sustainable land stewardship are creating a new breed of land developer, one committed to sustainable land development.

Image courtesy Jamie Francis , Oregonian
Image courtesy Jamie Francis , Oregonian

Terry Mock, co-founder of the Sustainable Land Development Initiative, is working to create a model of sustainable land use – one based around the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit – in a small southern Oregon town.

For generations, Port Orford’s economy had been centered around the dwindling timber, fishing, and ranching industries. Fishing and clearcutting were a way of life and the primary income.

Realizing that change was needed, in 2006 citizens in Port Orford formed the non-profit Port Orford Ocean Resource Team (POORT). This morphed into the Port Orford Community Stewardship Area. This covers 1,320 square miles – 385 miles of terrestrial and 935 square miles of ocean habitat, encompassing traditional fishing grounds and upland watersheds.

Mock’s sustainability model involves sustainable forest harvesting, agriculture, grazing, education and sustainable tourism. His land development program has been approved by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

For his pilot program, Mock purchased Ocean Mountain Ranch – 163 acres of forested land – – as a legacy family land trust. Located between an ocean marine reserve and a wild, scenic river wilderness area, OMR overlooks 30 miles of Pacific Oceanfront and Humbug Mountain State Park, which features the largest remaining old growth forest on the West coast.

“These forests offer a wealth of ecosystem services and resources,” says Mock. But it’s all dependent on clean water and air, he said.

“Trees provide a huge filter system for the air we breathe and our waterways and oceans,” Mock said.

Mock has teamed up with David Milarch and Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, who have cloned some of the oldest giant champion redwoods and sequoias, giving them a new life. In early 2013, Milarch and Mock planted four acres of these 2,000 to 3,000 year old trees on Ranch property.

This was “assisted migration” – moving the trees to where they will more comfortably face a future of climate change while preserving their genetic diversity.

Biodiversity is crucial to sustainable forest and land management. Mock is planting a diverse native forest, with Douglas firs, Port-Orford and Western red cedars, Western hemlock, pine, and various hardwoods. This will create an old-fashioned mosaic of groves which should produce a healthy resilient forest that will last for generations.

Sustainable land stewardship will bring new economic opportunities to small communities such as Port Orford.  By carefully preserving the beauty of these areas, an influx of small businesses and tourism will be attracted to them, which will help lift small communities out of economic depression. Supporting Nature’s on-going recovery with sustainable land stewardship is a win all around.

Feature image courtesy Schub@

By Debra Atlas

As an environmental journalist, blogger, professional speaker and radio personality, Debra Atlas lights the way to let consumers discover exciting, useful green products that won’t make their checkbooks implode. A member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, she is a frequent contributor to environmentally focused publications and conferences.