Defining Old Growth
|Lisha Kill Forest Preserve
leads the way into an Ancient Forest
PHOTO: DYarrow 12/1/01
Unique Values of Ancient Forests
Bruce Kershner, September 2002
Some foresters dismiss old growth forests, claiming these ancient tree communities have no economic value while uncut, or they call them "over mature" or "wasted timber." But wood products are not the only economic value of trees. These magnificent and primeval forests offer different classes of virtues. Ancient forests possess economic value in their uncut, unmanaged condition, as a permanent, long-term tourist and recreation-business resource. Cutting down a "Legacy Forest" or a "Champion Tree" for the short-term profit is a skewed and destructive way to treat an irreplaceable natural treasure.
- Ancient Forests contain the oldest, tallest and largest living things, attributes worthy in their own right.
- Ancient Forests are living historic monuments since they preserve the original landscape. They are the only place where you can see (and walk through!) the last surviving landscapes of the pre-European Native American era. They are part of our irreplaceable legacy.
- Ancient Forests are a source of enduring beauty and aesthetics, and are sought after as a source or model for art, photography, poetry and literature. Ancient Forests are one of the top five most admired Nature scenes, according to national surveys of the public. Old Growth Forests are one of the most popular nature scenes to appear on calendars, post cards, and photographs.
- Ancient Forest cathedral settings and hushed primeval forest create places for inspiration and communing with the Creator. They teach lessons of wisdom about recycling, life and death, symbiosis, timelessness and the Eternal. They are indeed majestic examples of the "Lord's Creation."
- Ancient Forests provide pristine places for people to renew themselves and receive therapeutic benefits by getting away from the stresses of daily life.
- Ancient Forests provide habitats for numerous rare and endangered animals and plants, many of which have few other places to live. There are Eastern U.S. 56 species of wildlife that prefer, or thrive best in, very mature or old growth forests. They are the home for the highest proportion of threatened and rare species. At least 60 species of plants are found nowhere else except in Eastern ancient forests.
- Ancient Forests serve as irreplaceable genetic banks, saving examples of life forms that may have value for the future because their genes enabled them to survive under severe conditions and to achieve great longevity, or are examples of genetic attributes from past ages, still surviving in our times.
- Ancient Forests can benefit the local tourism economy. Large and ancient trees are always rated at the top of the list of admired natural features by the tourism public. Because they are so highly valued, people will spend money to visit them. By protecting and publicizing our local old growth forests, local communities can benefit financially, and can enhance their reputation. Possessing a primeval forest is a "classy" asset to showcase.
- Ancient Forests are a unique scientific, research and educational resource. They provide pristine outdoor laboratories where natural process can be studied and taught, free of the conflicts of human disturbance.