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Friday, June 26, 2015

Butternut Lumber on the Way

Yesterday, when I went home for lunch, I found my drive blocked by a familiar truck. Sure enough, I found my friend, professional logger and tree climber Martin Melville, shimmied up a small butternut (Juglans cinerea) tree in my front yard, just about to crank up the saw. So, with another interesting thing to video, and knowing how nifty Martin is in a tree, I fired up the trusty smartphone and watched him take it down...in about 30 minutes. Amazing.


In the video I say that the tree was killed by the walnut canker disease, which is misleading on my part, because that could be confused with the Thousand Cankers Disease which is wiping out black walnut (Juglans nigra) across the country. The butternut, or white walnut, has been under attack from a different enemy, the butternut canker, and it is that disease to which my tree has succumbed. It suffered the classic symptoms: dieback of lower branches, followed by a canker at the base and then a few others climbing the trunk a few feet apart. This process has been going on for four years now, and it looked like the tree only had this summer, and possibly next, to go.

Martin comments around the 20:00 minute mark about the extent of the disease in the forest, and makes an apt comparison to the chestnut blight. Both are so pervasive now that mature trees of either species are few and far between.

From Wikipedia:
"The most serious disease of Juglans cinerea is butternut decline or butternut canker. In the past the causal organism of this disease was thought to be a fungus, Melanconis juglandis. Now this fungus has been associated with secondary infections and the primary causal organism of the disease has been identified as another species of fungus, Sirococcus clavigignenti-juglandacearum. The fungus is spread by wide-ranging vectors, so isolation of a tree offers no protection. 
Symptoms of the disease include dying branches and stems. Initially, cankers develop on branches in the lower crown. Spores developing on these dying branches are spread by rainwater to tree stems. Stem cankers develop 1 to 3 years after branches die. Tree tops killed by stem-girdling cankers do not re-sprout. Diseased trees usually die within several years. Completely free-standing trees seem better able to withstand the fungus than those growing in dense stands or forest. In some areas, 90% of the butternut trees have been killed. The disease is reported to have eliminated butternut from North and South Carolina. The disease is also reported to be spreading rapidly in Wisconsin. By contrast, black walnut seems to be resistant to the disease."

I hated to see one of my favorite trees taken down, but with the World of Wood 2015 conference coming up next month, this was a good time to say my goodbyes and call Martin.  Mike Powell here at Penn State is going to saw this and several other neat logs up as a sawing demonstration at the conference, and the lumber will be auctioned off.  It will be nice to see my tree sawn and watch the beautiful lumber appear. I'll have Mike saw at least one one-inch board so I can make specimen samples for our Penn State wood collection, complete with vouchers, leaves, and nuts. That's the real beauty of nature - death of one organism provides bounty for another.

So, if you're a wood worker who has been looking for some nice butternut boards, you know where you can get some the third week of July. Hope to see you here.

P.S. Today is the last day that our conference hotels are holding room blocks. You'll still be able to reserve at the discounted rate after today, if rooms are available, but the hotels aren't guaranteeing availability after today. So, get your room while they're still there!



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Stand Up for Forestry

A funny thing happened this week. I picked up a copy of The Forestry Source, which is an official monthly publication of the Society of American Foresters. Since I haven't been an SAF member since my college days, I thought it would be interesting to see how much forestry issues have changed in that time of several decades.

As I thumbed through the issue, I thought to myself..."a lot."

Then, the funny thing happened. Not two hours later, I received an email from my old friend and former Ibberson Chair professor at Penn State, Harry Wiant. Harry retired from here about seven or eight years ago, I guess, and went out to live with his family in Seattle. I occasionally still get a nice email from him, and it's either another one of his country music recordings, or something related to forestry. This time, he was making a direct reference to the very issue I had just been reading...and he had some thoughts to share, including a speech he used to regularly give. Many foresters loved this speech, but near the end of his career Harry found his point of view in the minority, at least among policy makers and educators. Times were changing, and 21st-century forestry is not what 20th-century forestry was. Much of what Harry warned against in this speech have now come to be.

Whether you agree with his viewpoint or not, I think you'll agree that his speech gives us a frame of reference for what professional forestry values once were. With Harry's permission, I reprint it here for posterity.

*****************************************************

The Forestry Source this month is a painful obituary of a once proud profession.  Many of us saw this coming years ago.  National forests are a non-productive disaster, forestry schools have little forestry left, even in the names, and the nightmare sought by the Greenies is reality.  I am thankful I was in the profession when it was a profession.  Goodbye forestry!

Here is my talk in case you have lost it; I fear the last couple sentences was a dream.

STAND UP FOR FORESTRY

Harry V. Wiant, Jr.
1997 President, Society of American Foresters

This speech, with minor variations, has been presented over two dozen times at SAF and other forestry meetings. I always provide a disclaimer, indicating that the opinions I convey are my own and not necessarily those of SAF.

WHY I RAN

The Society of American Foresters has been a major part of my professional life, but I had never considered running for a national office.

Actually, I was becoming very discouraged . It appeared to me that many foresters were giving up in the struggle for meaningful forest management and were accepting politically correct but scientifically dubious management philosophies. I decided it was time to retire. A call from a well-known leader in our profession, asking me to run for Vice President, changed my life.

While visiting my daughter and son-in-law, both attorneys in Seattle, I wrote my campaign statement expressing forthrightly my concerns and agenda. "Dad, you can't win with a statement like that," my daughter exclaimed. Many were surprised when I did win in one of the largest voter turnouts (52%) in our history.

PHILOSOPHICAL SUMMARY

The philosophy I espouse, and the one that I'm convinced is shared by a majority of foresters in SAF is, briefly:

1. We love the forest but do not worship the forest. There is a world of difference.
2. We believe management of nature is not just an option but a necessity for human survival.
3. We believe biodiversity is a good thing but does not always over-ride other considerations. That's why we use hoes in our vegetable gardens.
4. We believe large segments of the environmental community have moved from legitimate concerns for clean air and water to eco-nonsense which threatens our economic prosperity and basic freedoms.
5. We believe forest management must be science based, and, like medicine, incrementally improved as new facts are learned.
6. We believe the biocentric philosophy undergirding much of the environmental movement today depreciates human beings and could have devastating consequences to our society.

I will expand discussion of some of these "tenants" in later sections.

REMEMBERING OUR ROOTS

Foresters generally have a broad education, but their unique knowledge is that relating to growing trees for timber production on a sustained yield basis. Warren Dolittle, a Past President of SAF, wrote in 1966:

"...as professional foresters, timber production is the one use of the land which is our undisputed responsibility. We manage forest lands for other uses too, but other groups and scientists usually claim primary responsibility for the disciplines representing these uses. So, let us take good care of our responsibility for growing timber before some other group lays claim to it."

Forestry schools and SAF, when considering membership requirements, accreditation of forestry programs, and certification of foresters, forget Warren's admonition at their own peril.


ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT

Ecosystem management, touted as a "paradigm switch" , is more politics than science. Proponents stress that its implementation will require "cooperation" by federal, state, and private landowners. In addition to the likelihood that it will encroach on our freedoms, this approach is hampered by the difficulty of defining and delimiting an ecosystem and the hopeless complexity of trying to manage one if you can figure out what and where it is.

The most serious problem with ecosystem management, in my opinion, is that the inherent complexities and uncertainties will provide our opponents with even more weapons to halt all meaningful forest management, further impacting the timber industry and rural communities.

The idea of returning our forests to some imagined condition in the past, usually severely limiting human influence, is troublesome also. I often say, trying to point out the absurdity of this notion, that I am kind of partial to the ice age. Why don't we return our agricultural lands to a pre-human condition so we can solve all our problems through starvation?

BIODIVERSITY AND ENDANGERED SPECIES

Every forester today should read "In a Dark Wood" by the philosopher, Alston Chase "Broken Trust, Broken Land" by the forester-sociologist Robert G. Lee , and "Saviors of the Earth" by the forester and environmental educator Michael S. Coffman . These authors trace the development of today's biocentric thinking, in many ways a return to primitive earth worship. Chase defines biocentrism as the belief that all things are interconnected (the "circle of life" espoused by New Age folks) and no organism is more important or valuable than another. It is a deadly philosophy dressed up in politically correct sentimentalism.

Karl Wenger, our Vice President, wrote in a letter in the J. For. (Nov. 1996):

"...native peoples set the forest afire annually, sometimes twice a year. Then during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, land was heavily logged without regard for the future. Fire followed and woodland grazing was widespread. Wildlife populations were decimated, erosion filled the streams with sediments, and floods were frequent and damaging. That current land management practices are threatening or endangering 1,300 species of the survivors of that period, as claimed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is simply not believable." He is absolutely right!

THE NEW WORLD PLANNED FOR US

Someone must produce! We cannot just trade trinkets produced in the "Cottage Industries" promoted by our eco-friends. In my speech, I point out here that the lights on in our meeting room are on because someone dug coal, or someone built a dam, or someone drilled for oil, or someone constructed a nuclear power plant. Again, someone must produce! Robert Lee, in a paper entitled, "The Futility of Seeking Common Ground," (Proc.For. Prod. Res. Soc., 1991) states:

"There is not a well-articulated ground in this debate. Advocates for radical change in forest management practices are seeking to revolutionize the social and moral order by challenging industrial capitalism and promoting "biocentric ethics" in place of "homocentric ethics.""

Eco-extremists have a nightmarish plan for us, viewed as utopian by them, as "...jobs would concentrate in urban area...as vast lands in the interior of North America return to a wild state. " (Am. Sci. 84:166). The Wildlands Project, returning over half of North America to the wild state and pretty much eliminating man's access, may take 200 years to accomplish, by their estimate. Unfortunately, at the rate they are succeeding today, they will reach their goal much sooner. People and jobs receive scant attention by them.

While visiting in Seattle, a cold, rainy evening prompted our desire for a fire in the fireplace. A quick trip to the store provided neatly wrapped artificial fireplace logs. Printed on the box was:

"No trees were cut to produce these logs. Only sawdust, a waste product, was used."

My daughter suggested a big rubber stamp print on each piece of lumber:

"No trees were cut to produce this lumber. The boards fell out while producing sawdust to make composite fireplace logs."

A forester suggested the other day that on every roll of toilet paper, every ream of writing paper, plywood sheets, etc., we should print "Product of our Renewable Forests."


IN THE POLITICAL ARENA

It has been my pleasure to serve on North Carolina Congressman Charles Taylor's
Forest Science Panel. He was a sponsor of the "Salvage Rider" which was bitterly fought by eco-extremists. At a public meeting in Asheville, NC, a reporter asked me, "Do you think the Salvage Rider was a good thing?" Amazingly, my answer, "Yes, and it's too bad we can't manage our public lands so we don't need a Salvage Rider." was quoted correctly the next day in the local press.

Also, it was my privilege to testify on "Criteria of Forest Health" before the Committee on Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, chaired by Helen Chenoweth, Congressional Representative from Idaho. She, like Charles Taylor, supports real forest management. I testified as President of SAF and independently as a forester and concerned citizen.

The SAF report on this topic was provided. Testifying independently, which I clearly differentiated, I stated:

* as humans we experience the joy of birth, the vigor of youth, slowing down with age, and finally, death; few of us believe the "hands-off" approach is appropriate for maintaining human health.

* the same is true for forests; a well-managed forest is the healthiest possible.

* criteria of forest health include an adequate cadre of professional foresters; the flexibility to manage the forest unhampered by poorly conceived environmental laws, frivolous appeals and lawsuits, and tax codes that discourage
long-term investments; strong forestry research programs in the USDA Forest Service, universities, and the private sector; and that forest management remain science based with a complete toolkit (prescribed fire, herbicides, clearcutting,
etc.).

I summarized by saying that the answer to forest health problems is more not less forest management, and that the primary responsibility for managing our forests should in the hands of those best qualified to do the job - foresters!

A later witness, obviously an environmentalist, said, "I can't believe the arrogance of anyone saying that they can manage the forest better than god." Those few words tell us volumes.

AN ECO-GOLIATH

One of my more thoughtful critics, not implying that most are not, wrote saying the environmentalist would welcome SAF trying to stand up to them since they outnumber us so. He has a point. Recent data indicate the mainline environmental groups in the U.S. have a membership about 350 times that of SAF and budgets that total more than 80 times ours. Those are challenging odds. Alston Chase is quoted as saying it took the Sierra Club 100 years to reach the first 100,000 members and just two years to recruit the second 100,000 and Greenpeace, which started in the U.S. in 1978, is adding 10,000 new subscribers to its publication every month. Truly, the environmental movement is an eco-Goliath.

I suggest SAF has three little stones, TRUTH, SCIENCE, and ECONOMICS. With the proper sling, such as the TV campaign, perhaps we can prevail.

An article by an environmental educator, J. H. Lehr (in press or published in Soil & Ground Water Cleanup Magazine), wrote:

"The world has just witnessed an environmental backlash that lasted less than two years.
... a newly elected Republican Congress was thought to be set on dismantling abusive environmental regulations. Some were sure they would succeed. Others...were not. They knew that the environmental movement, for better or worse, had done too thorough a job brainwashing the world's population...Yes, the battle is over...One can only be in awe of the leadership of the environmental movement for laying so strong a foundation that even logic, common sense, good science and economics could not knock the building from its moorings...
Today we are an environmentally activist society - so you may as well lean back and enjoy it. Continue to speak the truth, advise reason, logic and good science, but don't be disappointed when such wisdom is ignored. With psychic hotlines a 300 million dollar industry today, what can we expect..."

After one of my talks, a forester reported to me that his daughter was given a t-shirt in kindergarten which pictured a loaded log truck. Printed underneath was "If only trees could scream!" It starts in kindergarten but continues through our educational system. A college textbook of ecology says:

"Consider the ultimate form of external environmental disturbance - total destruction of the habitat, such as might result from logging of a forest, or an asteroid collision, or a nuclear holocaust."

The challenge is almost overwhelming. As I said in my campaign statement:

"A vote for me is a call to battle. I cannot promise victory, nor can I promise fame and glory... But you will know you fought the good fight."


THE CAMPAIGN STATEMENT

The campaign statement (J. For., Sept. 1995) read:

"It has been a generally orderly retreat, but a retreat nonetheless. Now our backs are against the wall, and powerful voices in our ranks urge surrender. I heard the early salvos in northern California. Facts proved inadequate against a foe unhampered by truth, and the once-powerful redwood industry dried. Next, clearcutting, undoubtedly our best silvicultural tool, came under attack in my home state of West Virginia. Foresters stood shoulder-to-shoulder, but we lost ground steadily. Now school children are taught by propagandized teachers that clearcutting is a despicable and evil practice. The Pacific Northwest, probably the best timber-growing region in the world, has been lost to anti-utilization forces. Thousands of families and hundreds of communities have suffered in the name of the Northern Spotted Owl. The public does not understand that the owl was never the real issue; it was merely the excuse used by those determined to stop timber cutting and destroy the timber industry. Increased paper, lumber, and housing costs; use of metal studs in construction; and even lowly plastic bags in grocery stores testify to our defeats. There are those among us who say it is not "us against them," as if we can wish an enemy out of existence. "Ecosystem management,""sustainable forestry," and a dozen other vague and meaningless terms are incorporated into the surrender document. Some of our number are even accepting the ludicrous notion that forests should be returned to some "pre-settlement" condition. Should we do the same for agricultural land so we can all starve? The flag under which SAF should rally should proclaim our devotion to science-based forest management, with the main focus on furnishing basic human needs…wood for shelter, paper, and hundreds of other necessities. I, for one, would rather lose under that standard than see SAF become just another weak and vacillating organization under the banner of political expediency. Foresters know how to grow trees on a sustained basis, and that is the primary strength of our profession and its reason for existence. We have demonstrated time and time again that good forest management is compatible with the other uses of the forest: watershed, wildlife, and recreation. We have a proud history, but do we have a future? The forestry profession is viable only as long as forest industry is strong. Park rangers do not need forestry degrees! I recognize this is not an uplifting "all-is-well" message. I truly fear for the future of the profession and SAF. A vote for me is a call to battle. I cannot promise victory, nor can I promise fame and glory. If you join me, I must warn you that your character, motives, and intelligence will be assailed. But you will know you fought the good fight. Perhaps we can reverse a prophecy I penned some time ago in somewhat biblical form.

"In the latter days an anti-wise-use force will arise and will deceive many. It will reign for one generation. Mills will be closed, prices will rise, and once-productive forests will be filled with dead and dying trees. The sound of the saw and the ax will be heard no more. The woods will be the habitation of agitators, negotiators, and commentators. But this too shall pass. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. The people will cry, "Why are we wasting this renewable resource? We cannot afford homes as our fathers before us, and lowly paper is beyond our means. Ecosystem management is a false god with a thousand faces, equating humans and salamanders, and calling no management ‘good’ and good management ‘bad.’ It is used by those destroying our means of production." And a new generation of foresters will come forth, once again guided by science-based reason and the knowledge that the stand has always been the basic silvicultural unit, and timber the most important product of the forest. It will be understood that man cannot live by bread and shelter alone, but he surely cannot live without them."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Notes from the Road (1) - Loading Big Wood

Out on the road last week, it occurred to me that some of what I do and see out there would interest a few of you, occasionally. So I'll start a new series, Notes from the Road, that will feature brief clips of what people are saying and doing out there in the world of wood. Maybe I'll go back and re-post a couple of previous notes from my travels for you newer readers.

The thought occurred to me just as a couple of forklift operators were set to load a trailer in Winchester, Virginia, last week. It's an example of something I thought other people would be interested in knowing...how do they get those whole-house truss packages on the trailer? They used to stack smaller bundles on the trailer, and then strap the whole thing together...but that took a lot of time.

Now, with some planning, care, and synchronization, they can do it all in less than three minutes. Pretty ingenious.




Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wood Science 101 (20) - World of Wood 2015

I hinted a couple of months ago that we would be holding something big this summer at Penn State. Just how big, I didn't fully realize. This is going to be bigger than the time Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over the lantern while it was being milked. Although with less destructive results, hopefully.

World of Wood 2015 will soon be upon us. From July 20th until the 23rd, some of the most interesting wood people in the world will descend on State College to discuss just about every issue, every detail, every lignocellulosic factoid on wood known to man. Where else, tell me, where else where you be able to listen to a world-class furniture artist share his knowledge with you and then relax with a scientifically-developed ice cream cone?

Where else, tell me, where else, will you be able learn how DNA sequencing and high-resolution computer vision is being applied to the battle against illegal logging, and then compete in bidding for various fascinating specimens of [legal] exotic specimens of wood?

Where else, tell me, where else, can you learn to identify wood species by their cellular structure, and then apply that knowledge to identify the wood in a one-of-a-kind 18th-century piece of history?

Where else, tell me, where else, will you be able to learn about the fossil forests of Ethiopia, and then tour a world-class arboretum to see living relatives of those very fossils?

And where else, tell me, where else, will I be on July 20th, 21st, 22nd, and 23rd?

No where else than the World of Wood 2015.

Where else, tell me, where else, can you stand in the shade of a 100-year-old American Elm?

So, if you're not doing anything else the third week in July, and want to talk wood all week while sipping suds and soda, join me, The Wife, and about a hundred of only our closest friends in this extravaganza of xylophilic delight.

Who knows, you may find yourself the topic of a future post on Go Wood. :-)

Friday, June 5, 2015

Voices of the Future (14) - Ruffed Grouse and Aspen

by Justin Vinglas
Forest Science Major, graduated May 10, 2015
jwv5103@psu.edu




The ruffed grouse is a species that heavily relies on an aspen forest for its habitat, source of food, and protection from predators.  The dense young growth of an aspen forest provides a source of protection from predators for the grouse, and the flowering buds of the mature aspen trees is a major source of food for this game bird.  The reason these patches grow back so thick is because of the tendency of the aspen trees to root sucker.  Once a patch of large aspen trees are cut it exposes the ground to more direct sunlight which helps the buds on the root system of the aspen tree to sprout, and a thick layer of new aspen trees begin to emerge.  A single aspen tree can produce hundreds of new aspen trees.

This species relies on a mix of young and old aspen stands so the best habitat for this bird species is 5 to 20-acre aspen patches that are close together but of different age classes. Aspen trees that are around 15 years of age and older provide for the best sources of food where aspen trees that are this age and younger provide for the best source of cover from predators. The understory of the younger age class of aspen trees are good for young grouse chicks because there is not a lot of thick understory vegetation.  There is just enough vegetation for a food source besides the aspen trees themselves and the trees provide the source of cover.




One organization that supports the ruffed grouse habitat projects is the Ruffed Grouse Society.  This organization has been involved with ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat since the 1960’s.  This society provides financial and technical assistance to public agencies that provide early successional habitat for species such as the ruffed grouse.  They help to promote small block cuttings to the agencies that usually conduct large timber sales and cannot afford to conduct smaller sales that the ruffed grouse needs for survival.  They currently are hosting 700 projects across 28 states and their funding will exceed $4,000,000 from 1985 to 2014. I think that this society supports a good cause.

If we do not support these small scale timber sales that promote early successional habitat for the ruffed grouse, this species may eventually make its way to the endangered species list.  Many times it is not economically feasible to build haul roads and landings to harvest a small 5- or 10-acre block, so it is important that this society keeps funding public agencies so they can continue to manage for ruffed grouse.  I worked as an intern with the PA Game Commission for two summers and I know that this agency does a lot of work with the management of ruffed grouse as well.

I remember very well the day I heard my first ruffed grouse in the woods when I was twelve years old.  My grandpa and I were actually turkey hunting on a cool spring morning along the edge of a clearcut when off in the distance I could hear a faint thumping in the distance. I kept hearing it so I asked my pap what it was and he told me it was a ruffed grouse.  That same turkey season we began hearing them more and while moving into a new spot to turkey hunt one morning I flushed my first grouse.  As I grew older I became more interested in this game bird and found them to be very unique.  It was a very neat experience and I will never forget my first spring turkey hunt where I saw and heard my first ruffed grouse.

What I would like you to remember most from this blog post is that a timber sale does not have to be large to make an impact on wildlife, it can just be a small 5- or 10- acre aspen clearcut to make a world of difference for the ruffed grouse in your own forest.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Voices of the Future (13) - The Northern long-eared bat: how a small mammal nearly crippled the logging industry in the Eastern U.S.

by Aaron Yablonski
Wildlife and Fisheries Science Major, graduating May 2016
aty5023@psu.edu

If I had a dollar for every time I have heard the phrase “bats are just rats with wings,” I would be able to afford a degree at an Ivy League university. Unfortunately, this is the way many people view these creatures. Due to decades of seeing movies about vampires who morph into our familiar flying friends, among other things, there has been a negative image of bats that cropped up but that has thankfully been fading away over the last few years.

Source: http://www.fws.gov
In reality, bats are not the evil bloodsuckers of past nightmares but peaceful creatures that play an important role in not only the ecosystem, but also our economies. Many common bats in Pennsylvania are insectivores, meaning they subsist on a diet entirely consisting of bugs. These insects, which include gypsy moths, tent caterpillar beetles, and mosquitoes, can cause detrimental effects to both plants and humans. So instead of fearing these amicable creatures, we should be befriending them and in fact have been. However, over the last decade, bat populations have been under attack.


White nose syndrome is a deadly condition thought to be a fungus that has wiped out upwards of 99% of the bats in Pennsylvania. As a result of these dire circumstances and because of the bats’ value, steps have been taken to protect both them and their habitat.

Source: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/virginiafield/pdf/NLEBinterimGuidance6Jan2014.pdf

Recently, there was a decision made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the northern long-eared bat (hereafter referred to as the NLEB) under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. This is where the situation became a bit hairy. If the NLEB was listed as “endangered" under the ESA, the logging industry in Pennsylvania would have been decimated. PA is the country’s number 1 producer of hardwood, employs nearly 80,000 individuals in the logging industry, and sold roughly $17 billion in hardwood. Clearly, we value our wood. Under the ESA, a species that is listed as “endangered” may not be taken in any part of its range. No problem, right? Well see, with 112 known hibernacula spread out all across Pennsylvania and with a habitat of forestland the little buggers can’t easily be avoided. NLEB habitat is bound to be impacted by logging, it really is unavoidable. To avoid hefty penalties, it would be safer for companies to avoid logging in certain areas altogether. This leaves very little industry. 

Source: http://www.agriculture.state.pa.us/


Obviously listing the NLEB as “endangered” isn’t the best idea since we still want our precious wood. And of course we can’t do nothing to help protect it since it is so essential to us. So what could we do? Thankfully, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to list the NLEB as “threatened” with a 4 (d) rule. Without this 4 (d) rule, the bat would have been essentially an endangered species. What this basically does is list it as a threatened species, but allows exceptions to be made so that certain activities will not be as heavily impacted by the listing. This listing lets the logging industry continue in areas where the NLEB occurs, but under heavy restrictions. 
Under the listing, harvesting of trees may not occur within 0.25 miles of a known hibernacula, cutting occupied roosting trees during the pup season (June and July) is prohibited, and clear cutting within 0.25 miles of a maternity roost during the same time period. Personally, I believe these restrictions are still not suitable protection for the NLEB. According to the USFWS’s conference on the NLEB in January of 2014, there should be a minimum 1.5 mile buffer zone around roosting trees in the summer, suitable forested habitat within 5 miles of a hibernaculum in late summer and the fall, and minimal noise disturbance during the winter months. These restrictions under the listing clearly contradict what the conference had decided was appropriate. Why did the USFWS say one thing and do another? I could write an entire blog post about what I think is the real reason ($$$) but this isn’t the time or place for that discussion. 

These restrictions are based around providing suitable habitat for the bats to recover and frankly, 0.25 miles isn’t going to cut it. Have you ever been within that distance of a logging operation? Do you think you could take a proper nap that close to one? Unless you sleep like the logs being produced, I don’t think so. These bats are already in a vulnerable state with white nose syndrome and excessive noise won’t do them any favors. Furthermore, during the pupping season, females need to have an increased intake of food in order to supply their offspring with the proper nutrients. Large roosts are going to need much more space than 0.25 miles in order to feed themselves. 

Despite all that the USFWS got wrong, this decision is a step in the right direction. Their decision will not in fact cripple the logging industry in Pennsylvania while providing the first step in recovering an incredibly important pest control species. We as citizens should continue to fight for the protection of our bats until they get the care they need and deserve. For now however, we must take what is given to us and be grateful.