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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Bob Love, Natural Forester

Air Date: Week of

Producer Barret Golding profiles Montana forester Bob Love. Mister Love takes a gentle approach to his work in the woods.


KNOY: Cutting down trees, whether on government land or private property, doesn't have to be an overly-destructive exercise. At least, that's the philosophy of Bob Love. He practices what he calls wild forestry. It's logging that's for the good of the Earth, he says. Landowners who want to preserve the wild nature of their land and don't want scars left from large equipment hire Bob Love for his light-on-the-land approach. Producer Barrett Golding visited Mr. Love near his home in White Fish, Montana, and sent us this report.

(A chainsaw engine revs up)

LOVE: I'm a logger, yeah. I'm a good one. (Laughs) I mean, I spent close to 20 years in the industrial forestry sector, you know? And I was good at it. And I can cut as many trees as anyone else with a chainsaw. But I've chosen to use that skill to do it better instead of do more. We know how to log efficiently, but we don't know how to log properly.

(Engine continues)

LOVE: What I try to do is understand the fire history. Fire is the most powerful forest predator in the northern Rockies. And in the absence of fire, you get other predators. You get insects or disease. What the insects and disease are responding to is stress, because of the hundred years of fire suppression. We've altered the fire regimes, basically, so we've got more trees than we ever had before in some cases, and they're smaller. And they're stressed.


LOVE: Well, right here, we have a grand fir tree that survived the last fire in 1917. The forest fire encouraged some rot to set into the inner part of that tree. And when the rot sets in, then it makes a better habitat for the carpenter ants. You can see where their sawdust has come out of the tree. When the carpenter ants and the other bugs come in, then the woodpeckers come in. When the woodpeckers hunt for the insects, they make small cavities that are used by cavity-nesting birds, chickadees or nuthatches or those type of birds. So, that tree stays, and it should.


LOVE: My basic ground rule is to be careful. Move slow, be careful, be thoughtful about what you're doing. And realize that everything is connected. Everything. Now, here's a real good example. You can see a bear has been in here, just since I've worked here. I imagine it's a black bear, and what he was after was carpenter ants under the bark of this old fallen log. When you learn to read the land, you look for clues that tell you how it's being used and by whom. Right here, we're coming up onto a flat spot off this bench. I could tell, when I walked in here initially, that it was used as a bed ground for white-tailed deer, and sometimes elk, and sometimes muledeer. And here's a bed right here.


LOVE: So, when I worked in here, my goal was to help the trees, give them some room to grow, but also retain enough cover for the deer, so they didn't feel threatened by what I'd done, so it wouldn't disrupt their activity that much. And I also left a strip of timber basically untouched, so they could come down from the upper slopes into this area and not feel threatened by being too exposed. Normally, I would have taken that smaller tree and several others in this area, but because of the consideration for the deer and the bed ground here, I left it. And some folks like to call this New Age forestry, but it's not. It's reacquainting ourselves with traditional wisdom about the Earth and maintaining the breeding stock. It's like, I see parallels between forests, say, and elk herds, where these trees that I leave are the dominant trees. They're like the big, dominant bull elk, the big, old, wise lead calls of that herd. You've got to maintain that reservoir of proven genetics on the land, or you're devaluing it, and that's what we've done. Especially on public forests that should be maintained as a trust for the good of the people. We have to maintain their character and their nature and their integrity, and make sure that they remain wild. The Forest Service currently is being pulled between industrial lobbyists on one hand and environmental lobbyists on the other. The industry is in denial if they think they are going to resume their former prominence in the National Forests, and the environmentalists are in denial if they think that they're going to stop the saws. There is a place for logging in our National Forests, and public forests, too. It just has to be done right. And I'm just trying to show my version of it, I guess.

KNOY: Our profile of forester Bob Love was produced by Barrett Golding.



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