This is not a forest clearing:

Weeds in the Grass, Ewing

Pines and firs are invasive species here.

This is not a forest:

Young Trees

There’s not a tree here older than about sixty years, and no signs of any earlier generations. This is, in other words, a replacement of wild farming with man-made wilderness.

This, too, is not a forest:

Not Dead Yet

The forest is not doing a great job of replacing the grass here. Perhaps this land is too marginal for trees and could better serve other purposes.

This is the remains of the tree in the middle ground of the above photograph, but it is not the remains of a forest tree:

Lone Grassland Fir

Crowded out by its unruly kids. Trees like this had the capability to host entire ant colonies in their branches…they never had to move out across the land itself and provided tremendous insect control. In Williams Lake, the forest ecologist Ordell Steen has shown that the productivity of forests is maintained if old giants like this are left and the new ingrown trees are removed in their place. More is not always more.

This is not a forest floor

Old Grassland Stones

Hanging on amidst a litter of needles, twigs and wood refuse dropped from weedy ingrowth trees, but ready to reclaim the land, if giving a chance. It is amazing that the grassland has survived this long. It is obviously tougher than it looks.

This is not such a bad thing:

Western Pine Bark Beetle Victim

A ponderosa pine felled, bucked, and left to become soil.

This is what that land looked like in 1920:

Grassland with a Stock Trail, Beaver Lake Road

By all means, let’s work with the land and its processes to create, store, and move energy. If we’re going to do it, though, let’s do it with full awareness of what we are doing, what changes we wish to effect, and what modifications we need to make along the way. So far, grass like this, for instance, has created more wealth by supporting generations of cattle, than have the replacement forests over much of its former range. So far, most of those ingrowth forests have produced nothing at all. It’s hard to imagine that they will ever catch up.

Finally our valley is old enough that we an look back over more than a century of development and assess what has worked and what hasn’t. Let’s.

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