6 OCTOBER 2017 • VOL 358 ISSUE 6359 27 SCIENCE sciencemag.org
the 2011 paper about the importance of
early seral habitat, but he has become
Franklin’s chief scientific critic. Franklin, he
says, “thinks you can recreate [seral habi-
tat] from nothing. And I think you can’t
recreate it from nothing. You’ve got to start
with something and just not salvage log it.”
DellaSala also fears Franklin’s approach
will give logging in forests outside young
plantations a veneer of environmental re-
spectability. Although DellaSala is willing
to accept logging in dense stands where
trees are less than 80 years old, he sees little
benefit from cutting down trees older than
that. Kerr, who praises much of Franklin’s
earlier work, is even more blunt. The new
approach is little more than a “sloppy clear-
cut” aimed at getting more wood for mills.
“It’s not logging for pure ecological restora-
tion, where commercial wood is a byprod-
uct. It’s ‘We’re going to cut it.’”
The debate has grown more charged as
Franklin has turned his ideas into on-the-
ground action. In 2013, after Franklin and
Johnson teamed up with the federal Bureau
of Land Management (BLM) for a small log-
ging experiment near Roseburg, Oregon,
protesters camped out for months among
the limbs of the largest trees—some a cen-
tury old—to block the project. Two years
later, a federal judge sided with the oppo-
nents, ruling BLM hadn’t fully studied the
For Johnson, the fight took a personal
toll. On a road near his home in Corvallis,
activists erected a billboard showing a swath
of logged BLM land, denouncing it as a
“Johnson & Franklin” project. He says some
people started avoiding him in coffee shops
in the town, home to OSU and a center
of forest research. “It was unbelievable,”
THIS PAST SUMMER, standing on the same
Still, he sees the project as a net victory.
Oregon hillside pictured on that billboard,
Franklin seemed unfazed. Four years after
logging, the wasteland portrayed in the photo
was thick with manzanita bushes, raspber-
ries, snowbrush, bracken fern, and native
blackberries. Franklin pointed out bear scat
filled with berries. For him, the scene showed
that his plan can work. “We know consis-
tently that it’s going to be much richer, bio-
logically, than the adjacent forest.”
But he has made compromises. The log-
gers left just 15% of the existing trees be-
hind, fewer than Franklin wanted. And
the BLM insisted on replanting Douglas
fir on the hillside, rather than leaving it
untouched, out of concern the trees would
grow back too slowly to meet future logging
goals. But in a nod to Franklin, the agency
planted half the usual density.
And his advocacy is having an impact beyond that hillside. In 2016, BLM unveiled
new plans to manage 1 million hectares of
Oregon forests, touting its logging strategy
as in line with Franklin’s approach. U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D–OR) earlier pushed legislation that would double logging rates on
that same land, using support from Franklin
and Johnson to boost the proposal’s scientific credibility.
Franklin’s influence also extends to other
continents. Sue Baker, an Australian forest ecologist at the University of Tasmania
in Hobart, says Franklin’s work on patchy
logging—called variable retention harvest—
has left its mark in places as varied as Scandinavia, Argentina, and Australia.
Now, Franklin is pressing his case in another major arena: a review of the mammoth Northwest Forest Plan. Nearly a
quarter-century after he helped give birth
to the plan, federal scientists are re-evalu-ating the supporting research in a first step
toward revising the plan.
DellaSala sees no need for major changes
to a plan that he, like many, regards as a
landmark. “It’s not that the Northwest Forest Plan is broken,” he says. But Franklin,
who served as a reviewer for a draft of the
scientific report, is urging a rethink. If he
has his way, federal agencies will create
more early seral habitat by logging some
of the hundreds of thousands of hectares
of dense forest replanted after clearcutting,
and then letting it regrow on its own.
Any changes to the plan, the Forest Service says, would come over the next 4 years.
Meanwhile, Franklin shows few signs of letting up. He and Johnson are finishing a forestry textbook. He plans to write a history of
the Northwest Forest Plan. Last month, he
packed up his pickup truck with gear to take
forestry students into the Oregon woods for
a 2-week course. There, he hoped to plant
the seeds for another generation of forest scientists, urging them to marvel at the ancient,
towering fir forests—and to take a closer look
at the bushes between the trees. j
Storms, fres, or volcanic eruptions
can create complex habitat including
dead trees, bushes, and grasses. Can
be home to plants and animals not
common in more mature forests.
Trees overshadow and crowd out
other plants. Biodiversity tends to
decline. Trees are often of similar
age, particularly if they were
replanted after clearcut logging.
Some trees die, creating a more open,
multiage, and complex forest that can
host threatened species such as the
northern spotted owl, northern fying
squirrel, and marbled murrelet.
Young (0– 80)
Forest age (years)
Researchers and policymakers are once again examining the controversial question
of how the federal government should manage the remaining forests that grow on
public lands in the northwestern United States.
Change the plan?
The 1994 Northwest Forest Plan reduced logging on federal lands in three states
(below), which hold a mix of young, middle-aged, and older forests (inset, right).
The plan is under review, and some researchers urge the expanded use of
logging to create early seral habitat (bottom), which they argue supports
important biodiversity but has become rare. Others oppose the idea.
*Examples in all panels are for coastal Douglas fr forests.
Northwest Forest Plan
Researchers and policymakers are once again examining the controversial
question of how the federal government should manage the remaining forests
that grow on public lands in the northwestern United States.