JERRY FRANKLIN, ONE of the world’s premier authorities on old-growth forest ecosystems, is still fighting for big old trees.
Franklin was among the first to discover the unique ecological value of old-growth trees and forest ecosystems. He also was among a team of scientists whose work led to the protection of old growth on federal land in Washington, Oregon and Northern California through the implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan in 1994.
When I caught up with Franklin for a profile in Pacific, I didn’t know what to expect. He was, after all, at 84, kind of an old-growth tree himself. But he outworked us all in the field. Even more impressive, he was not a bit cynical, even as the forest wars he has fought for decades continue.
During our reconnection in 2021, Franklin waded into timber sales under consideration by the state Department of Natural Resources, counseling caution in cutting mature natural forest, even if it isn’t old growth. Hilary Franz, commissioner of Public Lands, canceled portions of the Smuggler Timber sale, where big old trees were about to be cut in the Capitol State Forest.
Now more than 400 people have signed a petition asking Franz to back off the Crush timber sale, planned along a popular trail also in the Capitol State Forest. It’s just the sort of legacy natural forest — rather than timber plantation — that is more important, opponents argue, to people and the planet as a forest than as lumber. The state Board of Natural Resources, chaired by Franz, approved logging the trees anyway.
Across the border in Canada, more than 1,000 people have been arrested in a battle to save old-growth forests being logged by BC Timber, an agency of the B.C. government. The province has since announced deferrals of some of the areas scheduled to be cut. That has satisfied no one. Conservationists want the trees off-limits from cutting, for good. Timber interests say they can’t run a business with on-again, off-again timber sales.
Through it all, Franklin has kept speaking out for natural forests and old trees. His most recent battle is in Oregon, in the proposed Flat Country Project on the Willamette National Forest in the upper reaches of the McKenzie River. There, the U.S. Forest Service wants to log almost 2,000 acres of mature (100- to 150-year-old) forests.
Trees like this are the old growth of tomorrow, Franklin says, and they should not be logged.
Now in his 85th year, Franklin is still telling it like it is.