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In brief: These veteran foresters are carrying out a form of single-tree selection that is more productive in the long term than clear-cutting. Every 10 to 15 years they take about a third of the timber in a stand, going for the least robust trees—the runts, as Jim Able calls them. This creates more open space, allowing the remain­ing trees to get a greater share of the sunlight, which speeds their growth. Every year the amount and quality of the standing wood increase, and because regeneration happens gradually, the process can proceed for centuries. The advan­tages are twofold: short-term income and a larger payback over the long term. "You can't be greedy or in a rush," Ed Tunheim says.

This isn't just about wood. Past damage to ecosystems is being repaired. Sediment is being excavated from streams to restore their original beds, and culverts enlarged to permit natural stream flow. Thousands of logs are being placed in creeks to create fish habitat. Roads are being recontoured and reinforced or simply erased from the landscape. Along rivers and in slide-prone areas, timber harvests are being reduced. Trees identified as crucial for wildlife habitat—and remnant old growth—are being preserved.

The next quantum leap is the idea that we can, and should, put a dollar value on the environmental assets of the forest. Already, some timber owners, helped by grants from voter-approved initiatives, are going above and beyond what state regulations require in rehabilitating watersheds, decommissioning roads, and stopping erosion. These investments reduce their maintenance costs and help the bottom line while guaranteeing benefits such as cleaner water and healthier fish populations.

Especially promising is the idea that because forests absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, timber owners should be paid for the carbon accumulated in their trees. The redwood forest, with its vast carbon-storage capacity, is where many of the first carbon sales have occurred. As new state and federal climate regulations take effect, this market will grow, along with the incentive for timber owners to maximize the stand­ing volume and the productivity of their forests, which produce higher quality lumber the older they get.

The time is right to embrace a systematic plan of recovery for the entire redwood forest—all the pieces are now in place.

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