Friday, January 4, 2013

Natural value(s)

photo of winter woods with oak leaves
© harrington
Can you see the oak leaves still attached to the trees in mid-winter? That's know as marcescence. I've found several possible explanations on-line but no one seems certain of the evolutionary benefit oak and beech trees derive from this characteristic. Scott Russell Sanders and I ended up somehow talking about this last September. I've no idea how we ended up on the topic. We agreed that if there weren't an evolutionary advantage, oaks would probably behave more like maples and aspen and drop their leaves like well-behaved deciduous trees should. I, recalling my readings about ruffed grouse budding apple and aspen trees in winter, wondered if the retention of the old leaf stem, which frequently stays attached until the new bud in spring forces it loose, was a protection from grouse feeding on the buds. I'm surprised that no forestry or ecology Ph. D has published a dissertation on it. Trees providing food and shelter to wildlife clearly establishes that there's more to the value of a tree than can be measured only in board feet or Btu's. Unfortunately, My Minnesota seems to have some folks in its Department of Natural Resources who only seem to be able to measure the extractive or harvest value of our resources. Today's MinnPost has an article in which "Division of Lands and Minerals Larry Kramka, noted, 'If we have this vast resource here, if we know we can do it the right way, aren’t we somewhat obliged to mine it here?'" It's beyond me why anyone would think that we have an obligation to consume any and all our resources. That seems to mirror a perspective that we have to spend everything we earn (nothing for savings); that conservation has no value, and, yes, that the value of timber can only be measured in board feet. I hope Mr. Kramka's note was taken out of context. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure that Aldo Leopold would be embarrassed that Mr. Kramka hadn't begun to learn to think like a mountain.