Leaving the Best: Sustainable Forestry

Writers writing memoir book books photography digital Nikon Photoshop banjo mandolin fiddle parkway landscape place nonfiction
I’m sorry not to have been able to write at greater length about Jason Rutledge and Healing Harvest Forestry Foundation. A few more images of his demonstration last Saturday in nearby Copper Hill can be found here.

Suffice it to say, Jason is an early ambassador and elder statesman of forestry stewardship. He and his son, Jagger (who you can see in the gallery image cutting up the tulip poplar he just dropped) are engaged in a work of love (the profit is small and hard to come by, especially in a day of declining timber values.) And both are as articulate about their purpose, methods and goals as you’d ever expect to find coming from a suit and tie, much less from the garb of a woodsman in the backwaters of Virginia forests.

What Healing Harvest sees perhaps most clearly is there is more to the forest than the trees. In the end, it is the “environmental services” of the forest–its carbon sequestration, cooling effect, energy conversion and especially water resource impact–that makes our woods so valuable to us. To US, not just the small landowner who thinks in terms of his acres during his day.

But then, Jason can also convince you that it makes sense now and in pennies to consider leaving your woods better and better with each sucessive, selective, low-impact, worst-first cutting.

In this demonstration, Jagger Rutledge used a “Swede cut” to drop a tulip poplar 31″ across at breast height. (The area it grew in is destined to become a pond). He estimated the tree was about 80 years old. The 8-foot section that was cut from the trunk of the tree weighed approximately 2200 pounds. And the Rutledges’ team of Suffolks moved it away as if it were made of balsam wood, leaving no dozed road, no collateral tree damage–just a scuff in the leaf litter in the process.

Share this with your friends!

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

Articles: 3013


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. This event was sponsered in conjunction with Virginia Forest Watch’s annual Spring meeting.
    Everybody concerned with the health of our forests, both public and private, should visit http://www.virginiaforestwatch.org
    and get involved in the protection and restoration of them. Our current work includes the George Washington Forest plan revision which is underway NOW.
    Both Healing Harvest and VAFW could use help in our ongoing efforts to improve the planning and implementation of current sivicultural practices.

    One subject under discussion at this demonstration was “How long would it take for you to come and start working on my property if I wanted it cut, and you wanted to cut it?”

    Jason’s reply was quite out of character, he waffled. You see, there are nowhere near the number of practicioners that are needed for this work. As is the case with Virginia Forest Watch.

    Both need your support, your body, your mind, your money.

    Fred, you hit the nail squarely and hard. It’s for US. All of us, and those that will follow us.

    Thanks for your work, and this pretty website.

  2. Wow! I don’t think anyone is doing this kind of forestry on the West Coast. I know Northern California’s coast is very economically depressed, with high unemployment. There are lots of well educated and conservation-minded citizens among those unemployed. I sure wish some of them could learn these skills.