Defining Forest Health

What is forest health? We are bombarded by a variety of natural resources organizations – like the one I am employed for – about the importance of maintaining or improving forest health. However, it seems few take the steps to define what "forest health" actually is. Forest health can be as arbitrary as other terms and words used throughout natural resources jargon: pollution, toxicity, sustainability, natural, wilderness, primitive, pristine, open space, preservation, and conservation, etc. Adirondack wilderness activist Bob Marshall once remarked that "wilderness" was an area that took two weeks to traverse by horseback without crossing a road. Does this fit your definition of wilderness? What about "toxic?" One may ask, "Is substance X toxic?" It depends upon how many parts per million it takes to cause harm, but "harm" must first be defined too. The terms preservation and conservation have been so misused that they have been mostly rendered meaningless. A preservationist fences in a forest and stands proudly beside its caged ecosystem, only to realize that what is inside the fence continues to change behind his back, and often undesirably. Is this what you intended to preserve? In college we were taught that conservation meant "wise use" of natural resources, but being "wise" means different things to different individuals. The lists go on and are beyond the scope of this article, but allow me to fixate on this one, "forest health." READ MORE (Watershed Post, Aug 13)