I agree, it does depend on time scale, species composition, elevation, and even the definition of "old growth"...as to how often a stand/region/area experience stand replacing disturbance. Its not correct to assume, based strictly on yearly average precipitation, that "old growth" will never experience stand replacement. In many lodgepole types, for example, its not uncommon for stand replacement disturbance to happen in 100-200 years, but, in some places like Yellowstone, the Bob Marshall, etc. there are stands of lodgepoles that are 300+ years old that haven't been replaced. Most would consider 200+ year old trees as old growth, but there is absolutely no question that the ecology of any forest dominated by lodgepole, that stand replacing disturbance has been the mode of forest succession there.I guess it depends on the time scale you choose to use. Much of that old growth wasn't, by definition, replaced for many hundreds of years. It's also wet in that country, relative to the rain shadow to the east and the Salmon River country to the south, so I can see how fires that did burn through there were cool ground fires, eliminating the story-catchers (food) and leaving the big trees alone.
Agree, maybe even more accurately, it shouldn't be elk country but once every 200-300 years, or at least country that can support large numbers of elk like the number found after WWII...I just question the idea of an old growth forest lacking elk because it was over run with wolves. Or the idea that we should open it up for elk and then blame a lack of elk on wolves. If it wasn't elk country for Lewis and Clark, then it probably wasn't elk country for wolves either. Maybe it shouldn't be elk country. Maybe it should be old growth with cool ground fires. If we want to open it up for elk then I can hear the saws firing up to help us. Is that a good thing? Maybe. Not my cup of tea. Not everything is about us and I don't want to hunt country that is.
IMO, I think we're just seeing a logical, predictable decline in elk there based on what was there historically with the ecology of the region.
I believe what stalled the crash in elk was logging in the 50's-late 70's or the crash would have happened long before wolves were on the landscape again.