Why Logging Forests After Wildfires is Ecologically Destructive

When it comes to wildfire, the U.S. Forest Service has it all wrong. In its just-released plan to chop down trees in nearly 17,000 acres hit by last year’s King fire in the Eldorado National Forest – including logging in 28 occupied spotted owl territories – the agency trots out the same tired falsehoods.

First, the Forest Service claims burned areas must be logged and replanted to “restore” the forest. In truth, wildfire is natural and necessary in the Sierra Nevada, even fires that burn very hot over huge areas, and human interference after fires is harmful rather than helpful.

For thousands of years, big fires have burned in the Sierra Nevada and are as ecologically critical for native plants and animals as rain and snow. And the trees have always grown back on their own.

But before the trees grow back, the burned forests erupt with life. Black-backed woodpeckers thrive in the most charred forests, feasting on the superabundance of insects and creating nesting holes in the freshly dead trees. After the woodpeckers, mountain bluebirds and house wrens use the abandoned cavities to raise their own chicks.

Deer mice and gophers eat fire-exposed seeds and newly sprouting vegetation. These rodents are food for imperiled California spotted owls, who have been documented hunting in charcoal forests, using dead trees to perch upon and listen for their prey rustling below.

Which brings us to falsehood No. 2: that logging will help, not harm, the spotted owl. This has never been true.

Heavily burned forests are great hunting grounds for the owl, but studies have proven that post-fire logging causes owls to abandon their territories. This comes as no surprise, since wildfire is natural but people chopping down trees is not.

Logging is the real threat to owls. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agrees – recently the agency decided to consider listing the California spotted owl as endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, citing thinning and post-fire logging as primary threats to declining populations.

Falsehood No. 3: Current fires burn more acres than ever before, so fire suppression and logging after a fire are necessary.

In fact, the number of acres burned by wildfires in recent years is not at all unprecedented in ancient or modern history. Studies of charcoal in sediments dating back 8,000 years show vast areas burned in hot fires during droughts, the same as today.

According to the National Interagency Coordination Center, 8.2 million acres have burned in U.S. wildfires as of Sept. 1. Yet during the 10-year hot and dry period from the late 1920s to the late 1930s, an average of 30 million acres burned every year.

Special interests do not want this information widely publicized. Under the George W. Bush administration, the Forest Service and federal government purged all wildfire-acre-burned statistics from before 1960.

These charcoal forests are magical places, thriving with life. It is time to end the destructive practice of logging our precious forests after fire, and celebrate wildfire as natural and renewing.

More articles by:

Monica Bond, a wildlife biologist with the Wild Nature Institute, is a nationally known scientific expert on spotted owls and fire ecology. Bond also serves on the board of the Fund for Wild Nature.

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Can We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring