FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Stealth Logging in the National Forests

by

Recently I drove up the Lostine River corridor on the Wallowa Whitman National Forest in eastern Oregon and hiked the trail in the Eagle Cap Wilderness giving me a good opportunity to review a Forest Service proposal to log the river corridor.

The agency is using a stealth method of approving the proposed logging called a “Categorical Exclusion”.  The CE allows the Forest Service to proceed with logging without the usual public review and environmental analysis.

Why would the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest be using the CE for this proposal?

The reason is abundantly clear. The proposal is based on flawed assumptions about wildfire and ignores the best and most recent fire science that questions the efficiency and effectiveness of fuel reductions.

Most of the forest species along the Lostine River corridor consists of moist, higher elevation conifer species like subalpine fir, lodgepole pine, and spruce.

A rudimentary review of the fire regime of these forest types reveals that they tend to burn infrequently, often with centuries between major wildfires.

Indeed, the only time you get a major fire is when there are extreme weather conditions that include drought, low humidity, high temperatures and high winds. Under these conditions, you simply cannot halt a fire.

For instance, one study published by scientists by the Forest Service Fire Lab in Missoula concluded that:

“Extreme environmental conditions. .overwhelmed most fuel treatment effects. . . This included almost all treatment methods including prescribed burning and thinning. . .. Suppression efforts had little benefit from fuel modifications.”

This is particularly true in the narrow Lostine Canyon where any fire burning under extreme conditions with high winds will cast fire brands a mile or more that will jump over, around, and perhaps even through any thinned forest stands.

Add to this factor that even when thinned/logged, trees grow back quickly negating any benefit of fuel reductions—assuming it even worked—which increasingly researchers are questioning.

As another study of fuel reduction effectiveness concludes: “When the probability of fire occurring in a particular area is relatively low (as with the Lostine corridor due to the long fire intervals) the odds of a fuel treatment influencing the behaviour of a wildfire there, within the time frame that treatments are effective, is also low.”

In fact, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests logging increases high severity fires.  The reason is clear—logging/thinning opens the forest canopy up. This results in greater drying of the fuels and allows for greater wind penetration—exactly the factors that sustain high severity fires.

For instance, the Congressional Research Service found: “From a quantitative perspective, the CRS study indicates a very weak relationship between acres logged and the extent and severity of forest fires. … the data indicate that fewer acres burned in areas where logging activity was limited.”

Another study published this winter that reviewed 1500 wildfires and the influence of logging/thinning on fire severity summarized findings this way:

“We investigated the relationship between protected status and fire severity applied to 1500 fires affecting 9.5 million hectares between 1984 and 2014 in pine (Pinus ponderosa, Pinus jeffreyi) and mixed-conifer forests of western United States… We found forests with higher levels of protection had lower severity values even though they are generally identified as having the highest overall levels of biomass and fuel.”

As FS researcher Jack Cohen has stated:

“Wildland fuel reduction may be inefficient and ineffective for reducing home losses, for extensive wildland fuel reduction on public lands does not effectively reduce home ignitability on private lands.”

Adding insult to injury logging the corridor will result in logging roads that add sediment to the river negatively impacting fisheries, disturbance and displacement to sensitive wildlife like elk, the spread weeds, compaction of soils, loss of carbon storage, and creation of an industrial zone with logging trucks running up and down the road in an important recreation area.

So, we the public, get all these negatives, while the timber companies get the benefit. It’s another example of the PPSC—privatize profits, and socialize costs. No wonder the FS doesn’t want the public to understand what is going on by using the Categorical Exclusion to hide the reality.

More articles by:

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. He serves on the board of the Western Watersheds Project.

CounterPunch Magazine


bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

August 22, 2017
Paul Street
“Deep State” Rules on Beneath CNN Mock Shock at NapoleDon BonaTrump
Edward Hunt
The U.S. is Fanning the Flames of Violence in Mexico
James Bovard
My Antiwar Awakening From a Boozing Baltimore Vet
Richard Greeman
Racism: North and South
Gregory Barrett
The Karma of Terror
Robert Fisk
Pig’s Blood Bullets: Trump’s Big Lie About the Philippines
Howard Lisnoff
The Streets: the Only Place Where Democracy Lives
Michael J. Sainato
Police Have Made No Arrests Over Charlottesville Assault of 20 Year-Old Deandre Harris
Dan Bacher
Winnemem Wintu, Fishing Groups Sue to Block Ecosystem-Killing Delta Tunnels
Monica Bond
A Wildlife Hero Lost, But His Legacy Lives On
Binoy Kampmark
Target Finding for the Empire: the NSA and the Pine Gap Facility
Dana Cook
Encounters With Dick Gregory: From Malcolm X to Howard Zinn
Tom Gill
Italy’s Water Crisis is a Private Affair
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Another Palestinian-American Deported: the Case of Rasmea Odeh
Vern Loomis
Blood and Soil: Hey Joe, Where You Goin?
August 21, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
A Plea for Nonviolence: Fighting Fascism in Trump’s America
Robert Hunziker
The National Climate Assessment and National Park Neglect
Matthew Hoh
The Lies on Afghanistan 
Kenneth Surin
Narratives of Decline Among the US and UK Elites
Timothy B. Tyson
The History We Leave Out of Our Public Spaces
John Laforge
“We Burned Down Every Town in North Korea”
Gary Leupp
Trump and the Impending Statue Battles
Dave Lindorff
The Virtues of Tearing Down Statues Depends on Where They are Standing
Susan Babbitt
Why the Surprise About North Korea’s Resistance?
Uri Avnery
The Egg of Columbus 
Andre Vltchek
The World Remembers 64th Anniversary of the West-Sponsored Coup in Iran
Jimmy Centeno
The Gentrification of LA: Fight on Boyle Heights
Raouf Halaby
To Remove or Not to Remove?
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s Collapsing World
Victor Grossman
Charlottesville and Thuringia
Lydia Howell
Racist Masks Ripped Off in Charlottesville
Nyla Ali Khan
The Woman Question in South Asia
Weekend Edition
August 18, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Why Trump Could Be Gone Before 2020
John Steppling
America Asleep
Jeffrey St. Clair
To See or to Nazi: Trump’s Moral Blindspot is America’s
Vincent Emanuele
The Fetishization of Violence: Reflections on Charlottesville, WWII and Activism
Peter A. Coclanis
Why Trump Isn’t a Populist
Rob Urie
Imperial Death Spiral
Sam Husseini
How “Both Sides” Forge U.S. Supremacy: the Nationalistic Hypocrisies of “Violence” and “Free Speech”
David Rosen
Permanent War, Permanent Failure
Patrick Cockburn
Endtimes in Mosul
Dave Lindorff
Discovering Racism and Then Discovering It Anew
Richard Hardigan
Israel Continues Its Attack on Palestinian Freedom of Expression
Alexander Cockburn
Two Sides to Every Issue: the Tedium Twins Debate the Crucifixion, Slavery and Cannibalism
Pete Dolack
Life Under Capitalism: Early Deaths a ‘Silver Lining’ for Corporations
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail