FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Logging Dead Trees is Bad for Forests

A recent article in the The Spokesman-Review (“Colville cutting down decades of decline,” Feb. 3) celebrated increased logging on the Colville National Forest. The main justification for logging is to provide fodder for the local mills at taxpayer expense while claiming that the timber cutting is “restoration.”

Colville forest Supervisor Rodney Smoldon was quoted as suggesting that removal of trees would expand “forest restoration work necessary to reduce the risk of wildfire in northeast Washington.”

Apparently, Supervisor Smoldon and his staff are not well-versed in fire ecology. They are selling “snake oil.”

Numerous studies have shown large wildfires are driven by climate/weather, not fuels. When you have severe drought, low humidity, high temperatures and high winds, nothing works to halt a blaze. And since all large fires occur under extreme fire weather, this suggests that so-called “fuel reduction projects” are a waste of money.

For instance, a study published last year concludes: “However, the effectiveness of this approach (fuel reductions) at broad scales is limited. Mechanical fuels treatments on US federal lands over the last 15 y (2001–2015) totaled almost 7 million (hectares), but the annual area burned has continued to set records. Regionally, the area treated has little relationship to trends in the area burned, which is influenced primarily by patterns of drought and warming.”

Another study found “fuel treatments … cannot realistically be expected to eliminate large area burned in severe fire weather years.”

A third paper concluded: “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.”

Yet another study that reviewed 1,500 fires found that blazes that occurred in protected areas like wilderness and parks burned at lower severity than fires in areas with “active management” – meaning logging.

Beyond the fact that thinning projects cannot realistically halt blazes that occur under extreme fire weather conditions, logging is not “restoration.”

As an ecologist, though it may seem counterintuitive, I can assert, there are likely more species of plants and animals that depend on dead trees than live trees. These creatures live in mortal fear of “green forests.” Indeed, a “healthy forest ecosystem” has a lot of dead trees in it.

The main factors that create episodic inputs of dead trees are large, high-severity wildfires, insect outbreaks, and sometimes drought and other factors. Whatever the cause, a healthy forest depends on these episodic events and so-called “forest restoration” only impoverishes forest ecosystems by removing the dead trees and reducing the likelihood of new mortality.

Some studies suggest that two-thirds of all wildlife species utilize dead trees at some point in their lives. Forty-five percent of the birds in the northern Rockies depend on dead trees at some point in their lives. They may forage on them, roost in them, seek shelter in them, and hide beneath them. It’s not just birds and mammals. High severity fires increase the abundance and diversity of native birds – which are the main pollinators of our plants both domestic and wild.

Dead trees that fall into streams are both structural components that reduce bank erosion but also provide the bulk of habitat for aquatic life.

Beyond the habitat necessary for wildlife, dead trees are important for carbon storage. Numerous studies have shown logging reduces carbon in the forest. Even forest fires leave behind more carbon since what typically burns in a fire is the fine fuels, not the tree boles and roots where the bulk of carbon is located.

What all this suggests is that increased logging on the Colville Forest is degrading our national patrimony with the support and guidance of the Forest Service and other misguided organizations like the Lands Council.

The best use of our national forests is protecting carbon storage, creating wildlife habitat (which is often the result of wildfires) and maintaining ecological and evolutionary processes. Anything less is short-changing the public.

 

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.

January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail