• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

Support Our Annual Fund Drive!fund-drive-progress-thermometer

We only shake our readers down two times a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Forest Service Ignores Science to Justify Logging

The Helena National Forest has released its Ten Mile-South Helena Project, which will include logging, prescribed burning on more than 17,500 acres including in roadless lands proposed for wilderness designation. Throughout its document, the FS ignores the preponderance of fire science to justify logging/thinning of the forest and ignores the many environmental impacts that result from such actions.

First, the FS implies that dead trees, particularly beetle-kill lodgepole pine, increases fire risk. Contrary to this message, numerous studies have concluded that dead trees reduce, not increase, fire hazard.

For example, a study done on bug killed trees in Colorado found: “Contrary to the expectation that bark beetle infestation alters subsequent fire severity, correlation, and multivariate generalized linear regression analysis revealed no influence of pre-fire beetle severity on nearly all field or remotely sensed measurements of fire severity.”

The authors further noted: “In comparison to severity of the pre-fire beetle outbreak, we found that topography, pre-outbreak basal area, and weather conditions exerted a stronger effect on fire severity.”

Another study found “Modeling results suggested that undisturbed, red, and gray-stage stands were unlikely to exhibit transition of surface fires to tree crowns (torching) and that the likelihood of sustaining an active crown fire (crowning) decreased from undisturbed to gray-stage stands.”

Scientists at the Missoula fire lab found that thinning/fuel treatments basically don’t work under extreme fire conditions — which are the only conditions that spawn large fires. Their study concludes: “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.”

A letter signed by over 200 scientists, including some of the preeminent fire scientists in the country, and sent to Congress this past year argued: “Thinning is most often proposed to reduce fire risk and lower fire intensity. … However, as the climate changes, most of our fires will occur during extreme fire-weather (high winds and temperatures, low humidity, low vegetation moisture).

The letter goes on to say: “Thinning large trees, including overstory trees in a stand, can increase the rate of fire spread by opening up the forest to increased wind velocity, damage soils, introduce invasive species that increase flammable understory vegetation, and impact wildlife habitat.”

Even the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service concluded: “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.”

This study compliments another 2016 study which found that higher severity fires occurred in treated areas compared to protected landscapes like wilderness and parks.

Salvage logging increases surface fuels, which are what carries most wildfires. A study done by the Forest Service’s researchers (maybe the Helena Forest should consult with its researchers) found that salvage logging increased the total woody surface fuels 2.7 times compared with untreated stands following salvage logging. Even worse for fire risk, the amount of fine fuels increased by 3.3 times over untreated stands.

The probability of a wildfire encountering a fuel reduction is minuscule. A recent study concluded: “Forested areas considerably exceed the area treated, so it is relatively rare that treatments encounter wildfire. … Therefore, roughly 1 percent of U.S. Forest Service forest treatments experience wildfire each year, on average. The effectiveness of forest treatments lasts about 10–20 years, suggesting that most treatments have little influence on wildfire.”

Logging activities disturb wildlife (like elk). Logging removes snags and down wood, which is critical habitat for many wildlife species. Logging activities spread weeds. Logging removes carbon from the forest.

However, the worse aspect of all of this project is that logging/thinning doesn’t work to reduce large wildfires which are climate/weather-driven events.

 

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.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
October 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
CounterPunch in Peril?
Anthony DiMaggio
Fake News in Trump’s America
Andrew Levine
Trump’s End Days
Jeffrey St. Clair
High Plains Grifter: the Life and Crimes of George W. Bush
Patrick Cockburn
Kurdish Fighters Always Feared Trump Would be a Treacherous Ally
Paul Street
On the TrumpenLeft and False Equivalence
Dave Lindorff
Sure Trump is ‘Betraying the Kurds!’ But What’s New about That?
Rob Urie
Democrats Impeach Joe Biden, Fiddle as the Planet Burns
Sam Pizzigati
Inequality is Literally Killing Us
Jill Richardson
What Life on the Margins Feels Like
Mitchell Zimmerman
IMPOTUS: Droit de seigneur at Mar-a-Lago
Robert Hunziker
Methane SOS
Lawrence Davidson
Donald Trump, the Christian Warrior
William Hartung – Mandy Smithburger
The Pentagon is Pledging to Reform Itself, Again. It Won’t.
Richard Moser
The Empire Is Running Out of War Stories. Or is it? Will American Exceptionalism Rise Again?
Roger Harris
Why Trump is Facing Impeachment
Doug Lummis
Everything Going Wrong in Okinawa
Ramzy Baroud
Administrative Torture: Free Heba al-Labadi, a Jordanian Citizen in Israeli Prison
Christopher Ketcham
Ode to the Drums of Ginger Baker
W. T. Whitney
Upcoming Elections Represent Testing Time for Bolivia’s Socialist Government
Louis Proyect
Building Soldier Resistance Under the Shadows of Fascism
Mark Ashwill
Reflections on General Giap and the End of an Era in Vietnam
Gabriel Leão
Killing the Messengers: Rising Violence Against Journalists and Indigenous Leaders Defending the Amazon
Graham Peebles
Climate Change: All Talk No Action
Arthur Hoyle
The Meaning of Donald Trump
Dean Baker
Those Quaint Corporate Scandals in Japan
Laura Santina
Take Their Feet Off Our Necks
Julian Vigo
The New Workers’ Revolution is Afoot
Robert Koehler
The Rights of Nature
Dan Bacher
New Report Reveals Oil Waste in CA Aquifers
David Swanson
Trump’s Opponents Have Him Beat . . . When It Comes to Incompetence
Ben Debney
Liberals, Class and the Joker Complex
Brian Wakamo
Paying College Athletes: California Takes on the NCAA
Theo Wuest
Don’t Leave Equality to the Supreme Court
Jesse Jackson
To His Wealthy Donors, Trump is the Grifter
Mairead Maguire
Pathways to Peace
George Wuerthner
Logging Wild and Scenic River Corridors in the Name of Reducing Wildfires is a Really Bad Idea
Tracey L. Rogers
We Can’t Hug Away Injustice
Mike Garrity
How the Alliance for the Wild Rockies Stopped Trump From Bulldozing Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk Grizzly Bears into Extinction
Lawrence Wittner
Why Are Americans So Confused About the Meaning of “Democratic Socialism”?
Nicky Reid
Climate Cthulhu: A Post-Modern Horror Story
Seth Sandronsky
A Sacramento King’s Ransom: Local Tax Dollars and the Owner’s Wealth
Susan Block
Cougar 2020?
David Yearsley
Mother Mallard’s Little Boy Grows Up
Elliot Sperber
Taking Out Columbus
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail