FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Salvage Logging as Timber Industry Welfare

The Lolo National Forest is proposing to “salvage” log a portion of the 28,000-acre Liberty Burn near Seeley Lake, Montana.

The Forest Service (FS) approved the logging using a categorical exclusion (CE) process. CEs were initially designed to permit the FS to do minor actions like replace an outhouse in a campground or replace signs or other activities that had minimal environmental impact. Today the FS is increasingly using CE to circumvent and limit public participation, and ecological review.

The Blackfoot Challenge and Southwest Crown of the Continent Collaborative timber advocacy groups, and membership organizations like the Montana Timber Association and Pyramid Lumber also support the project and use of CE.

In the case of the Liberty Timber Sale, hundreds of acres of forest will be logged under a CE primarily to extract their commercial timber value, but it is “dressed up” as providing some ecological benefits.

For instance, the district ranger is quoted in saying they need to get the timber sale done quickly before the economic value of the wood is lost. At the same time, the agency tries to legitimize and hide the fact that it is nothing more than a handmaiden to the timber industry by suggesting it needs to “replant” trees in the burnt area—as if the forest is incapable of natural regeneration.

There is almost universal agreement among ecologists that logging burnt trees is ecologically destructive to forest ecosystems.

Indeed, anyone using Google can find numerous papers outlining the problems with removing burnt trees from forest systems. Indeed, there is an entire book by well-known forest ecologist Jerry Franklin (Salvage Logging and Its Ecological Consequences) outlining the harm done by salvage logging. Among the papers articulating the problems with salvage logging is one by University of Montana ecologist Richard Hutto.

In letters to Congress a number of scientists opined: “We know of no scientific reason to engage in salvage logging or roadbuilding in burned areas and we know of many sound reasons not to.” http://www.saveamericasforests.org/congress/Fire/Scientists-Anti-Salvage%20Logging-1992.htm and in another more than 200 scientists opposed salvage logging. https://wildfiretoday.com/2013/11/09/250-experts-oppose-salvage-logging-in-hastings-bill/ https://wildfiretoday.com/2013/11/09/250-experts-oppose-salvage-logging-in-hastings-bill/

Here are links to a few other articles. https://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/2013/11/scientists_oppose_two_logging.html

Is it possible that the Lolo National Forest and its lackey groups like the SWCCC are unable to use Google? Perhaps someone should give them a ten-minute lesson?

I acknowledge many public employees are under enormous pressure to “get the cut out.” Nevertheless, I find it intolerable when agencies and sycophants like the SWCOC and supporting groups fail to acknowledge the real economic and ecological cost. Instead, they attempt to hide the real justification for logging behind presumed ecological “benefits.”

Nearly all timber sales on public lands lose money. The FS tries to hide this fact with dubious accounting methods which the General Accounting Office labeled as “unreliable overall” and had “significant reporting errors in its financial statements” and “lacked financial systems that could accurately track revenues and costs.”

Worse than the economic subsidies is the failure of the FS to truly acknowledge and account for the ecological impacts of its timber program. Ultimately the ecological impacts of logging are more costly to society than the tax dollars we give to the welfare timber industry.

Among the negative ecological impacts of salvage logging are removal of biomass and dead wood which are critical to healthy forest ecosystems, the creation of logging roads which are vectors for the spread of weeds, and sedimentation in our aquatic ecosystems, the disruption of natural sub-surface water flow when slopes are cut by logging roads, the disturbance of sensitive wildlife associated with logging activity, the compaction of soils from logging equipment and increased access for ORVs, and other motorized recreation.

There is even a study that showed that salvage logging equipment kills much of the natural forest regeneration—which the timber industry and the Oregon State Forestry School sought to keep from being published and which the Lolo National Forest ignores too. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2006-jun-11-na-salvage11-story.htmland https://www.peer.org/assets/docs/whitepapers/1996_savage_salvage.pdf

Even more important in this day of climate change, logging and wood product production releases far more carbon than is emitted in forest fires.  Most carbon remains on-site stored in roots, snags, and the like.

In fact, the soil charcoal resulting from wildfires is one of the best long-term storage mechanisms for storing carbon. Here is a summary by Tom Deluca, now dean of the U of Montana Forestry School. https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1890/070070

This is another example where the Forest Service (and associated organizations) demonstrate that they are willing to compromise the integrity of our public lands to bankroll the local timber industry with taxpayer-subsidized timber sales and ecologically destructive logging practices that degrade public forest ecosystems.

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
February 26, 2020
Matthew Hoh
Heaven Protect Us From Men Who Live the Illusion of Danger: Pete Buttigieg and the US Military
Jefferson Morley
How the US Intelligence Community is Interfering in the 2020 Elections
Patrick Cockburn
With Wikileaks, Julian Assange Did What All Journalists Should Do
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change and Voting 2020
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Russiagate: The Toxic Gift That Keeps on Giving
Andrew Bacevich
Going Off-Script in the Age of Trump
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Anti-Russian Xenophobia Reaches Ridiculous Levels
Ted Rall
Don’t Worry, Centrists. Bernie Isn’t Radical.
George Wuerthner
Whatever Happened to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition?
Scott Tucker
Democratic Socialism in the Twenty-First Century
Jonah Raskin
The Call of the Wild (2020): A Cinematic Fairy Tale for the Age of Environmental Disaster
George Ochenski
Why We Shouldn’t Run Government Like a Business
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Imperium’s Face: Day One of the Extradition Hearings
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s Extradition Hearing Reveals Trump’s War on Free Press Is Targeting WikiLeaks Publisher
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon? (Part Two)
Max Moran
Meet Brad Karp, the Top Lawyer Bankrolling the Democrats
David Swanson
Nonviolent Action for Peace
Ed Sanders
The Ex-Terr GooGoo Eyes “The Russkies Did it!” Plot
February 25, 2020
Michael Hudson
The Democrats’ Quandary: In a Struggle Between Oligarchy and Democracy, Something Must Give
Paul Street
The “Liberal” Media’s Propaganda War on Bernie Sanders
Sheldon Richman
The Non-Intervention Principle
Nicholas Levis
The Real Meaning of Red Scare 3.0
John Feffer
Cleaning Up Trump’s Global Mess
David Swanson
How Are We Going to Pay for Saving Trillions of Dollars?
Ralph Nader
Three Major News Stories That Need To Be Exposed
John Eskow
What Will You Do If the Democrats Steal It from Sanders?
Dean Baker
What If Buttigieg Said That He Doesn’t Accept the “Fashionable” View That Climate Change is a Problem?
Jack Rasmus
The Nevada Caucus and the Desperation of Democrat Elites
Howard Lisnoff
The Powerful Are Going After Jane Fonda Again
Binoy Kampmark
Viral Losses: Australian Universities, Coronavirus and Greed
John W. Whitehead
Gun-Toting Cops Endanger Students and Turn Schools into Prisons
Marshall Sahlins
David Brooks, Public Intellectual
February 24, 2020
Stephen Corry
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
M. K. Bhadrakumar
How India’s Modi is Playing on Trump’s Ego to His Advantage
Jennifer Matsui
Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie
Robert Fisk
There’s Little Chance for Change in Lebanon, Except for More Suffering
Rob Wallace
Connecting the Coronavirus to Agriculture
Bill Spence
Burning the Future: the Growing Anger of Young Australians
Eleanor Eagan
As the Primary Race Heats Up, Candidates Forget Principled Campaign Finance Stands
Binoy Kampmark
The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden
George Wuerthner
Trojan Horse Timber Sales on the Bitterroot
Rick Meis
Public Lands “Collaboration” is Lousy Management
David Swanson
Bloomberg Has Spent Enough to Give a Nickel to Every Person Whose Life He’s Ever Damaged
Peter Cohen
What Tomorrow May Bring: Politics of the People
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail