Forest thinning helps reduce fires

Larry Harrell lhfotoware at
Thu Sep 19 18:43:27 EST 2002

rwm at (caerbannog) wrote in message news:<e0bfcdc4.0209171805.17d51b6f at>...
> dwheeler at (Daniel B. Wheeler) wrote in message 
> .....
> > compromise solution of pi equal to 3.
> > 
> > Forest thinning helps reduce fires.
> > 
> > So does clearcutting. For a while.
> > 
> > Daniel B. Wheeler
> >
> There's an interesting article in the LA Times about logging and
> fires.  It can be found (for the time-being, at least) at
> la-na-logging17sep17013053.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dnation . 
> (Watch out for URL-wrap; registration may be required).
> The usual caveats about newspaper articles that deal with
> scientific/environmental issues apply.

><I believe this is the article you found, full of innuendo and lies
and maybe ><even a tiny shred of truth.

>< Comments by poster throughout the article

September 17 2002  Los Angeles Times
Intense Logging Blamed for Wildfires
Forests: Legislators in the West say timber laws led to slew of big
burns, but statistics show heavy cutting in '70s, '80s may have caused

The Bush administration's timber-cutting prescription for the West's
wildfire epidemic runs counter to the record of the last half century,
when large forest fires erupted on the heels of the heaviest logging
ever conducted by the U.S. Forest Service.

In an initiative that could come up for a Senate vote any day, the
administration is seeking to waive environmental reviews to speed up
tree-cutting on up to 10 million acres of federal land at high risk of

While administration officials say the work is urgently needed to thin
out forests jammed with fire-prone, dense growth, the Forest Service's
own statistics show that the modern era of big burns began not in the
1990s, during a period of declining logging, but in the 1980s, when
trucks groaning with public timber headed for the mills.

>< Plying the emotional strings of liberal readers everywhere. Yes,
that was
>< BAD FORESTRY back then but, we will NEVER go back to that style of

In 1950, when about 3 billion board-feet were logged, a quarter of a
million acres of federal forests burned. Nearly six times that amount
went up in flames in 1988, when the harvest had climbed to nearly 12
billion board-feet.

In California, two forests now considered especially vulnerable to
fire by the Forest Service&#8212;Lassen and Plumas northeast of
Sacramento&#8212;also were among the state's most heavily logged
during the 1970s and '80s.

"There's no reduction in wildfire from past logging. We haven't seen
it," said Leon Neuenschwander, a fire ecologist who taught for 25
years at the University of Idaho.

>< He certainly doesn't mention NEW FORESTRY that addresses the fuels
problems >< by strict REMOVAL of logging slash. Also, new projects
take smaller trees
>< that do not create nearly as much slash as old growth trees.

Many experts say that by removing the largest and most fire-resistant
trees and replacing them with dense young growth, conventional logging
and tree planting practices helped create the conditions that stoke

"Partial cutting done historically typically aggravated the fire
hazard and made things worse when fire came along," said C. Phillip
Weatherspoon, an emeritus research forester with the Forest Service
who has written extensively on fire.

>< That doesn't include thinning. Thinning is a prelude to prescribed

That is not to say that he and Neuenschwander believe chainsaws should
be banished from the woods. They don't.

But "cutting is not always the same by a long shot," Weatherspoon

He is one of many experts who advocate the removal of brush and dense
thickets of small trees as well as the use of deliberately set,
controlled fires to lessen the risks of major conflagrations in
western wild lands.

Cutting the Old Growth

Administration officials speak of the same need. But they also argue
that the taxpayer expense of such work could be offset if contractors
were allowed to take larger, marketable trees.

>< How large is "larger"? Chad "No-Cut" Hanson believes that 12" dbh
>< are "LARGE"!

The Bush proposal targets 10 million acres at high risk of fire,
including land that is near communities, that is in municipal
watersheds, or that is full of trees affected by disease or insects.

It contains no limits on the size of trees that can be cut and waives
environmental reviews and appeals that have been used by
conservationists to halt the logging of large old-growth trees.

>< This implies that loggers will run amok in the woods, taking huge,
>< growth trees without limit. Rules and policies for "Healthy
Forests" haven't >< yet been created and preservationists are already
claiming doom and gloom.

If the timber-cutting projects are challenged in court, the proposal
bars judges from temporarily stopping the work while a case is under

At the same time, in separate action in California, Forest Service
officials are reviewing new environmental protections in the Sierra
Nevada, contending the logging limits, adopted in the waning days of
the Clinton administration, hamper their ability to lessen the fire

The latest proposals are unfolding during a season of mammoth
wildfires for which some Western lawmakers and politicians have
angrily blamed environmentalists and timber-harvest limits.

"The policies that are coming from the East Coast&#8212;that are
coming from the environmentalists that say we don't need to log, we
don't need to thin our forests&#8212;are absolutely ridiculous,"
Arizona Gov. Jane Dee Hull said after nearly half a million acres of
her state were scorched.

"Nobody on the East Coast knows how to manage these fires, and I for
one have had it."

Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, a former timber industry lobbyist
and the architect of the administration proposal, said he was not
blaming environmentalists for the fire problem, nor did he believe it
had been created by logging.

"I don't think it's any more accurate to say that our current fire
situation is caused by the sharp logging reduction in the Clinton
administration than it is to say commercial logging is the primary
reason for the wildfire situation."

The scope of the summer's raging wildfires, he said, are a consequence
of drought, expanding communities at the forest edge that drain
firefighting resources from the backcountry, and nearly a century of
fire suppression&#8212;the policy of putting out fires as quickly as

Rey insisted that the current proposals are aimed at reducing the fire
hazard, not clearing the way for massive logging. But he said he
didn't believe Congress should be telling forest managers what size
trees to cut.

Will Hart, a spokesman for Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho), who is
sponsoring the administration's initiative, also said it is important
to give forest managers flexibility and not tie their hands with tree
size restrictions. He added that Craig's legislation includes language
that "not less than 10 of the largest trees per acre" be maintained in
areas thinned under the fuel reduction projects.

That would still allow extensive cutting, as the administration's own
briefing papers cite forest density of about 500 trees or more per
acre in some fire-prone areas.

>< This implies that 490 large old growth trees per acre will be cut
>< restrictions, appeals or supervision. In many areas, 10 old growth
trees per >< acre is what early pioneers found during the 1800's. A
great majority of
>< those 490 trees are sub-merchantable trees clogging the understory
>< feeding crown fires.

Critics contend the administration proposal is so broad it would let
the Forest Service cut just about anything, big or little, on forested
land at high fire risk.

"It virtually encourages the removal of large trees," said Jude
McCartin, spokeswoman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), who is
promoting an alternative proposal requiring that most fire hazard work
be done within a half-mile of communities or in key municipal

>< Sacrificing the deep woods in order to try to protect man's
creations?  Hmmm

Product of Tree Harvests

In addition to fire suppression, a number of researchers say the
increased wildfire risk is the product of commercial timber harvests
that promoted changes in the composition of Western forests, leaving
them more vulnerable to wildfire.

In taking out the biggest, most valuable trees, they maintain, logging
in national forests removed those most resistant to fire.

>< Preservationists continue to claim that as the goal of "Healthy
>< They sure don't listen very well. The true thing to focus on is
what is left >< after the project is completed. Healthy, functioning
fire resistant
>< ECOSYSTEMS. Not just stands of trees. True forests and all they

Clear-cutting, widely used by the Forest Service before the late
1980s, created large, sunny openings that subsequently filled with
thick new growth. Logged areas were often reseeded to create tree
plantations, again promoting heavy young growth.

>< Again, BANNED by the USFS in California way back in the early 90's

Timber harvesting also created massive amounts of slash
debris&#8212;the limbs and treetops stripped from logs before they are
loaded onto trucks. If left in the woods to dry, the slash can act
like huge piles of kindling, ready to feed any blaze that runs through
the woods.

"Almost all of the large damaging wild land fires in American history
up until recent decades were associated with logging and land
clearing," said Stephen J. Pyne, one of the nation's preeminent fire

"The reason is you leave huge amounts of fuel behind."

University of Washington forest ecologist James K. Agee, the author of
various journal articles on fire, said there are good and bad ways to

"On public lands, in particular, we ought to be focusing on leaving
the largest trees and thinning out the smaller ones and making sure
the slash that is created on those operations is cleaned up.

"It really boils down to the Forest Service doing a good job of this
in a sustainable fashion," he said.

"They know how to do it. The question is, given the chance, will

>< Been there and already did that. Go to the Eldorado National Forest
and see >< for yourself!

>< = Comments by poster

>< Obviously, this is for the consumption of city-folk, who blindly
>< their precious "oracles". 

>< Larry,  true environmentalist

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