Forest thinning helps reduce fires

Daniel B. Wheeler dwheeler at
Tue Sep 24 06:07:08 EST 2002

lhfotoware at (Larry Harrell) wrote in message news:<7a90c754.0209191543.7c421ad6 at>...
> rwm at (caerbannog) wrote in message news:<e0bfcdc4.0209171805.17d51b6f at>...
> > dwheeler at (Daniel B. Wheeler) wrote in message 
> ><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
> epidemic.
> 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
> logging.
> 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.
Indeed, logging creates areas of rapid regeneration of young
second-growth. These trees are _more_ susceptible to fire than older
trees, which have thicker bark and are adapted by nature to survive
fire. A forester I once heard compared an old tree's bark to the
Yellow Pages or a phone book. The outer pages might be burnt
completely. Even interior pages could be charred to ash. But far in,
the pages are hardly damaged and quite able to survive.
> >< 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
> wildfires.
> "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
> fire.
> 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
> said.
> 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
>  trees
> >< 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.
And at the heart of it, this is also the risk of the Bush *plan*. It
presumes that industry knows better than nature. And it also proposes
that the government and other Americans should spent their dollars to
help loggers do what they should have been doing already: forest
management and forest thinning.

There is a logical extension. In the private logging industry, forest
owners should be given a tax break to help pay for the large costs of
thinning forests. Why? The public gains from the increased water
retention such thinned forests create, as well as decreased
fire-fighting costs and fire breaks.
> >< This implies that loggers will run amok in the woods, taking huge,
>  old
> >< 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
> review.
The temporary work stoppage may only last 60 days. If the review is
not completed within that time frame (and does anyone really think it
would be?) the cut goes ahead, regardless of whether the appeal has
merit or not.
> 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
>  without
> >< 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
>  and
> >< feeding crown fires.
OTOH, they are also trees that have likely survived at least 4-5 fires
in the past 100 years (provided fire is still allowed to thin
naturally stands).
> 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
>  Forests".
> >< 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
> hold

Since this management method has _never_ been attempted, there are
serious questions of forest health still involved. It is unwise to
place all your management eggs in one basket.
> 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
But still burning today. And likely to burn into the future.
> "They know how to do it. The question is, given the chance, will
> they?"
> >< Been there and already did that. Go to the Eldorado National Forest
> and see >< for yourself!
In the forests of Oregon (which I am more intimately involved with)
this is not the case.
> >< = Comments by poster
> >< Obviously, this is for the consumption of city-folk, who blindly
>  believe
> >< their precious "oracles". 
Or are in a different ecosystem than yours, Larry.

Daniel B. Wheeler

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