Soapbox

Another View: Forests recover from fires without clear-cutting

A logging truck passes a road sign scorched by the flames of the 2013 Rim fire in the Stanislaus National Forest. Chad Hanson, director and principal ecologist with the John Muir Project, says that the logging industry falsely claims that where fires burn most intensely, the forest does not naturally regenerate, suggesting that post-fire logging is needed to generate revenue for artificial tree planting.
A logging truck passes a road sign scorched by the flames of the 2013 Rim fire in the Stanislaus National Forest. Chad Hanson, director and principal ecologist with the John Muir Project, says that the logging industry falsely claims that where fires burn most intensely, the forest does not naturally regenerate, suggesting that post-fire logging is needed to generate revenue for artificial tree planting. Associated Press file

The timber industry makes a lot of money clear-cutting our national forests after fires, so it’s no surprise that it takes some liberties with the facts (“Salvage logging is first step to fire recovery,” Viewpoints, Oct. 13).

The logging industry claims that where fires burn most intensely, the forest does not naturally regenerate, suggesting that post-fire logging is needed to generate revenue for artificial tree planting. This is a myth. Scientific studies consistently find vigorous natural regeneration of conifers and oaks in high-intensity fire patches.

I have hiked extensively through the recent Rim and King fire areas, and am already seeing beautiful, natural forest in places that burned hottest. More than a decade after the Star fire, pines and fir trees are growing through and above native shrubs in the most intensely burned places where logging was halted.

When post-fire logging occurs, the heavy machinery rolls over and kills nearly all the natural forest regrowth. Then taxpayers foot the bill for artificial reforestation, to the tune of $1 million for every 1,000 acres in national forests, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Moreover, the revenue from post-fire logging does not go to the replanting of trees. Instead, the Forest Service keeps 100 percent to pay staff and expenses for the next post-fire logging project.

The timber industry also claims that fire destroys wildlife habitat for the California spotted owl and other species, and suggests the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agrees. Not so. Last month, the agency concluded that “thinning, and post-fire salvage logging” are primary threats to spotted owls, and noted that “unlogged burned areas may be important to reproductive success and continued occupancy.”

Also last month, 262 scientists sent a letter to U.S. senators urging them to oppose pending, post-fire logging bills. The scientists stated that the “snag forest” habitat created by patches of intense fire “is quite simply some of the best wildlife habitat in forests,” and noted that post-fire logging degrades the “ecological integrity of forest ecosystems.”

Chad Hanson is director and principal ecologist with the John Muir Project, a research and advocacy group in Big Bear City.

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