"Letter: Logging may not help prevent severe fires" "Indeed, even if a fire actually encounters a thinned forest—an assumption with a very low probability-- numerous studies, including many by Forest Service researchers, conclude that under such extreme fire weather conditions, thinning projects fail. The reason is that high winds blow embers over and through thinned forest stands. In fact, there is new research that has found that logging increases the occurrence of high severity fires over protected landscapes. This study, published just last month, reviewed 1,500 fires and found that fire severity was highest in the stands with the most active management, while lowest in protected areas. This is not surprising since logging transfers fuels from the forest canopy to the forest floor and opens the stand to greater drying and wind penetration which are two key factors in fire spread." Study finds protected forests on public land burn less than severely logged areas “The belief that restrictions on logging have increased fire severity did not bear out in the study,” said Chad Hanson, an ecologist with the John Muir Project. “In fact, the findings suggest the opposite. The most intense fires are occurring on private forest lands, while lands with little to no logging experience fires with relatively lower intensity.” “Our findings demonstrate that increased logging may actually increase fire severity,” said Dominick A. DellaSala, chief scientist of Geos Institute. “Instead, decision-makers concerned about fire should target proven fire-risk reduction measures nearest homes and keep firefighters out of harm’s way by focusing fire suppression actions near towns, not in the back country.”
Let the Forests Be Forests "No matter what politicians, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation or the Wilderness Society, et al., say about “collaborative” clearcutting and bulldozing roads into our remaining roadless areas, the truth is that no amount of logging, “thinning” or prescribed burning will save us from nature’s cycles of life, death and renewal. Fighting a costly, losing war against the forces of nature destroys forests ultimately to serve the timber industry and its bankers. Manipulating the forest and public perception has nothing to do with reducing risks associated with large-scale wildfire. The whole idea that forests are “out of whack” is a myth concocted to justify unprofitable, unsustainable thinning and clearcutting on unsuitable ground."
Fire Works Many other observations are revealing the high value of post-fire forests. A year after the King Fire in El Dorado National Forest, carpets of conifer seedlings were observed rising from the ashes along with three rare plants. One of them, the longfruit jewelflower (first described by Glen Clifton and Roy Buck in 2007), had never been sighted in El Dorado before. Two years after the 2013 Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest, vast areas with mature pines that were presumed dead had bounced back to life. Seedlings were popping up everywhere in the high-intensity burn areas.
After Catastrophic Wildfires, Forests Rebound on Their Own Recent research has revealed that rare California spotted owls forage in the high-intensity burn areas and nest in areas that burned with low intensity. Elsewhere, Hanson even found Pacific fishers in parts of Sequoia National Forest that burned in the 2002 McNally Fire.Restoration ecologists working in post-fire areas of Yosemite National Park have recently documented hundreds of burned areas supporting rare plants and vibrant fungal growth. Vast swaths of charred trees that looked assuredly dead have bounced back to life surprisingly.
Logging Califorinia's dead trees is harmful to the forests "The logging industry and some members of Congress have been spreading misinformation and fear of fire about dead trees in California’s forests in order to promote a weakening of environmental laws and increased logging on national forests. Dead trees are not an end to a forest but are part of the renewal cycle of life and death that rejuvenates forest ecosystems."
Don’t Be Fooled by the Latest Smokescreen for Logging Forests the science is clear that larges fires are driven by high to extreme fire weather—hot, dry, windy conditions. In such conditions, neither fire suppression nor logging operations packaged as fuel reduction or forest thinning will stop forest fires or reduce fire intensity. As acknowledged in a recent study by Forest Service scientists, Lydersen and others (2014), with regard to the 257,000-acre Rim fire of 2013 in the Sierra Nevada, “Plots that burned on days with strong plume activity experienced moderate- to high-severity fire effects regardless of forest conditions, fire history or topography…Our results suggest that wildfire burning under extreme weather conditions, as is often the case with fires that escape initial attack, can produce large areas of high-severity fire even in fuels-reduced forests with restored fire regimes.” Other recent studies indicate that forests with an active logging history tend to burn more intensely, not less, compared to forests that are protected from logging. Fundamentally, the notion promoted by the logging bill’s advocates in the Senate—that clearcutting and logging of old-growth trees will somehow reduce the occurrence and intensity of forest fires—is pure mythology, and is contradicted by the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence. Boone and Crockett Club Letter Full of Misinformation "A recent editorial advocating more logging as a panacea for large wildfires by Morrie Stevens of the Boone and Crockett Club is full of misinformation and flawed assumptions. As someone who has written several books on the topic, I believe it’s important to correct the misinformation. Furthermore, most of Montana’s forests are not “overgrown” as suggested by Mr. Stevens. Forests of lodgepole pine and other species grow for hundreds of years and then are rejuvenated by large wildfires. The large fires we are experiencing are completely within the historic norms if you understand basic forest ecology. ...Some 45 percent of all bird species depend on dead trees at some point in their lives and up to two-thirds of all species utilize dead trees. More than 50 percent of the fish habitat in our streams is the result of dead trees that fall into the water. More than 4,000 native species of bees which are critical pollinators in our forests depend on dead trees for their habitat. I could go on and on listing the ecological value of dead trees and large wildfires. Our present forest policy based on flawed assumptions that attempts to preclude these large fires doesn’t work, and furthermore degrades our forest ecosystems."
More Logging Won’t Stop Wildfires "In the case of the Rim Fire, our research found that protected forest areas with no history of logging burned least intensely. There was a similar pattern in other large fires in recent years. Logging removes the mature, thick-barked, fire-resistant trees. The small trees planted in their place and the debris left behind by loggers act as kindling; in effect, the logged areas become combustible tree plantations that are poor wildlife habitat."
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke "Despite this evidence the Forest Service continues to advocate logging/thinning on the flawed assumption that a reduction in beetle kill trees, will preclude large wildfires. Not only is this not the case but in reality we need large wildfires for the ecological work they do. Even if it were possible to reduce fires we would not to do this."
The Forest Thinning Trap "Thinning won’t significantly affect large blazes because fuels are not the major factor driving large blazes. Climatic/weather conditions are responsible for blazes."
Thinning Forests Won't Prevent Fires "Thinning, especially when larger trees are cut, has the same effect to the forests eco-system that a clear cut can have: loss of habitat for creatures, a decrease in nutrients to feed remaining trees and plants, and soil erosion, which can cause problems like flooding."
Why Thinning Forests Is A Poor Wildfire Strategy There are good reasons to believe that thinning cannot and will not effectively halt such blazes. First, most thinning projects are not done properly. A properly performed fuels reduction project would include not only mechanical removal of smaller trees and reduction of canopy density, but also broadcast prescribed burning to reduce ground fuels. In fact, mechanical thinning alone often INCREASES fire spread by putting more fine fuels on the ground. Additionally, thinning in some instances can INCREASE fire spread by exposing the forest floor’s fuels to greater sun drying and greater penetration by wind through the open forest stands. What is surprising to learn is that often the most dense forest stands (i.e. those with the most fuels) do not burn well because they retain moisture the longest, and wind is impeded from pushing flames through such dense forests. Second, thinning by removing competition between trees and brush often increases rapid regrowth of vegetation. Therefore, any thinning/fuels reduction program must have follow-up maintenance in the form of recurring prescribed burns and/or thinning to be effective. Yet most thinning projects do not even get the first prescribed burning, much less follow up burns.
Wildfire prevention or forest destruction? Mountain communities question forest service clearcutting "The Forest Service contends that logging these forests, which are in some cases miles from the nearest home, will “protect communities and restore natural processes to forest ecosystems.” Yet some Coloradans point to science demonstrating that logging is often ineffective at stopping large wildfires and can even make them spread more quickly by opening the forest to sunlight and wind. “We have learned that forest thinning is rarely effective under extreme burning conditions, and the severity of fire in adjacent forests has little to do with whether a home burns,” says Tania Schoennagel research scientist at University of Colorado Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and co-author of a new study titled Learning to Coexist with Wildfire. While the wisdom of logging to prevent wildfire continues to be debated, the most effective action homeowners can take to prevent their homes from burning is to tend an area 100 feet to 200 feet surrounding the structure, called the home ignition zone, according to the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station. One study showed 95 percent of homes with metal roofs and a maintained area of 30 feet to 60 feet survived fires."
The Big Lie: Logging and Forest Fires "By encouraging and exploiting the public's fear of fire (and the public's lack of understanding about fire's essential role in forest ecology), timber corporations have deftly cast themselves as heroes, seeking only to save our forests from "catastrophic wildfires" and saving adjacent rural communities in the process."
Forest Fires, Lies and Chainsaws "There is a growing body of anecdotal and scientific evidence to suggest that thinning, or fuels management-by whatever euphemism logging is called-does not slow or reduce the likelihood of large blazes."
Coexist or perish, wildfire analysis says “It quickly became clear that generic one-size-fits-all solutions to wildfire problems do not exist,” Moritz said. “Fuel reduction may be a useful strategy for specific places, like California’s dry conifer forests, but when we zoomed out and looked at fire-prone regions throughout the Western United States, Australia and the Mediterranean Basin, we realized that over vast parts of the world, a much more nuanced strategy of planning for coexistence with fire is needed.”
Thinning won't protect forests from wildfire A large percentage of fires in the Rockies are burning through forests of lodgepole pine, subalpine fir, Douglas fir and other forest types that tend to burn at long rotations of 50-500 years or more. Large fires are the norm in these forest types, not a consequence of “fire suppression” as falsely asserted. These forest types, when they burn, commonly burn as "mixed severity" to "high severity" fires. However, most fuel reductions have limited value under mixed to high severity fire conditions. Even if they did work to some degree under high severity fire weather conditions — an unproven assumption — the chances that a fire will encounter a fuel reduction during the time when it is effective is very small. Because of the naturally long fire rotations in these forest types, most fuel reductions will simply grow back into forest before any fire touches them.
Forest Voice: Should We Fight Forest Fires? This is an excellent online edition of the Native Forest Councils Magazine: Forest Voice. This issue specifically deals with fires in our forests, budgets that drive the suppression effort and many other excellent articles. Highly recommended. All the work Native Forest Council does is integral to understanding and protecting our forests.
5 Changes Needed to Prevent more wildfire deaths "Let fires that don’t threaten lives or properties burn themselves out rather than attacking every fire in the middle of nowhere, they advise, as the ecology of many areas depends on occasional wildfires to burn out excess fuels. And perhaps most important: Stand down when danger looms."
Big Burns Vs. Forest Thinning "Thinning is not a proven strategy. Most of the evidence to support thinning is anecdotal—but as many places where advocates claim thinning stopped or slowed a fire, there are other examples where fires burned right through thinned stands."
Colt Summit Not Based on Best Science Colt Summit is not based on the best available science, nor is it in the public interest. For instance, the Forest Service suggests that fire suppression has permitted fuels to accumulate, increasing fire risk. Yet the dominant forest type in the Colt Summit area is subalpine fir/lodgepole pine. This forest type burns infrequently, often at intervals of hundreds of years. To suggest that fire suppression has led to “unnatural” fuel accumulations among forests in Colt Summit is deceptive at best. Even if thinning were found to be effective, forests regrow and quickly negate fuel reductions. The probability that a major fire will burn through the thinned forests during the time when thinning might potentially reduce fire behavior is extremely low. All one has to do is look at the Jocko Lake Fire just outside of Seeley Lake that burned through thousands of acres of previously logged Plum Creek Timber Co. lands to know that logging does not preclude fire spread under extreme conditions. Yet it is only under extreme weather conditions that wildfire is a genuine threat to communities because under moderate conditions, modern fire-fighting methods can slow and deflect, if not outright stop a blaze. No one wants to see Seeley Lake burned in a wildfire, but again, there is abundant research that demonstrates the way to reduce fire risk to homes is not by logging the forest miles from a community, but focusing fuel reductions immediately adjacent to structures. Reducing the flammability of homes is a proven and far less costly way to ensure that Seeley Lake homes are protected from fires.
Backcountry Thinning is not the Way to Healthy Forests "We suggest shifting the treatment focus and risk management to what we can control, seasonal road closures and road obliteration to reduce human-caused fires, creation of defensible space around communities by removing dense trees and shrubs near homes, limiting alien grasses and sprawl in the urban-wildfire interface, and replacing wood roofs with non-combustible roofs, which alone could prevent over 90 percent of home ignitions during wildfires."
Why Large Fires are an Ecological Necessity We often hear the claim that logging is necessary to clear dense, overcrowded forests of dangerous ‘fuels.’ In this way old-fashioned logging is repackaged as ‘fuels reduction,’ but this simplifies complex forests to just one aspect: their ability to burn. So-called ‘fuels’ are trees and shrubs that stabilize soils and provide shelter and food for a host of forest-dwelling creatures. Because climate and weather are the real drivers of fire behavior, logging trees and clearing shrubs in ‘fuels reduction’ does little to influence the behavior of large fires during extreme weather events. We also hear the claim that logging and replanting after a large fire will restore the forest, otherwise the area will remain a shrubfield for decades. In fact, trees grow back better without human intervention, and in the meantime those temporary shrubfields intermixed with standing and fallen dead trees are favored habitat for many kinds of animals, and are part of the natural succession of forests after a fire. Numerous native birds are primarily dependent upon shrub habitat in intensely burned areas, and many of these are declining in population due to fire suppression and the widespread and expensive practice of eradicating shrubs after fire. As geneticist and author Spencer Wells noted, “more and more, we are realizing that tinkering with nature can produce unintended consequences.”
Forest Thinning Initiative Debated "The Hayman fire also tested theories about how thinning can affect fire behavior. The blaze slammed into areas that had been altered by commercial timber harvests or earlier natural fires. Some areas had also been thinned by chain saws and purposely set fires designed to clear underbrush and small trees. With some exceptions, according to a study conducted by the Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station, the modifications had "little apparent effect on fire severity."
Dead Trees Did Not Fuel Blazes This research showed that dead trees did not burn more severely than live ones, in fact burned less severely because of the loss of needles.
Hayman Fire Case Study This study concludes that the prescribed burns and mechanical thinnings had relatively no effect on the speed and direction of the fire. Climate drove this fire.
Fire Can Be Man, Nature's Friend "Remember the huge Yellowstone National Park fires in 1988? Ecologists were beating their breasts over that one, and predicting irreparable damage to one of our most popular parks. What really happened?The fires burned off much of the mature conifer timber, leaving clearings where sunlight could penetrate. The ashes acted as prime fertilizer since nutrients held tight by fallen needles and trees were released, and the landscape bloomed with grasses, herbs and shrubs."
The Biscuit Fire: Time To Bury The Myths "Unlike in Colorado, the weather is seldom raised as a major driver of big wildfires in Southwest Oregon. Instead, the “two many trees” syndrome is seen as the as the primary culprit. But can we learn from the case studies of recent big Colorado fires?"
Rural Homes Must Be More Fire Resistant "The researchers agreed that the goal of keeping wildfire out of the wildland urban interface is “unobtainable.” They also said that fuel reductions “do not stop fires (just change behavior).” Instead, Calkin and his co-authors advocated fuels reduction blended with prescribed burns, but those are difficult if not dangerous to conduct around rural homes. But without the burns, fuels reduction work won’t have the desired effect, they argue."
Big Timber's Big Lies "Fires tend to start in areas that have been logged because logged forests are drier, less shaded, and contain flammable debris known as "slash piles," unmerchantable branches left by logging crews. When fires do occur in old-growth forests, they rarely kill the larger trees, which have thick, fire-resistant bark. Instead, such fires simply clear understory brush and return nutrients to the soil, enhancing forest health. Even in the relatively rare event that a fire does kill an old-growth stand, the remaining trees and snags provide valuable nesting habitat for large birds of prey and other forest species. Wildlife has little use for stumps."
Huge Rim Fire Gives Opportunity To Restore Forest Differently "To try to decrease some of that fuel load, the Forest Service has had a policy of doing "mechanical thinning," or selective logging, particularly around houses and other buildings. "We have to remove some fuel to reduce temperatures of fires, but there's no way you can thin ten million acres," Burnett said, referring to the size of forest in the region. Even it that were possible, thinning isn't a silver bullet. "If fire comes in and it's hot, it's going to burn everything—it doesn't matter if you thin it."'
New Efforts to Fire Proof Our Forests: The Initiative Built into the 2014 Farm Bill ..management of the forest for commercial purposes tends to increase the flammability of the forest. Past logging not only did not reduce that “flammability” but seriously aggravated it. Yet “more of the same” is now supposed to save us. That is as logical as the alcoholic’s morning cure: a bit of the hair of the dog that bit you.
Fighting More Forest Fires Will Come Back to Burn Us Those dollars are increasingly going to private firms, not local, state, and federal fire crews. “Privatization has changed firefighting, and not for the better,” says Rich Fairbanks, a former fire planner for the U.S. Forest Service and one-time foreman of an elite “hot shot” crew. Private companies supply everything from helicopters and bulldozers to caterers and mobile shower facilities for the fire camps. Most don't get paid if they’re not actively fighting a fire; consequently, they lobby at the local, regional, and national level to fight as many blazes as they can. “There’s a lot of money to be made in fire suppression,” says Crystal Kolden, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Idaho who focuses on wildfire. “Contractors are very good at playing on the public’s fear of large wildfires. Those private entities … have an incredibly powerful lobby in Washington, D.C.”
Forest thinning will increase wildfire risk These prescriptions drastically thin forest canopies through timber sales designed primarily to generate timber volume, often leaving the slash and smaller shrubs and trees for non-commercial fire hazard reduction projects that are usually underfunded, unable to match the pace of canopy thinning projects and clear-cuts across the landscape. Thinning forest canopies opens the stands to more sunlight, which encourages growth of fine fuels, including shrubs, small trees and grasses. Penetration of sunlight and dry summer winds effectively increases the active fire season by drying this new growth and leftover logging slash much faster than in adjacent unlogged forest stands, where greater canopy closure with tall shade columns retains moisture in soils and vegetation.
Word-Play As A Solution To Western Wildfires Not surprisingly, almost all of the proposals as to how to control wildfire on federal lands involve a major expansion in the logging of those forests. This conveniently links our primordial fear of wildfire with economic insecurity and job creation. We can save our homes from fire while putting thousands to work at family-supporting wages in an industry that historically was associated with the original settlement of the Mountain West. Such multiple-purpose logging, we are told, has even more attractive features: For instance, it will help improve our natural environment by “restoring” our forests to a “healthy” state. Now comes the tricky part. Apparently our forests became unhealthy in the past due to aggressive wildfire suppression and widespread logging and grazing of public lands. It takes a little fast talking and hand waving to purpose, as a solution, returning to the very activities we are told got us into trouble in the first place. But in the world of politics, where only bumper stickers and one minute sound-bites, matter, such contradictions are easily obscured by simply re-labeling “logging” as “thinning” or “forest restoration” or “hazardous fuel reduction” or “treating an epidemic of disease” in our forests and bringing them back to health.