I live adjacent to Colorado's Pike National Forest with my family and have been engaged with this land for the past 34 years. Our family loves this place and would like to leave the land in better shape than when we arrived. Several years ago, we were notified about grant opportunities offered by the Forest Service to help improve forest land. Over 10 years ago, we contracted with the Forest Service on a 50/50 grant to thin 20 acres of land through hydro axing a large percentage of the trees in hopes of creating a park-like environment that we were assured would improve forest health and help with mitigation of fire. After completion of this project, we were devastated by the results. The land looked like a clear cut with few remaining trees, and wood scraps blanketed the land that used to be our healthy living forest. We were assured this would all grow back and were told to ignore the landscape and trust that the Forest Service knew best and that we had done what was right for the land. Seven years later, the Forest Service began holding meetings in our community about available grants to manage the forests. The grants would cover 100% of the cost of forest thinning, and everyone was told part of being a responsible land owner was to thin the land and we should jump on this opportunity. The representatives stated that this was a necessity because "it is not a matter of if the forests will burn, but a matter of when" and by mitigating we could effectively save our homes and land from catastrophic fires. We decided to take advantage of these grants. A lot of money was being offered to thin this forest, and we still trusted the Forest Service "experts" who insisted that thinning would improve the health of the forest as well as slow down fires. We were told this project would be vastly different from the last and the contractors would leave the land in better shape because the technology changed from hydro axing to mastication. We were assured mastication was far superior ecologically. As the contractors began their work, the damage from the thinning became more apparent and I started researching what policies drove thinning and whether or not thinning truly would improve forest health and help mitigate fire. The results were shocking. After inviting biologists, ecologists and botanists onto the land to help inform us, reading hundreds of pages of research and uncovering the history of the Forest Service and policies that have dictated the actions of the service, we put a stop to the project on our land. In the three years since we pulled out of the contract, I have been researching this topic and created this website to compile that research and share it with other individuals so the information would be readily available. Because of the tremendous mistake we made in thinning our land, I wanted to share my discoveries with others so people have the opportunity to become better informed about decisions they make on forested land and on policies that are implemented throughout the National Forests.
The Forest Service, in partnership with the timber industry, uses propaganda to promote the idea that thinning helps lessen fire severity while improving forest health. The research on the benefits of forest thinning is financially backed by the timber industry, and congressional passing of bills that promote thinning are backed by the lobbying efforts of the industry. The main goal for thinning forests is to increase revenue by allowing the timber industry to get into forests that were previously protected by environmental laws. Recent legislation has allowed the industry to bypass those laws and profit from forest products in the name of "forest health and restoration." The Forest Service has consistently worked with the timber industry as a result of financial incentives and has been responsible for creating the infrastructure through use of federal tax dollars in the form of subsidies that enable the industry to "get the cut out."
Individual land owners have recently been encouraged by the Forest Service to thin their lands with available grant monies under the guise of protecting their homes from fire and to improve the health of the forests. The available grant money filters down to the Forest Service from federal legislation that allows industry to get into our treasured, and last remaining, intact forests. Thinning private lands is offered as another incentive that generates money for the Forest Service while creating the appearance that the Forest Service is promoting a policy of "fire mitigation" and "forest restoration," extending to the wildland/urban interface. Private land owners have the power to become informed and make rational decisions to protect their homes from fire that will not devastate the forest community. It is essential that individuals making these decisions become informed about federal forest policies and the history of the Forest Service before making decisions that will disrupt and harm the forest communities where we live.
This website has compiled research to help guide individuals through the forest thinning debate by demonstrating that thinning is not only damaging to the forest community but increases fire severity and atmospheric carbon, damages soil, alters wildlife habitat and disastrously impacts riparian health, all of which dramatically alters forest ecology and eliminates diversity. The research presented on this website contests the mainstream acceptance that thinning actually mitigates fire danger while restoring and improving forest health. For the individual land owner who has the power to radically alter the forest landscape, it is our hope he/she will take the time to consider the research presented on this website before making decisions to thin forest land. For the average citizen concerned about our forests, we hope this website will help compile data that can be used to stop policies that are implemented in regards to the destructive drive towards thinning forests and salvaging logs from the few remaining diverse forests on this planet.
How to Use This Website
This website discusses four areas of concern surrounding forest thinning policies. Each tab has a brief description of the topic, and research articles used in formulating the information are easily accessible by clicking on the "Further Resources" tab which appears when you navigate the topics. The first area of concern, because it is used most frequently by thinning proponents, is the "Fire Prevention" tab. Here you will find information disputing the idea that thinning mitigates fires and the research backing it under the "further resources" tab. Next is the "Healthy Forests" tab where information is found on why thinning does not mean a healthier forest. The "Thinning Dollars" tab informs individuals where money comes from to thin forests. The "Forest Service History" tab gives readers information on the Forest Service itself and how this government entity has been a right arm of the timber industry since its beginnings. Finally the "Photo" tab has compiled pictures of thinned and untreated forest areas with a list of excellent books that are helpful for anyone wanting to know more about our forests and the policies that drive forest destruction.
It is our hope individuals using this website will see past the rhetoric that is being used by the Forest Service and the timber industry to convince the public that thinning will keep our homes and forests safe and healthy. It is clear that catastrophic fires are caused by climatic conditions and, as the weather changes and droughts sweep over the west, there is little we can do to stop fires. Perhaps taking a serious look at climate change and human behaviors that accelerate change, along with the insatiable desire to log our forests, would be a more effective way to address the situation.
Most importantly, take a walk into the forests and find a thinned area. Sit in that area a while and then find an area that has not been thinned and do the same. Think about the land, the ground, the living beings who depend on those areas and decide for yourself which place is truly healthier.