SocraticGadfly: Oregon Dems propose Healthy Forests lite

July 14, 2008

Oregon Dems propose Healthy Forests lite

I didn’t think Sen. Ron Wyden could be that much of a sellout, though “weak-kneeded” is an acceptable description; well, he and Rep. Peter DeFazio are proposing timbering bills that would cut logging companies a big break

Traditional National Forest Service sales contracts will be used for “thinning.” But:
In order for a federal timber sale to attract buyers, the timber companies must be able to make money on the sale. But most federal forests are remote and steep. This means high logging and log hauling costs. As a result, in order to create a timber sale that will actually attract buyers, Forest Service planners must either log the larger trees or they must reduce the forest canopy radically by having loggers removing most of the trees.

But when you remove that much canopy shade small trees and brush sprout and grow prolifically. Within 5 years or so the risk of catastrophic wildfire has dramatically increased. Also, immediately after logging the open canopy increases sunlight and wind on the forest floor. Forest fuels dry sooner and this also increases fire risk.

Furthermore, economic considerations often cause Forest Service planners to forgo requiring the timber company purchasing the timber sale to remove or burn slash - that is, the limbs and small trees left on the forest floor after logging.

The increased wildfire risk which result from excessive “thinning” will persist for 30 or more years until slash decomposes and trees grow enough to form a closed canopy which once again shades out highly flammable brush.

No wonder Wyden doesn’t want to talk about his own legislation.

Oh, let me take this chance to plug High Country News, the premier magazine on Western life and environmental issues.

No comments: