Numerous people are tiring of the same old “tired songs” by interest groups, spreading misinformation regarding current forest management. Lyrics criticize that current management practices, including logging, are causing more wildland fires. They emphasize forests should be thinned of pole-sized trees or smaller and forests should be turned into old growth tree preserves which are “fire resilient.”
Our forests are greatly overstocked, increasing annually in volume and number of trees. They do need to be thinned of various sizes and include logging to reduce fire danger, keep fires that do occur down on the ground by reducing the number of trees, and also ladder fuels which cause fires to get up into crowns, then race across landscapes.
Logging will reduce fire danger and remove valuable, renewable wood products while providing many jobs and millions of dollars to county budgets, as legally required by the O&C Act. Another significant impact resulting from overstocked forests that gets little exposure and awareness is the fact that trees transpire (breathe into the air) millions of gallons of groundwater. A Canadian study revealed that Douglas fir trees alone transpire one gallon per day from juvenile trees to over five gallons per day from larger old trees. It is estimated that the Sierra Nevada forest is losing millions of acre feet of water annually, significantly contributing to drought conditions.
Southern Oregon averages 300 wildland fires annually. Fortunately, few become large, devastating ones. However, we are getting more large fires that destroy valuable resources and homes while significantly polluting our streams, rivers and lakes from a lot of fire ash and tremendous amounts of surface sediment. This adversely affects water quality and many salmon and steelhead spawning beds.
Billions of dollars of forest resources and other forest uses including recreation and tourism are lost due to fires. Even older, larger trees do burn in fires or typically die within two to three years due to damage to thin bark and cambium layers. Some exceptions are large, old redwood and ponderosa pine trees having greater resiliency due to thick bark. If people don’t believe these statements, go look at the thousands of big, older trees that are dead from the fires this year and past fires. These contribute fuels to future fires and become extreme safety hazards.
State and federal agencies must be allowed to carry out their mandated responsibilities to professionally manage our forests, including logging to help prevent or reduce devastating wildland fires. Such efforts will significantly reduce tremendous costs of fighting these fires, save valuable forest resources and significantly improve the safety of firefighters while providing millions to state and county budgets. These agencies have well educated, trained and on-the-ground experienced foresters along with other diverse professional natural resource specialists. This can only be done by reducing frivolous appeals and lawsuits which cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Otherwise, if people think this summer’s air quality was bad, get ready for many more years of similar or worse air quality conditions.
— David Jones is a 34-year veteran of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management working in western states and Washington, D.C. He was district manager of the Medford District BLM for 12 years before retiring. He has worked in western forest programs and ecosystems. He has also fought forest fires in numerous western states including Alaska.