Bob Berwyn: Forest health crisis ends with a whimper

Read the entire article here. Below is a snip:Co Beetles

We may be cutting down the very trees we need to save the forest,” said Diana Six, a Montana-based U.S. Forest Service biologist who studies bugs and trees right down to the genetic level.

Along with the salvage harvest of dead trees, many of the logging projects authorized under federal emergency forest health laws also cut down trees that have survived. Those trees may hold the genetic key to the future of Colorado’s forests, Six said.

“It’s natural selection. The bugs wiped out the trees that are not adapted to current conditions … Underlying genetics will determine future forests,” she said, challenging the conventional wisdom that logging is needed to restore forest health.

From an economic standpoint, logging beetle-killed lodgepole pines rarely yields a profit. In fact, many projects in Colorado are subsidized. Overall, the U.S. and Canadian governments have spent millions of dollars on massive logging projects aimed at directly trying to halt the spread of the bugs, with no signs of success on a meaningful scale, Six said….

The forests laws that were passed put the U.S. Forest Service on a questionable path of shortcutting environmental reviews for logging on big tracts of national forest lands, according to conservation groups who tried to slow the congressional rush to more tree cutting.

And now, with the insect epidemic waning, research by forest scientists suggest that those politically motivated logging projects are the “wrong choice for advancing forest health in the United States,” Six said.


  1. “Along with the salvage harvest of dead trees, many of the logging projects authorized under federal emergency forest health laws also cut down trees that have survived.”

    Salvage, by definition, is the harvest of dead and dying trees. There are guidelines they have to follow and if they are cutting “survivors”, then I’d think an injunction could happen. Of course, some people can’t tell the difference between a dying tree and a “survivor”. Of course, some continue to want to salvage only completely dead trees, except for those designated as “wildlife trees”, by prescription. Just because a tree has a little green left on it, that doesn’t mean it is a “survivor”.

  2. Every salvage sale I have seen, if it is green you leave it, whether or not if it looks like it is going to survive. Plus every salvage sale I have seen you are only harvesting only a small percentage of the dead trees and only operating in small percentage of the effected area. Biologists, in my experience, are in general against any timber harvest.
    Diana Six’s comments make for good press but they don’t help the forests or the communities around them. I wonder where we have spent millions of dollars on massive logging projects? I mean I know the Forest Service and BLM spend millions of dollars, but massive logging projects I haven’t seen.

    • Yep. That Dr. Diana Six is a total lightweight.

      Professor of Forest Entomology/Pathology
      Chair, Department of Ecosystems & Conservation Sciences
      University of Montana – College of Forestry and Conservation

      Associate editor for Symbiosis, Insects, the Journal of Economic Entomology, and the Western Journal of Applied Forestry.

      A.S. Microbiology: 1986, Chaffey College, Alta Loma, CA High Honors
      B.S. Agricultural Biology: 1990, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Magna cum laude
      M.S. Entomology: 1992, University of California, Riverside
      Ph.D. Entomology: 1997, University of California, Riverside Minor: Mycology
      Postdoctoral Researcher: 1997. University of California, Berkeley

      • So, she’s not a lightweight , but she’s not a tree geneticist either. We all have opinions about things based on our experience, knowledge or studies. In my case, I know about tree genetics through my education and experience. I only know about bark beetles (OK I did have forest entomology in grad school) by observing them in the real world.

        First and most important:
        1) Salvage is salvage. That means, dead or dying trees in FS talk. So it might be that she means “dying” or is talking about something else. How can dying trees “save the forest?”

        2) “It’s natural selection. The bugs wiped out the trees that are not adapted to current conditions … Underlying genetics will determine future forests,” she said, challenging the conventional wisdom that logging is needed to restore forest health.”

        Having lived through MPB outbreaks in Oregon and in Colorado, it seems to me that lodgepoles get old and weak and are prone to BB attacks. We even thinned around some selected trees in Oregon so they would be more robust and those guys went down too.. the BB’s seemingly attracted by their enhanced vigor.

        2) People who are tree geneticists know that it’s difficult to tell most survival traits for forest trees in the wild, as the effects of the environment tend to overwhelm the effects of genetic differences. For example, a tree may have a big diameter because it got started in a wetter period, or there were no trees around to compete with when it started, etc. That’s why, back in the day, when people wanted to know which trees had different genetic traits, they start by growing them in the same nursery, planting them on the same plantations, blocking for environmental differences, and randomizing the genetic sources within the blocks. If the rate that they are attacked at 90 years old is a function of vigor, and vigor depends on various environmental factors (competition, mistletoe, etc.), genetics is likely to be a very tiny part of the reason for that.

        3) If there are trees standing without being attacked it would be good. If they are left in many cases they fall down from the windthrow after their dead standmates have been either logged or fallen on their own. So just because a tree is left does not mean it will effectively reproduce.

        4) Pines have evolved such that their pollen travels long distances and selection for the environment occurs even among pollen grains and embryos within seeds (yes, it’s very cool). Don’t forget the contributions of the dads, wherever they might be from.

        Maybe this story is missing something…because the statements don’t make sense from a variety of perspectives.

  3. Whats the difference between a seretonous, or a non-seretonous, cone that drops from a MPB
    killed lodgepole and one that falls from a limb a logger cuts off? I didn’t realize that the loggers were collecting all the genetic superior cones from the ground after a clearcut.

    A lot of lodgepole in Wyoming and Colorado were ” tie hacked” back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. You know…railroad ties. (of course we should have preserved the forests back then…and got the ties from Canada-LOL). Back in the 80’s, the USFS was concerned that some of the lodgepole stands that were “tie-hacked” were very lacking in genetic superior trees because the tie-hackers only “high-graded” the lodgepole. They didn’t clearcut…as we know it today…they just took everything 12″ and above…leaving the smaller suppressed trees to grow to maturity…and hence the genetically inferior forest was born.

    A couple years ago I was visiting my “first clearcut” out in West Yellowstone. I walked across the road and looked at an unlogged stand. Now the MPB epidemic in 1978 killed only about 70% of the overstory before the big freeze ended it. The 30% still stands(so much for the windfall idea) amongst a ton of smaller trees. I cored one of the big trees to see if it had a “thinning release” (it did of course) and to see how old it was (90 years). Out of fun, I cored a 3″ er next to it…expecting it to be a 30 year old that “regened” after the MPB opened up the canopy. (remember now…MPB doesn’t kill <4" dia). To my surprise it too was 90 years old. rice paper thin growth rings. So what you have now is a sparse overstory of genetically superior dominants…in a sea of suppressed inferiors that are now dominating the stand. Now….how is this different than the high-grading the "tie-hackers" did?Maybe Dianna should examine this stand for genetic superiority. Of course, when the wildfire comes…it all goes back to the year zero.

    Granted…of the 20 some lodgepole clearcuts I did…I recall that most of them were pretty "even aged-even sized." But there were several where we cut "post and pole" from the <7" DBH(merchantable) after skidding out the "merchantable." What we didn't post and pole, we bulldozed into piles(taboo today). I wonder if the "West" stand developed from a doghair stand….but now I'm musing.

  4. MatthewK

    No, she isn’t a lightweight. She just happens to be a human who doesn’t know everything. She is entomologist whom you happen to agree with while you ignore any highly qualified sources who disagree with your position. We have laid out the shortcomings of some of her points in other threads but you won’t acknowledge the expertise of those entomologists or others who disagree on some major points. Nor will you discuss the issues on a point by point basis as laid out in the other threads linked to in a previous comment. You just ignore anything that doesn’t fit your mantra.

    • Hello Gil, So glad that you can turn a discussion about Dr. Diana Six’s credentials, educational background and research and science…and quickly turn it into a discussion about me. That’s some mad skills Gil! So, really, there’s nothing at all of value in this in-depth article from Bob?

      I know Dr. Six was the “star” of the article, but it’s interesting that you choose to focus on her (oh, and I guess me) while you didn’t mentioned anything else about the other experts in Bob’s article. People such as Barry Noon, Scott Hoffman Black, Dominick Kulakowski and Dominick Della Sala. I assume your criticisms of Dr. Six also extend to these folks too, right?

  5. I saw this “solution” to the fire and fuels issue on an eco-website.

    “Instead of paying increasing billions every year to fight worstening megafires government should hire people to make biochar and install lightning rods in forests.”

    Can anyone show us all how this would have any effect on our forests, in a cost-effective manner? Can anyone say that any part of that proposal has any basis in scientific facts? (The guy was insistent that lightning rods “protect millions of buildings” and that it should work for forests, too. I wonder if some of his peers would rather he just shut up.)

    • Hello Larry, Can you please provide the link to the website where this quote came from? I’d like to check it out. Who knows the context of the ‘lightening rods in forests” part (I’ve never heard anyone say that before, and as such I’m not sure it’s fair to assume it’s the “solution” being offered up by the enviro-crowd), but I do see the timber industry and others in these parts promoting biochar from public lands. As a decedent of German-Russian woods-people and farmers who were charcoal makers I can appreciate the practice, but don’t want to see it extensively spread to public lands.

      • Since it isn’t “cost-effective”, right now, it’s really a moot point. Besides, it would have to be a “commercial” operation, including corporations making profits, so that would also push up some red flags. The comments come from Grist, a treasure trove of priceless….. errrr…. ridiculous “solutions” for the trouble our forests are in. Yes, I do think soil amendments are good things to use on soils that need them but, does anyone think farmers with such soils can afford to pay the full price for expensive soil improvements?

        The lightning rod idea is a great example of the the strides people make in logic to make problems fit their solutions, instead of the other way around. At least he recognizes there is a problem, instead of pretending that there is no problem (and shoving that idea down people’s throats).

          • Larry, could you please give your points of view about your links? If you’re trying to imply something about Gil, could you come out and say what you think?
            I don’t think corporations can “hate.” (or hold religious beliefs either).

            I’m a scientist. Six is a scientist. We disagree. So anyone on either side must not be listening to (some) scientists. I don’t see how framing the issue as “not listening to scientists” moves the dialogue forward.

            • I’m a scientist. Six is a scientist. We disagree. So anyone on either side must not be listening to (some) scientists. I don’t see how framing the issue as “not listening to scientists” moves the dialogue forward.

              I agree, for the most part, with what you said here Sharon. Seems to me that you could direct the comment to Gil, perhaps even more so than Larry K.

              Also, no offense at your scientific background what-so-ever, but when it comes specifically to bark beetles and forests, I think Dr. Six comes out on top, on that scientific issue at least. I’m sure it would be reversed on other scientific issues. Thanks.

              • If Dr. Six is correct about “survivors”, why isn’t there an injunction filed, based on her reporting?? I think she is assuming a lot about the Forest Service’s salvage practices and marking prescriptions. If she REALLY wanted to prove her point, she would display some marking guidelines, pointing out where they specifically target “survivors”. Yes, sometimes green trees are “brain dead”, with their stoma all closed up and their passageways to the roots are mostly severed. Those needles can stay green for quite some time, and they often appear to go from green to brown, “overnight”, as I have seen in the woods during my extensive experience with bark beetles and salvage projects.

  6. Get a grip, Sharon: your own political bent is far too obvious to be an impartial voice while DeHuff’s Alabama is 51st in every category and among the most corrupt in the US.

    • I didn’t say I’m impartial. No one is. But I am a Democrat. So if you’re going to critique my politics, we’ll have to go D. vs. D. Also, my point was I want to hear what you think, other than links.

      Speaking of D’s, I was carpooling with a fire guy when Jim Lyons sent air tankers to Long Island. Pork is the common currency of all parties.

  7. “It’s natural selection. The bugs wiped out the trees that are not adapted to current conditions … Underlying genetics will determine future forests,” she said, challenging the conventional wisdom that logging is needed to restore forest health.

    Soooooooo, how many species of trees actually “adapts” to overcrowded conditions????

  8. Creeks that haven’t flowed in the Black Hills for decades are running because 400 square miles of ponderosa pine have turned by the bark beetle from transpiring millions of acre/feet of water into standing methane generators. Looks like natural selection from this 40-year observer of the Anthropocene.

  9. The Helena National Forest piece and this post are inextricably linked in that the sheer number of trees have sucked so much water from recharges that they leave the most contaminated water for the humans and other species to sustain ourselves.

  10. In the Black Hills, the Gil DeHuff equivalent is taking the last of the old growth p. pine in the name of insect control and taking federal dollars to do it while the small diameter trees are left standing. Massive piles of slash litter the forest presiding over skidder trails that slice up hillsides.

  11. Multiple mycology surveys reveal a disrupted, cattle-infested tree farm where humanity has destroyed whatever remained of the preceding 11,000 years of indigenous and ungulate management. Multiply that by the countless watersheds that European immigration did to the United States and Canada exploited in the name of disaster capitalism.

    • Yep, you can always blame people who are now dead for the ills of the world. That has always been Plan Z, for some people who are against forest management. Yep, damn them damn immigrants for wanting a better life than the one they left in other places. While you are at it, why not blame ancient Man for surviving ice ages and global warming that dwarfs today’s “warm spell”. The “Man as a Cancer” meme is overly emotional, IMHO. Cancer doesn’t mitigate its bad impacts, like Man does. *smirk*

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