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“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.