USFS, TNC: Need for Active Management in OR, WA

“More than 9 million acres of forest in Washington and Oregon should be selectively logged and burned to make the remaining trees more resistant to wildfire, disease and drought, according to a new study by the U.S. Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy.”

Report offers restoration plans for forests in Washington, Oregon

2 Comments

  1. The Spokesman article is a little misleading, as this paper doesn’t offer “restoration plans”, but rather one approach to evaluating (suggested) “restoration needs” that presumably might be used by planners.

    The article’s authors do (somewhat) acknowledge that it’s questionable to equate forest structure with ecosystem health, but still they toss out the standard “uncharacteristic fire, insect, and disease outbreaks” line without anywhere specifying just what fire, insect, or disease outbreaks they are referring to. A paper like Kliejunas’ “A risk assessment of climate change and the impact of forest diseases on forest ecosystems in the Western United States and Canada” (http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/documents/psw_gtr236/psw_gtr236.pdf) at least attempts to mechanistically relate forest disease occurrence and severity to climate effects, but here it’s as if the relationship between forest structure and disease (for example) is expected to be taken on faith (not that there necessarily isn’t a relationship, but it may be more complicated than the authors suggest).

    In a very general sense, the authors may be correct that “forest structure presents a tractable
    coarse filter to which many other aspects of biodiversity (e.g., terrestrial terrestrial wildlife habitat, riparian and aquatic habitat, herbaceous diversity and productivity, and fire, insect, and disease frequency and severity) respond”, but that doesn’t mean that those responses will necessarily be optimized by aggressively seeking to “restore” a pre-European natural range of variability (NRV) in forest structure across the PNW. Whether such a 400-yrs-ago range of variability truly “represents the ecological capability of the landscape”, as the authors claim, is a dubious proposition going forward.

    This is an interesting and ambitious study, and it’s worthy of attention. My concern would be that it has the danger of becoming, to borrow a term we often use around here, a “one-size-fits-all” policy approach, as the concluding sentence of the article suggests: “There is great value in having a consistent approach to evaluating where, how much, and what kinds of forest restoration are needed across regional scales.” The terms “restoration” and “needed” should not be used noncritically.

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