Fish and Wildlife Service points forest planning towards less post-fire logging

Yesterday, the Center for Biological Diversity shared its displeasure with pending timber sales on the Klamath National Forest. It also cited a previous letter from the FWS making recommendations regarding the same project. Together they point out the importance of forest planning to recovery of listed species.

Under the Endangered Species Act, each proposed project must only be reviewed against a criterion that prohibits actions that are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species. However, ESA also requires all federal agencies to carry out programs for the conservation of listed species. “Conservation” under ESA means to use all methods and procedures that are necessary to recovery of listed species. Under the 2012 Planning Rule, forest plans must contribute to recovery of listed species.

In its earlier letter, the FWS recommends conservation measures that would contribute to spotted owl recovery.   While directed towards this particular project, such measures need to be given serious consideration as means to meet the recovery obligations of forest plans. Some key messages in the letter:

“Given the spotted owl’s current population trend, the 2011 Revised Recovery Plan for the Northern Spotted Owl (link omitted) calls for retaining existing spotted owls on the landscape to the greatest possible extent throughout the species’ range.”

“Our overarching recommendation is for land managers to use the full suite of management tools (e.g., mechanical treatments, prescribed burning, let-bum policies, etc.) to ‘move’ forest landscapes to fire regimes that are more characteristic and natural consistent with the ecological setting.”

“Low, moderate and, in some cases, high-severity fires maintain habitat conditions conducive for spotted owls, and we recommend minimizing salvage or harvest activities in areas where spotted owls remain post-fire.”

“In general, most scientists agree that salvage logging does not contribute positively to the ecological recovery of naturally disturbed forests (citation omitted). In our experience many post-fire salvage projects tend to be more opportunistic than part of a larger-scale, proactive strategic planning effort to reduce fire spread and severity. Such a larger scale effort could include landscape level considerations for both fuel reduction and strategic fire breaks while incorporating considerations for spotted owls and other land management priorities. Recovery Action 12 in the Revised Recovery Plan recommends retaining post-disturbance legacy structures (such as large, dead tees, whether standing or down) in areas that are managed for spotted owl habitat because these features greatly improve the quality of the habitat as it recovers over time. It is important for action agencies to seek ways to implement important fuel reduction work without overutilizing salvage togging that can adversely affect the restoration of natural conditions.”

This is the kind of best available scientific information that the Forest Service must take into account when it revises forest plans for national forests with spotted owl habitat.  It demonstrates that there is a need to change existing plans so that future projects are based on a broad-scale conservation strategy that reflects current scientific understanding of post-fire logging in spotted owl habitat.  These recommendations could readily be translated into plan components that are needed in the forest plan to contribute to recovery of spotted owls.

3 Comments

  1. Wake- Up Forest Service managers! Until you quite designing timber harvesting project intended to provide forest products from the valuable forest communities and start developing management prescriptions for individual forest communities so as to improve forest health and diversity, the Agency will continue to encounter opposition to your efforts. Actually, bio-diversity of the vegetative cover is more important than diversity of animal species. At least 70% of all living organisms, including humans, could not survive without forests and diversity of cover is the best condition to help reduce the risk of catastrophic events. Your scientists need to be in the field observing and understanding the complex relationships found within each forest community. The focus must be on improving the current condition of our valuable forests and recognizing that our forests are a mosaic of individual communities. I can assure you these communities are not thousands or even hundreds of acres in size, According to the 2007 “Report on Abuse” a single tree over a 50 year life cycle, contributes $162,000.00 of economic value to the human environment and therefore clearly defines where management should be focused! This value does not include the value of wood products which at best is a few hundred dollars. IT IS ALL ABOUT FORESTS NOT RESOURCES!

  2. I went and viewed these proposed sales in July of last year. They were marked and ready to go and should of been sold. You can not understand the vastness and the amount of the devastation that those fires caused to these forests without actually being there.
    These sales were very, very conservatively laid out. They effected less than 1% of the area that was burned.
    They considered all aspects of conservation, protection of the land, and the species that hopefully will return.
    This is just another example of environmental corporations total disregard for and their continued efforts to impoverish the rural communities of Northern California and Southern Oregon.
    Meanwhile Rough and Ready sawmill just over the hill from these proposed sales, in Cave Junction, Oregon, says that they will be closing due to lack of resource.

  3. This blog prompted me to review the charts that I’ve constructed using growth and mortality data from the USFS FIA, and cut volumes from the USFS annual cut and sold reports. Here are the percentages of mortality (from fire, insects, disease, drought) that was harvested by the national forests in these states.
    AZ& NM, 5%
    Montana, 2%
    Utah, 4%
    Wyoming, 1%
    Doesn’t look like the Forest Service is “overutilizing salvage logging”. On the contrary, it would appear that a more aggressive effort to salvage some of the trillions of dollars worth of dead timber left to rot in the woods would be sound husbandry providing badly needed jobs, support for families, businesses, schools, and local governments while reducing fire hazards.

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