Spruce, Spruce Beetle, Fire and Goshawk

Dead trees dot Skyline Drive in the Manti-LaSal National Forest.
Ray Boren, for the Deseret Morning News

Terry Seyden sent this piece from the Salt Lake Tribune.

Here’s an excerpt:

Last month’s Lost Lake Fire, blackening thousands of acres near Teasdale, shows the need to step up forest treatments, Chappell believes.

“We just had a fire down here that should’ve opened a few eyes about logging and thinning.”

Utah Environmental Congress Program Director Kevin Mueller said leaving the trees alone won’t invite an unnatural fire. The spruce forest naturally burns at long intervals — once every 300 years — so the last century’s fire-suppression efforts that get blamed for creating dangerously thick forests haven’t had any effect on these areas. They grew thick naturally.

“We strongly believe the Forest Service shouldn’t be logging old-growth spruce,” he said, “partly because so much of the spruce has been hit by the spruce beetle.”

If trees are dead from spruce beetle, are they still good habitat? And if not, how can a test for the forest’s projects be :

The groups say goshawks need 6,000 acres to roam, and at least a third of that must be dense old-growth spruce that keeps out less-agile predators that compete with them. Where 68 pairs of the birds roamed Dixie when the Forest Service wrote its 1982 forest plan, only 30 remained last decade. As long as that’s the case, they say, the Forest Service can’t mess with habitat.

If they really need 2000 acres of dense spruce and that spruce is dying from spruce beetle it sounds like there is a problem that keeping the forest from doing treatments through litigation is not going to solve.

Hoping someone on the blog understands more about this than I and can explain.

2 thoughts on “Spruce, Spruce Beetle, Fire and Goshawk”

    July 6, 2012

    Contact: Mike Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies 406 459-5936

    Kevin Mueller, Program Director, Utah Environmental Congress (801) 466-4055

    Successful Appeal halts Dixie National Forest logging project

    The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Utah Environmental Congress and Native Ecosystems Council are pleased to announce that the Dixie National Forest has withdrawn the planned Iron Springs Vegetation Reduction Project in response to their Administrative Appeals to the Regional Forester.

    “The Forest Service made the right decision in pulling back from this illegal timber sale,” said Mike Garrity, the Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “The National Forest Management Act requires the agency to ensure that there are viable populations of wildlife in the forest after they log,” Garrity explained. “In this case the agency simply wasn’t following the law.”

    The proposed 8,306-acre timber sale project area– with 9 miles of new roads– is situated in the Dixie National Forest approximately 15 miles northwest of Escalante, Utah. Elevations of the area range from 9,000 feet to 10,750 feet and overlook the Grandstaircase Escalante National Monument.

    “This timber sale was a rehash of the Griffin Springs timber sale” said Garrity, explaining that it was successfully stopped in 2006. “The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of environmentalists, finding the U.S. Forest Service didn’t follow the best available science when it determined the logging project wouldn’t harm the goshawk, which is a “sensitive” and declining species, and any decision about the forest must consider the effect on the species.”

    “Involving a total of almost 8 square miles of cutting units, a good bit of which is old growth Spruce and proposed Wilderness, we are glad that this project was withdrawn” said UEC’s Kevin Mueller, who added “now we need to see that this sky-island of forest and its critical wildlife habitat is permanently protected.”

    “I went on a horseback ride up there before I argued it,” said Tom Woodbury, the attorney in the seminal Griffin Springs ruling. “And I was bowled over by the size and age of the trees they were trying to get at. It was an island of old growth in a sea of logged and burned forests.”

    The Forest Service had argued in the Griffin Springs case that clear-cutting wouldn’t harm the goshawk population, which has gone from 68 nesting pairs in 1982 to 30 or fewer in 2002, the last year measured. But the Court held in its opinion that: “The Forest Service presents no long-range scientific evidence supporting its assertion that the project will actually increase the number of northern goshawk in the Project area.”

    “The 10th circuit ruled in 2006 that clear-cutting the trees would have been devastating to wildlife then and it would be no different now, especially on the high-elevation Aquarius Plateau,” said Garrity. “There are clear cuts in that area that were cut in the 70s that still haven’t grown back,” he said.

    Sara Jane Johnson, PhD., is the Director of Native Ecosystems Council and a former Forest Service wildlife biologist. “The Iron Springs logging proposal would have destroyed several hundred acres of old growth forest,” said Johnson, explaining that this old growth forest is important nesting habitat for goshawks.

    “Timber corporations and the Forest Service have already logged most of the old growth in this country. Goshawks are listed as a ‘species of concern’ because of declining population so it makes no sense to stress them more by cutting down remaining old growth forests,” concluded Johnson. “They need to leave some old growth for dependent species like the goshawk. Otherwise, they drive them onto the Endangered Species List.”

    The conservation groups were informed in a letter dated July 3, 2101 that Dixie National Forest Acting Supervisor Kevin Schulkoski withdrew the Iron Springs Vegetation Improvement and Salvage Project Decision Notice in a letter dated June 25, 2012 – the very day the groups appealed the timber sale.

  2. When the last of the goshawk nesting habitat is burned and gone, then we might not have to worry about goshawks anymore?? Also, with climate change going on, surely the fire return interval for those lands has shortened, eh?


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