Public radio asks,”How Much Of The Chetco Bar Burn Should Be Salvage Logged?”

The Forest Service says it will salvage log 4,000 out of the 170,000 acres burned.

Smith heads Health Forests Healthy Communities, a timber industry-affiliated non-profit that advocates for active forest management. He says the relatively small post-fire logging project the Forest Service is planning is not only economically inadequate …

“ … but also a missed opportunity to reforest more of the landscape for the future.”

Smith says that salvage logging — followed by replanting — helps restore forest health. He says it’s important for fire safety, too.

Less salvage means more dead and dying trees and snags that not only fuel the next big fire but also put firefighters in danger the next time they need to go in there and put out a fire,” he says.

The Oregon Society of American Foresters says post-fire logging can foster “timely development of desirable forest conditions.”

Still, in the Environmental Assessment for the Chetco Bar salvage project, Forest Service officials don’t claim any forest health or fire safety benefits. According to project coordinator Jessie Berner

“… We are trying to capture the value of those trees to try to recoup some of the economic value of that timber in support of our local communities.”

Salvage logging can definitely have economic benefit. But the scientific evidence that it leads to healthier forests is thin … Jerry Franklin is professor emeritus of ecosystem analysis at the University of Washington.

“I’m not aware of any science that supports the notion that salvage logging contributes significantly to ecological values, ecological recovery,” he says

“The best thing to do generally is to allow it to develop following the kind of natural processes that have been going on for thousands of years,” he says.

One point of disagreement might be whether that desired “landscape of the future” or “desirable forest conditions” constitutes “ecological recovery.”  Ecological sustainability and integrity are required for national forest lands.

13 thoughts on “Public radio asks,”How Much Of The Chetco Bar Burn Should Be Salvage Logged?””

  1. The scientific papers clearly indicate that salvage logging does not contribute to healthy forests. Rather, it is destructive to them. The heavy equipment used to do industrial logging compresses the soil preventing natural regeneration. If left on its own, this natural regeneration will be more than adequate to fill out the forest in the years ahead. The myth perpetrated by some companies is that a burned over forest is more fire prone and should be cut down. Not true. Scientific research shows this to be false as well as commonsense. What is left in a burned over forest are large trunks and stems, not the kind of vegetation that make up kindling. If you want kindling, find that with logged over areas with slash and debris and small bushes and trees where once fire resistant large trunks stood.

  2. Jon, OR SAF says “desirable conditions,” Jerry says “ecological recovery”. Mother Nature isn’t talking .. and if she were a vole, she might have a different opinion than if she were a salmon or a root fungus (or whatever eats voles). This means that means that ecologist preferences (even if they agree, who is an ecologist…?? everyone from Jerry Franklin to Chad Oliver and from x.. to y…) are human preferences about Nature and no more or less valid than any other human values.

    Apologies to those for whom this seems heretical.

    • Everyone is certainly entitled to their values. However, the law can favor some values over others, and NFMA does that.

      • Jon, I can’t see that the authors of NFMA could possibly have in mind “a bias toward lack of intervention” based on what they wrote in the statute. To me, regulations are not the same as the law or statute.

        • Regulation “n. rules and administrative codes issued by governmental agencies at all levels, municipal, county, state and federal. Although they are not laws, regulations have the force of law, since they are adopted under authority granted by statutes, and often include penalties for violations.”
          Regulation – Legal Dictionary |

          I’m not sure what you are quoting, but Congress most definitely did intend less of a bias towards logging.

  3. While “unassisted recovery” has desirable qualities, we also have to consider the land management objectives in the Forest Plans (aka “the human preferences”). And we also have to consider that the Chetco Bar Fire includes areas affected by Sudden Oak Death, the effects of climate change on seed production, the ability of invasive plants (like broom and gorse) to quickly invade burned sites and alter the “natural” trajectory, and the effects of climate change on seedling establishment. So, is “unassisted recovery” the same as “ecological recovery” here? Much of the lower elevation part of the fire on the west side was managed stands – some of them not necessarily producing a lot of seed – and some large areas of dead younger trees. The fire affected an environment that has been heavily altered by humans.

  4. Having read the article and viewed the landscape. I thought the the article tried to whitewash the real catastrophe of burning up that much forest and the remaining old growth within in. The article started by showing a “mosaic” of burned and green trees when in reality they could showed a landscape of totally burned forest as far as the eye can see. Their is no excuse for this kind of destruction of our forests.
    I seriously doubt if the forest service will harvest 4,000 acres, when they should be harvesting more. After being involved in fire salvage for 15 years or so, most often less than 1% of the burn is ever harvested. I have never seen any adverse effect to the land due to salvage operations. Never have I seen salvage on federal lands that allowed equipment off the road.
    One of saddest results of this fire was that many of large old growth Port Orford Cedar trees that survived the Biscuit fire did not survive this fire. All that regrowth and generic biodiversity is now gone.
    I think it is time to stop trying to defend these fires as “natural” or “beneficial” to the long term health of our forests. Millions of trees are now dead. The future of this area, because to the fire, could be hot, dry and covered in brush. The Fs could of put the fire out and didn’t.

    • Bob, I am surprised about what you said about equipment off the road… can you point to that in a salvage NEPA document?

      • Sharon, I can’t, that was just our experience on all of our sales, which were most highlead, with one end suspension. Sometimes it would of made more sense to shovel log some of the units. I notice that the current Chetco Bar fire salvage sale specifies shovel logging for some of the units. (I think soil compaction with these machines is minimal, or maybe they can reach everything from the road?)
        If you look at the sale map you can see it is just roadside salvage, which is usually just 200 ft below the road and 300 ft above the road. The impact of such salvage is very minimal.
        My preference would of been for the fire to be controlled before it couldn’t be. As far as recovery goes, nobody knows. The vast majority of the burned landscape on federal lands will be left to whatever happens.
        Just to ramble on here, if these lands hadn’t burned, we could of managed, keep them green and lush, harvested timber sustainably, and no one would of hardly noticed. Now we hundreds of thousands of acres of dead trees.

      • There are many instances that I know of where fire salvage on federal lands has occurred beyond the road corridors. The Biscuit Fire Salvage comes to mind. And yes, there is also a lot of roadside salvage – it can be sold quickly, and several roadside salvage sales have been sold already on the Chetco Bar Fire. But the Chetco Bar Fire and at least one fire on the Umpqua NF from 2017 will have “area salvage” that goes beyond the road corridor.

        • Yes, but the yarding equipment had to stay on the roads. I guess I just wanted to point out loggers harvesting salvage timber are not running around the forest compacting the soil.
          I guess I missed the salvage units that are beyond the road corridors on the Umpqua and Chetco.
          There have been two sales on the Checto, with the third coming up. I believe one went no bid. The second of 9 million bft, with $800,000 of road work had one bidder. I imagine the next sale, 4 million bft, 500,000 dollars road work, will only have one bidder also.

  5. Yes, forest plans should specify what the desired outcome is. Whether unassisted recovery will get you there is a site-specific question, so I would highlight the word “generally” in Franklin’s comment. Unfortunately, the Forest doesn’t seem to want to get into that question here.


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