NPR: “Will More Logging Save Western Forests From Wildfires?”

This is a pretty good story from NPR. One thing that is misses, I think, is that this isn’t all about USFS lands, especially in Northern California’s recent fires near Redding and Napa, where much private land burned. In this light, the USFS’s “shared stewardship” initiative is right on target — except that is does not call for funding to treat areas without merchantable timber that can pay for some or all of fuels-reduction projects.

7 thoughts on “NPR: “Will More Logging Save Western Forests From Wildfires?””

  1. Here’s a guaranteed way to: 1 – reduce the risk of fires; 2 – end the damage to foolish development in the WUI; 3 – cut the cost of firefighting; and 4 – ensure that the residents of the west don’ have to put up with smoke in the summer. What you ask is the silver bullet?
    Simply liquidate the western forests. Pave Oregon and the other states.
    True, there are some downsides to that solution but it would work right?

    All jesting aside, I had a memorable conversation with a BLM forester during an open house re: the agency’s Western OR. Plan Revision (WOPR) a few years ago. If I recall correctly, the models that were done by a consultant show that in a matter of decades Douglas fir, the state tree of Oregon, won’t be able to grow in southern Oregon. Ambient summer air temperatures, due to climate change, will be too high for D fir to photosynthesize.

    Seems like we’re moving in the direction of cut, burn and pave it all anyway.

    As a forester and biologist the future scares the crap out of me because our society is mostly in denial mode and we certainly won’t see the current President do anything helpful on the climate change challenge.

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    • “Ambient summer air temperatures, due to climate change, will be too high for D fir to photosynthesize.”

      But DF from, say, the central Sierras might do well in southern Oregon.

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      • On my last marking crew, I would always favor Doug-fir over all species, although that wasn’t specifically in the marking prescriptions. Once I saw one, working with the crew, I’d advise the crew to be alert for them. About half the crew couldn’t identify them, thinking they are white fir. The deeper drainages harbor a lot of very nice old growth trees. I also remember cruising a 62″ Doug-fir at the Cruising Certification plot, on the Eldorado. It was on a bit of a slope, so you had to use a stick to get the D-tape level.

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    • OW, I follow the climate modelling debates peripherally and we don’t actually know that degree of specificity from climate models to the microclimates perceived by trees. That’s assuming climate models are correct. Future projections depend on assumptions about the future that may or may not be true. We don’t actually know the genetic variation within say SW OR DF to handle unpredictable future microclimates and so on. It’s possible that interesting information could be/is being developed from the field testing done by the BLM and FS of different genetic material planted in the 80’s (progeny testing).

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        • Just one thing that is seldom discussed in the “assisted migration” literature and may be unique to coniferous forest trees.

          Since I did my dissertation on it.. there’s a lot of gene flow in conifers (my Ph.D. advisor was Tom Adams of OSU) and some from long distances. So despite conifers themselves being stationary, their seeds could actually have dads that are from far away- so far that has helped them deal with climate changes post-glaciation on their own just fine. And that’s why populations don’t show strong differentiation. E.g. this recent work https://www.fs.fed.us/psw/mtnclim/talks/pdf/JohnsonJ_Cairns_poster.pdf
          I honestly don’t know why this doesn’t get more press except for the obscurity of forest geneticists and their research methods.

          As to seed source recommendations, you can spend a lot of money researching, but the fact is you can’t really tell for a specific site, until quite a while, in say 50 years or so, by which time the climate might have changed more. So it’s commonsensical to plant at a higher density, different species if it’s that kind of site, and mix material from further south and lower elevation, because of the uncertainty.

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  2. The Douglas-fir Seed Source Movement Trial is about 10 years old now and looks at west-side Douglas-fir from northern California to British Columbia. I think some of the trees photographed on the blog that Steve has the link to are from that study. The Seedlot Selection Tool offers a way to look at current vs. future climate and a way to look at seed zones in a different way. It’s rather eye-opening.

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