Presto! A “Healthy Forest!”

The photo above was taken by a volunteer for the volunteer-run Friends of the Bitterroot, a grassroots organization based in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana with a mission “to preserve the wildlands and wildlife and to protect the forests and watersheds of our region as we work for a sustainable relationship with the environment.”

According to FOB, the photo was taken within the Three Saddle Vegetation Management project on the Bitterroot National Forest.

Back in 2013, the Bitterroot National Forest’s planning staff officer, Jerry Krueger, described the project as “It’s sort of a soup to nuts sort of project.”

Well, “nuts” is right.

According to FOB, as part of the timber sale, first this area logged.

Then strong winds blew down many of the remaining trees.

Then the area was salvage logged.

Then the area was burned.

Then herbicides were sprayed on the area.

Presto! The U.S. Forest Service created a “Healthy Forest!”

12 thoughts on “Presto! A “Healthy Forest!””

  1. FYI in the Decision Notice (118p).. can’t see if these are LPP in the photo or not..

    “A large portion of the project area is composed of lodgepole pine stands. Many of these lodgepole pine stands are in decline, with pockets of mountain pine beetle mortality already present. These lodgepole stands are approximately 110 years old and are past their rotation age. Simply thinning these stands won’t move forest conditions towards the desired condition of varied age classes and will leave the stands susceptible to insects, disease or windthrow. Regeneration of these stands is needed to improve overall forest health.”

    Here’s the purpose and need..
    “1. Manage timber to provide forest products, jobs and income.
    2. Improve resilience to natural disturbances (fire, insects, and disease) in all forest
    types across the two drainages.
    3. Maintain or increase shade intolerant species (aspen, ponderosa pine, western
    4. Maintain and improve the vigor of large diameter ponderosa pine in restoration units.
    5. Create stand conditions that would provide large trees in the future.”

    If I look at that, and I look at the unit in the photo, I think what they are trying to do (bare mineral soil, openings) is to “maintain or increase shade intolerant species”. I guess you can agree or disagree as to (1) whether this diversity is a good thing (or helps forests be healthy or resilient) or (2) whether there are less ugly ways to get the same result.

    Generally, species and age diversity is considered to be a good thing in terms of resilience.

    About the herbicides.. they are used along roads, landings etc. where needed to control invasive species.

    “Noxious weeds would be controlled using herbicides on logging haul roads, roads accessing
    prescribed burn or thinning units, TLM paths, excavated skid trails, temporary roads, landings, and roads proposed for decommissioning or storage. Monitoring following timber harvest, thinning, and burning treatments would determine the potential treatment areas. Herbicide spraying that occurs along roads within project area is covered in the Record of Decision for the Bitterroot National Forest Noxious Weed Treatment Project (PF-INVASIVES-001).”

    Note that there are 10.6 miles of road decommissioning in the project, and that the project was appealed by an OHV group. I think that that’s where the soup to nuts comment may have come from.

  2. Acreage burned/damaged looks significantly smaller by several orders of magnitude than management by mother nature in the Sierra’s or in the innumerable formerly overly dense forests that she has converted to ashtrays/moonscapes because uninformed policy makers submitted to political pressure by misguided voters and litigants.

    1 controlled burns do get out of hand occasionally – Even the local supper market doesn’t manage its inventory perfectly. It’s all about which side the odds favor.
    2 the unburned slopes around the fire (thanks to the USFS burn plan) are untouched because the controlled burn stayed in the designated area. The excessive damage within the small controlled area in the photo happened because the controlled burn got hotter than expected in this portion of the prescribed fire.
    3 the result is small patch diversity created by unexpected results from a controlled burn and is far superior to the catastrophic large patch homogeneity produced by Mother Nature when supported by her eco buddies’ influence on policy makers.

  3. It is an arrogant and ridicules notion that you can “MANage” (outsmart) Mother Nature. Take a few thousand million steps back and gain some humility. The focus should be on CONSERVATION (i.e. carbon storage – don’t saw down the carbon storing trees; scour brush & soil, build new “temporary” roads which serve as water run-off, sediment loading channels into watersheds; all of which, from beginning to end, disturbs, disrupts and destroys wildlife habitat). Quit defending/ justifying poor, horrid! politically supported / USFS promoted practices and alliances with State run “Good Neighbor” Authority – which equates to PRIVATIZATION of PUBLIC LANDS all of which does not 1) serve the ecosystems we depend on and 2) educate and involve the public in their great heritage of public land ownership. In fact, it is evident the political (AG Dept. / USFS) will is to eliminate the Public from any educated participation in order to preserve their salaries (wild fire duty is 2x? 3x? pay scale) and pensions. To that end they promote the “Boogie Man Wildfire” scare. That’s just plain wrong! If the USFS wants to be legitimate Stewards of our Public Lands they should be educating their constituents about the scientifically supported model of the Planetary Ecosystems ( it’s THE EARTH we’re talking about here!…isn’t it?) we need to defend and preserve for those present in this dialogue and, more importantly, for generations to come.

    • Pretending that “Whatever Happens” is just fine and dandy for our forests is extremely short-sighted and ridiculous. The facts say that over 84% of all US wildfires are human-caused. HOW will ‘doing nothing’ mitigate human-caused wildfires? How about the MASSIVE mortality that is happening in the Sierra Nevada? Should we let it all burn? Should we welcome losses of endangered species habitats? Should we allow enhanced erosion coming from 100,000+ acre firestorms? Should we let grandmothers and children suffer, or even die, from wildfires raging through mountain towns?

      Obviously, you don’t know the facts. Try educating yourself, first.

  4. We should be protecting our forests..protecting what little beauty we have left. We have lost 95%of our virgin forests, and the BLM approved 400 year old trees 2 b cut down not 2 long ago. This plan does not nake any sense 2 me. 1 thing is 2 me it qould seem age=resiliance..y don’t we just leave well enough alone. Forests survived 4 thousands of years w/out our help. What are we doing 2 our home??

  5. Maybe I’m starting to forget my forestry training, but if a lodgepole forest was growing here, why is the purpose now to grow something else? I assume lodgepole is the shade intolerant, early seral species that has always grown here. Are we talking about type conversion? (That could make sense in some places in the context of climate change, but I don’t see that presented here.)

    Why do we not want the “large patch homogeneity produced by Mother Nature?” Historic landscape pattern is a key consideration in managing for the natural range of variation. But if a purpose were to “move forest conditions towards the desired condition of varied age classes,” wouldn’t “insects, disease or windthrow” accomplish this?

    • I do think that “temporal diversity” would be a very good thing in pure lodgepole landscapes. In areas where lodgepole is encroaching below better forests, we should manage them away, using proper techniques. Uncontrolled fire is not one of those.

  6. Larry has addressed most of the questions above.

    John: homogeneous large scale diversity enhances the probability of large scale spread of insects, disease & crown fires.


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