To Thin or Not to Thin

A juxtaposition is two articles linked in Nick Smith’s Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities News Round Up today. Enviros in New Mexico say don’t thin, citing a need to consider negative effects, while s scientists in Alberta documents a change in stand density and an increase in fire severity. Yes, different regions, but the basic premise in the same: Relatively minor negative effects of forest management vs. longer-term effects of severe wildfires.

AP/SF Chronicle:
Groups appeal ruling over Santa Fe forest thinning plans

Environmentalists went back to court Monday in hopes of putting the brakes on plans to thin thousands of forested acres in the mountains bordering Santa Fe.

Wild Watershed and others filed their appeal with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, arguing that a district court judge erred when allowing Santa Fe National Forest to move ahead with its plans for Pacheco Canyon and areas near Hyde Memorial State Park.

The plaintiffs contend that forest officials failed to analyze the cumulative and indirect effects of clearing and burning in the area.

“These projects are the first of what could become the most extensive ever slash and burn forestry near Santa Fe,” said Sam Hitt, founder of Wild Watershed and president of the Santa Fe Forest Coalition.

In approving the projects in 2018, forest managers said thinning and prescribed fire would be used to reduce risks posed by disease, insect infestation and catastrophic wildfire.

The work is part of a larger-scale effort to tackle problems that have resulted from decades of fire suppression and other land use practices in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, specifically the area that makes up the region’s watershed.

The Star (Edmonton, Alberta):
Fewer trees in Alberta Rockies could mean more manageable wildfires, researcher says

Forest fires in Alberta’s southern Rockies would be much more manageable if the landscape looked like it used to more than a century ago, research suggests.

As part of his 2016 PhD dissertation at the University of Alberta, Chris Stockdale, now a research and extension scientist with the Canadian Forest Service, looked at how forest fires have burned through southern Alberta Rockies from Bow Valley all the way to the border with the United States.

Using simulation technology, he looked at how fires burned through the current landscape filled with coniferous trees, as well as what the landscape looked like a hundred years ago, which was mostly grasslands with a small mix of coniferous and deciduous trees.

While the number of fires that hit the area did not change between the early 20th century and early 21st century, the severity of the fires did.

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