I remember Chris Iverson, noted expert in wildlife and forest planning, saying something once about forest plans like “if you don’t do much, you shouldn’t spend as much time planning.” As I recall, he was talking about the Chugach compared to the Tongass forest plans. But what exactly is “doing much”? What seems to be most controversial and widespread is vegetation management for forest management.
I thought it would be interesting to see where the Rio Grande (with a recent plan revision) fell on that scale, and many thanks to them for their help in collecting this information. I think it would be great to have this information available for all forests. First, the total acres of the Rio Grande is 1.83 million acres to give context. You could easily do this table with percentages and be able to compare the acres impacted by management across different National Forests, as well as vegetation changes due to human and other factors.
What we got from the Forest was total acres of all vegetation treatments, not duplicating the same acres with different treatments (double counting).
According to the forest, the average timber harvest has been around 3100 acres per year. All of that has been insect salvage except for 120 acres in 2017. So that’s about 2% of the forest per year. Of course, salvaging spruce beetle trees that are dead may have different impacts than green sales, but this table is about all acres impacted by vegetation management and other vegetation change.
After collecting this information, I realized that a 10 year timespan may have been better. In 2013, the West Fork Complex Fire burned 87,662 acres of the Rio Grande. Then there’s the spruce beetle outbreak itself over time, accumulating to 617,000 acres. I didn’t fill in that row in the table, but the information is available from the aerial survey folks.
It would be interesting to see at least 10 years with the acreage by type plotted over time, including large events like bug and fire acres, for each National Forest. I think it would be very informative to compare forests, both in total acres of different kinds of human and other vegetation changes, and percentages of the total acres impacted.
I’m not saying that this is the perfect formulation for people to get a grasp of “relative vegetation management” I’m just asking “doesn’t this way of looking at it tell us something of value”?
What would you add or change?
Also circling back to the forest planning question, if some forests, say in R5, have had up to 80 % of their forest affected by wildfires over the past 5 to 10 years, should everyone else stop planning so that they can go into revision? And if “fires are going to get larger due to some combination of fire suppression, increased ignitions and climate change” should then the amount of vegetation modeling done during plan revision be scaled back for fire-prone Forests as not a great investment? Perhaps less energy on modeling and more energy on responding to fire and other changes via amendment?