Thanks to Matt for finding and posting this op-ed by frequent TSW commenter Jim Furnish in the thread about the Black Hills. Some of his claims are more generalized about the Forest Service in general, and so I think worthy of a separate discussion.
(Note: the infamous Forest Service Retirees’ Info Network has suggested that there is a media campaign by ENGOs brewing about the Hills.. stay tuned for more press stories)
First of all, you gotta love the headline (I’m suspecting Jim didn’t pick it but..) “Forest Service Putting National Forests in Peril”. We’re all glad, I’m sure, that after four years of “Trump Administration Does Bad Things” the power has returned to non-politicals within a federal agency. Whew, thanks for delegating, Congress and the Biden Admin!
This is a good time for recycling this quote from Earl Butz.. in a piece by Char Miller
Earl Butz, Richard Nixon’s controversial secretary of Agriculture, was a profane man known for his hair-trigger temper and rough handling of subordinates. So when the chief of the Forest Service stood him up for a meeting, Butz unloaded in response: “There are four branches of government,” he reportedly snarled, “the executive, legislative, judicial and the Gawd-damn U.S. Forest Service.
But back tot he op-ed..
Perhaps the saddest part is that big old trees, if left to grow, are the natural outcome of ponderosa pine ecology, storing carbon, providing wildlife habitat and seed for new trees and stabilizing soils. But the Forest Service requires that loggers cut down all the big old trees, reducing the forest to ecologically impoverished, even-aged tree farms, and increasing susceptibility to future fires.
It sounds like this is about the Hills, but the photo shows apparently some big old trees.. so I’m not sure if the photo is relevant to the argument Jim is making.
Note that the link goes to a piece by Law and Moomaw.. I noted that these scientist were heavily cited in the letters of some ENGO’s in the Response to Comments in USDA’s Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry request, by groups who were against tree cutting. IMHO the stand in the photo also doesn’t look more susceptible to future fires, at least not for a while.
The Black Hills logging debacle represents a decades-long drama playing out on most forests across the country. Commercial logging trumps other forest values like carbon storage, clean water, wildlife habitat and old-growth woods.
So the FS is still logging old growth, across the country? Seems like in the plans and projects I’ve looked at there has been a great deal of concern for carbon storage, clean water, wildlife and old growth.
But most curious to me was this, back to “thinning for fuel treatment” but now using anecdotes.
A raging debate questions whether thoughtful logging can actually limit fire risk and severity by reducing fuels in advance. The Forest Service says emphatically “yes,” but anecdotal evidence yields troubling results throughout the fire-prone western United States. The arson-caused Jasper Fire burned through a thinned landscape thought to be in ideal condition. High temperatures, low humidity and heavy winds — the usual culprits — blew the fire up mercilessly.
Reduced logging is long overdue in this treasured landscape. What the Forest Service is doing in the Black Hills reminds me of its tragic liquidation of mature and old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. Then, as now, I urge the Forest Service to follow the advice of its own scientists.
I think Jim means the Hills and the silviculture report, but if you follow the advice of scientists, conceivably you would also follow the many scientists who support tree thinning as a fuel reduction measure either on its own or prior to prescribed burning.
So maybe this media campaign is designed to put pressure on the Admin to reduce harvesting on the Hills. That’s fine, but don’t blame the FS as an independent political actor out to destroy America’s forests, nor question the utility of fuel treatments; a “raging debate” ??. I don’t think that those arguments are 1) accurate nor 2) necessary to make the case, which specifically is for reduced commercial harvesting on the Black Hills.