Call for Forest Management in Articles and Essays

In perusing Nick Smith’s Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities news roundup today July 18, I was struck by how many articles, essays, and letters called for active forest management…..

Opinion: Forest management is critical to preventing fires (Washington Post)
As a resident of the Methow Valley, I appreciated the Aug. 8 front-page article “ ‘Almost off-the-charts hazardous,’ ” a profile of the effects of wildfires on our community, which rightly identified the role of climate change in our ever-worsening fire seasons. However, there was no mention of the other key factor: long-term forest mismanagement leading to overcrowded, unhealthy forests with massive accumulation of fuels. Without those conditions, fire behavior would be far less extreme.

Brown: Wildfires Aren’t Just a Climate Change Issue (Utah Daily Chronicle)
One of my earliest memories is driving home from a family reunion in southern Utah during a raging wildfire. The stinging smell of smoke and the heat radiating throughout the car is imprinted in my mind. Every year, when I go down south, I see the effects of this wildfire and others. Since 1983, there have been three years where 10 million acres were burned from wildfires; all of these happened in just the last seven years. By all available metrics, wildfires in the United States are getting worse. But how do we stop them? While climate change is certainly to blame for a portion of worsening wildfires, it’s important to look at short-term fixes that could significantly reduce the environmental impact we’re seeing yearly.

Kendall Cotton: Active management creates healthier forests (Montana Standard)
Through the smoky haze, I could just barely make out the “H” on Mount Helena from my home during the last couple of weeks. This year’s fire season has been especially bad, reminding me of the several fire-filled Augusts from my childhood when football practice was moved inside and we’d find chunks of ash on the windshields of our parked cars. Growing up in the Bitterroot Valley, I’ve had a front row seat my entire life to the effects of forest fires. There is no question that increasingly severe fires and smoke-filled skies are bad for our health, our environment and ultimately, the way of life we enjoy here in Montana.

Nick Smith: Willamette National Forest should move quickly to mitigate wildfire hazards (Statesman Journal)
The public should support the Willamette National Forest’s plan to remove dead and dying trees along forest roads impacted by the 2020 wildfires. Quick action is needed to restore and maintain safe access to public lands for recreation, firefighting, forest management and other public uses. It also will save taxpayer dollars, but unfortunately, some groups want to stop this important work from happening. 

When ‘no action’ leads to catastrophe (Enterprise-Record)
On July 20, 2021, I sent a text to my son that the Dixie Fire had the potential to run up the North Fork of the Feather River skirt past the south side of Lake Almanor, overrun Greenville, and continue east to the outskirts of Susanville.  The reason is that there was more than 1.2 billion board feet of dead timber on national forest land along that path, not salvaged after the 1999 Bucks Fire, the 2000 Storrie Fire, the 2007 Moonlight Fire, and the 2012 Chips Fire.  These dead trees now are/were 50+ tons/acre of dry woody fuel. Sadly, my forecast is being realized.  This disaster could have been avoided if our courts would stop letting litigants prevail in stopping forest management based on minor technicalities rather than the merits of cases. 

Boebert: It’s time to chart a new path in forest management (GJ Sentinel)
Decades of eco-terrorism have effectively shut down our national forests from responsible management. The result? Now there are six billion standing dead trees in the West that create a tinder box waiting to ignite one devastating forest fire after another. It doesn’t need to be this way, which is why I introduced the most comprehensive forest management bill in decades. The bill pays for itself, generates revenue for local communities, and most importantly, makes our forests healthier and safer for all of us to enjoy.

Every two days, US wildfires are consuming an area the size of Washington, DC. And there’s no let up in sight (CNN)
The dozens of wildfires that have scorched the western US this summer have consumed on average 30 square miles — almost half the size of Washington, DC — on a daily basis, the US Drought Monitor said Thursday. And the unrelenting heat will make matters even worse as dangerous, dry thunderstorms are expected this weekend in Northern California, home to the nation’s largest wildfire. “Little or no precipitation fell on most of the (Western) region, and drought intensity remained unchanged from last week in most areas,” the monitor said, noting that the dryness, exacerbated by periods of intense heat, “has led to the rapid development and expansion of wildfires.”

Silva: No more Greenvilles, Paradises, Concows, or Berry Creeks (Chico ER)
Forest fires in the state of California are not new –particularly when you’re talking about fires in the Feather River Canyon. We’ve seen fires repeatedly burn within the canyon for decades, going back to the 1951 Mill Fire. There were big fires as we knew them then — like the 2001 Poe Fire and the 2007 Storrie Fire. There was the massive 2012 Chips Fire that burned near Lake Almanor. All of these fires were big and local media covered them as if they were big events. But in 2008 Butte County got its first taste of what a massive forest fire can do to our communities. The Humboldt Fire, which was started by an arsonist, one that has yet to have been caught for the crime, burned 23,344 acres and destroyed 87 homes.

Time for the Forest Service to clean up their land (Plumas News)
We have removed trees, trimmed branches, cleared brush, debris and pine needles surrounding our house on two acres at Lake Davis. Directly across from our home and all of the other homes here, is forest service land, which surrounds the lake, the trees grow thick like weeds, the understory is thick with brush and debris, another pending disaster. We don’t understand why any and all efforts to thin the forests occurs miles away from any populated areas. …..we need the forest service to send crews up here in the fall or early spring to thin and clear their property as well as the homeowners up here do….then we may have a chance.

California’s Forests Are at a Turning Point. Why Aren’t We Committing to ‘Good Fire’? (KQED)
Year after year, California wildfires shock us with their relentlessness. The 2017 North Bay fires stunned us with their speed and death toll. Then the 2018 Camp Fire became the most destructive on record in the state, nearly wiping out the entire town of Paradise and claiming 85 lives. Last year’s unusual lightning storms led to what officials called a “fire siege.” This summer, as I see towns ravaged, lives lost and the second largest fire on record in California continue to expand, I keep asking myself: When will preventing catastrophic fires feel as urgent as fighting them?

Climate change is only one driver of explosive wildfire seasons — don’t forget land management (The Hill)
The number of “uncontained large fires” around the U.S. has now reached 100, more evidence that America is in the midst of one of the most devastating wildfire seasons on record. These fires have forced evacuations of tens of thousands and burned more than 3.8 million acres. With months left in the season, wildland firefighters are stretched thin, burned out and faced with difficult decisions on all fronts. In response, the chief of the U.S. Forest Service recently sent out a letter calling the current situation a “national crisis” and temporarily restricting the use of prescribed fires and fires for resource benefit. This is not unusual and has happened before during intense fire years. The firefighting resources needed to pull off a complex burn and the stand-by contingency resources in case a prescribed fire escapes are simply not available right now. 

26 thoughts on “Call for Forest Management in Articles and Essays”

  1. I enjoy scrolling through HFHC each morning but frankly I’m surprised anyone could be surprised that most of his links promote active forest management when their website says:

    “We are a grassroots coalition that supports the need for active, sustainable forest management to improve and sustain forest health; restore jobs and economic opportunities in rural communities; and provide timber-based revenues to support essential public services. “

    • I wasn’t surprised to see articles about active forest management, but it was interesting to see so many of them related to wildfire. I think it shows that there are lots of folks — more than ever — who are thinking that action needs to be taken to address the fuel and forest health problem.

      • In the middle of a crisis people want to scream “Somebody do something,” regardless of whether there is really anything that can be done. And of course everyone who has a vested interest in doing particular things will spin it that direction to take advantage of the crisis. (But you probably won’t see as many of these in January.)

        The spin I liked is: “We don’t understand why any and all efforts to thin the forests occurs miles away from any populated areas.”

        • But it isn’t true that “all efforts to thin the forests occurs miles away from any populated areas.” Thinning in and around WUI zones is crucial, of course, but when today’s fire burn miles in a few hours, thinning and fuels reduction in areas outside of the WUI is sensible.

        • Of course, many areas that have not been managed for decades (and need it really bad) aren’t close to communities. The Forest Service doesn’t have the funding to go to service contracts only. There needs to be enough log value to pay for the many non-commercial tasks bundled within modern projects. (That isn’t a problem in Sierra Nevada National Forests, but the lack of experienced personnel is.)

          Current funding is inadequate to do what is truly needed, on a site-specific basis.

        • Just because someone says something to a media outlet doesn’t make it true.
          We’ve all seen projects adjacent to communities. In fact I think that they were prioritized in some legislation? or other agency effort.

          In fact, we just saw that in the WaPo story about Seeley Lake.

  2. I concur that a well-conceived, broad strategy to apply prudent forest mgmt should result in reduced risk of catastrophic fires. Can people stomach setbacks when promised “cool ground fires” turn into raging weather-driven crown fires? (eg Black Hills NF Jasper Fire in 2000)
    1) given the magnitude of the problem, do people really get that this will take DECADES for results to meaningfully accumulate.
    2) it’s still a big ask to get the work done where the fires actually occur.
    3) prioritizing areas that need work first (WUI) seems essential, but elusive.
    4) residential areas (urban and rural) need to STEP UP and apply “firewise” technology NOW.
    5) can feds and state agencies sell this model while we endure many more years of losses before “wins” start to show.
    6) does Congress understand the REAL COST to make this happen? I don’t see the political will.

    • So, we should just abandon the idea of projects for forest health, and focus solely on fire safety in the WUI? Hanson says to leave forests (live and dead) in place, ‘to starve fires of wind’.

      Since we plan for 100 year flood events, shouldn’t we also plan for 100 year drought events?

  3. Seems to me that the original idea behind thinning the forests were forest health and timber production. It wasn’t all about stopping fires. So thinning projects took place in areas where large landscape analysis could be done for the NEPA documents.
    Now everyone is talking fire which is very understandable. What a mess we have gotten ourselves into.
    I was just thinking about the people who hate logging and love fire have won the discussion. I am thinking a large percentage of our forests by the end of this summer will have been burnt in the last 20 years or so. I hope they like the results, a lot less forest and a lot more smoke. Not to mention the human suffering that has gone alone with it.

    • Not to mention the millions of wildlife killed during the largely-preventable wildfires of the past 20-33 years. Not sure if the “winners” love fire, but they obviously seem to think humans are pathogens and that their lawyers should be well compensated. It’s been a successful racket from the get-go, and the surprising thing is there has been so little resistance to this carnage.

      • The willingness to trade precious old growth nesting habitat for ‘snag forests’ is very concerning. You would think that with well over 100 million dead trees in California, that would be enough. Old growth is strictly protected in the Sierra Nevada, except from drought, bark beetles and firestorms.

        • Which are not “natural” but influenced by anthropogenic factors including climate, and so the circle of discussion continues..

        • “The willingness to trade precious old growth nesting habitat for ‘snag forests’”

          I don’t think those against logging are “willing” to make this tradeoff because they don’t believe they are making this tradeoff based on the science that supports them on that. Whether it’s true may depend on where you are, and that should be one of the key issues addressed in individual national forest planning. The delay in revising plans on the west coast is not helping us get through this.

          • Jon, can you be more specific about what specific science supports what about fuel treatments/logging/ whatever? I’m curious as I’m delving into the Ten Questions paper…

          • Healey et al 2008 ( found that there was a greater rate of loss of old-growth forests following the passage of the NWFP from high severity fire than there was from harvesting and fire combined in the two decades prior to the passage of the NWFP. Obviously, the climate is also changing and must be addressed, but we also need to reduce fuel loads back to within HRV to help protect what little remains of older forest structure. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and ignore the unsustainable loss of older forests because mistakes were made 30+ years ago.

            • It hurts every time I think what our communities sacrificed for the NWFP to “save the old growth” and then watch it go up in smoke.

            • Hi Patrick: The climate is always changing, but it is interesting that most of these fires — and most remaining old-growth — are on public lands. My argument from the beginning (or at least 1982) is that we need to actively manage these older trees if we truly want to pass them on to future generations. The “benign neglect” approach has never worked, and that should have been obvious since at least 2008 and the paper you cite.

          • I had nothing specific in mind, but assumed the scientists that always get slammed here by the active managers have probably said something like this. But maybe I’m wrong.

          • I remind you of this ‘unfortunate’ quote:

            “Our forests need larger and more intense wildfires.”

            Hanson’s message makes that trade-off idea real. He is talking directly about California forests. IMHO, he could not be more wrong. The results are showing how insanely wrong he can be. He is…. willingly…. preferring snag forests over old growth nesting habitats. THOSE are the actual results.

            • Unfortunately for Larry, a search of the internet of this quote….

              “Our forests need larger and more intense wildfires.”

              …Only shows that the quote comes from Larry Harrell. Even if it was a direct quote from Dr. Chad Hanson, it’s pretty obvious that it would be taken out of context.

              However, Larry Harrell: Could you please document where this is a direct quote from Dr. Hanson? Thanks.

              • I haven’t found that exact quote, but then there’s this, from a 2017 op-ed in the Washington Post by Hanson and Mike Garrity, “No, we can’t — and shouldn’t — stop forest fires.”

                “The first myth is the notion that fire destroys our forests and that we currently have an unnatural excess of fire. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a broad consensus among scientists that we have considerably less fire of all intensities in our Western U.S. forests compared with natural, historical levels, when lightning-caused fires burned without humans trying to put them out.”


                • Hanson gets interviewed by many reporters over the last 20 years. He has used those words many times in describing his vision of a pre-human forest that he feels should be mandated. Luckily, people aren’t listening to his current message, with horrible firestorms taking out huge chunks of the Sierra Nevada, including old growth nesting habitats. Clearly, his message remains active.

                  On the Caldor Fire, the Station Creek Research Natural Area (contiguous old growth) is directly in the path of the firestorm. I guess we’ll see how well the overcrowded trees ‘protect’ the area from the flames. I’ve worked all over the affected parts around the Caldor fire, knowing every nook and cranny. It is unknown how intense the fire would have been if we had not logged 300 million board feet of insect salvage from 1989 to 1992. Almost every corner of the Placerville Ranger District had salvage logging during that time. It is sad seeing my ‘home Ranger District’ burn, but I know that my efforts reduced the intensity of this fire.

  4. I agree Mathew, there’s a definite industry bia in the Google search algorithm, but if you’re persistent you’ll find some real gems that have the power to silence the opposition. So often my rants bring out the worst in loggers, but sometimes I post such a solid reference that I don’t get any response of opposition whatsoever and simply get, “Thanks for posting, very intersting.” I get so happy when that happens:

    For example yesterday on Reddit’s r/forestry channel the same old dumb Mountain Pine Beetle arguments of how destroying the forest and starting over is the only intelligent option came up and I found this brilliant Canadian government forestry summary of how not disturbing a pine beetle destroyed forest led to a multi-age forest of diverse healthy fast growing trees many of them merchantable in only 25 years with very negligible added fire risk:

    And if you compare that to planted tree growth rates on depleted topsoils stripped of soil recruitment from dead wood in 25 years you have saplings emerging into trees that aren’t yet merchantable on most growing sites:

    Looking forward, we need to build our own database of all the best published papers that explain the value of forest protection rather than the value of its destruction.


Leave a Comment

Discover more from The Smokey Wire : National Forest News and Views

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading