Are large, eastside grand firs friend or foe?

Large-diameter grand fir (Abies grandis) in a mesic, mixed-conifer forest of northeast Oregon. Credit: Conservation Science and Practice (2023).

A new release from a some of our favorite authors about the proposed amendment to the Oregon and Washington Eastside Screens forest plan requirements – the “21-inch rule.”  The primary focus is summarized here (and there is a link to the research paper):

“Interest is growing in policy opportunities that align biodiversity conservation and recovery with climate change mitigation and adaptation priorities. The authors conclude that “21-inch rule” provides an excellent example of such a policy initiated for wildlife and habitat protection that has also provided significant climate mitigation values across extensive forests of the PNW Region.”

Until I saw this photo, I had imagined an army of evil grand fir trees sneaking up under pines and larch, and stealing their water and threatening to burn them up.  They seem to be the Forest Service’s Enemy #1 these days in eastern Oregon and Washington.  So dangerous, in fact, that the agency undertook another dreaded forest plan amendment process to give the agency more weapons to fight off this scourge.

This paper portrays them in a much different light, as providing benefits to both carbon storage and resilience to fire (along with their original wildlife protection benefits targeted by the original Eastside Screens amendment) – and NOT posing a substantial barrier to fuel treatment.

“The key rationale for amending the 21-inch rule is that increased cutting of large-diameter fir trees (≥53 cm DBH and <150 years) is needed to facilitate the conservation and recruitment of early-seral, shade-intolerant old ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and western larch (Larix occidentalis) by reducing competition from shade-tolerant large grand fir (Abies grandis) (USDA, 2021).

This represents a major shift in management of large trees across the region, highlighting escalating tradeoffs between goals for carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change, and efforts to increase the pace, scale, and intensity of cutting across national forest lands. The potential impacts of removal of large grand fir on wildfire are unclear, although a trait-based approach to assess fire resistance found that the grand fir forest type had the second highest fire resistance score, and one of the lowest fire severity values among forest types of the Inland Northwest USA (Moris et al., 2022).

Large ponderosa pine co-mingle with large grand fir about 14% of the time (259 plots), leaving 86% of plots with large ponderosa pine without large grand fir (1616 plots). Similarly, large western larch co-mingle with large grand fir about 56% of the time. Large ponderosa pine and grand fir are found together on only 8% of all plots in the region, while large larch and grand fir are found together on only 4% of all plots in the region.  (I added the emphasis for clarity.)

Enhancing forest resilience does not necessitate widespread cutting of any large-diameter tree species. Favoring early-seral species can be achieved with a focus on smaller trees and restoring surface fire, while retaining the existing large tree population.”

If nothing else, these conclusions clearly refute the Forest Service argument that reducing fire risk is “impossible” without logging the few (but important) large grand fir trees.

39 thoughts on “Are large, eastside grand firs friend or foe?”

  1. A few comments:

    1. This is a Perspective — the opinion of the authors.

    2. If I were considering the health and resilience of the small area shown in the photo in the essay, I might or might not cut the grand fir in the foreground. It would depend on an assessment of a larger area.

    3. “Synergy: Enhancing forest resilience does not necessitate widespread cutting of any large-diameter tree species.” No one I know of is advocating widespread cutting of large-diameter trees. The point of withdrawing the Eastside Screens is to allow for cutting large trees when it makes sense to do so: When large but relatively young grand fir, Doug fir, larch, etc., is competing with larger, older P. pine or other dominant trees.

    4. The authors do not report on the health of the large P. pines or other trees in the FIA plots, data which is likely available via the same FIA dataset they used. In some cases, the growth of the large, old P. pines surrounded by younger but relatively large grand fir (etc.) may well have slowed as the thirtsy grand fir out-compete them for moisture. I have seen P. pine stands where the surrounded old-growth P. pines were fading or dead, and the grand fir (etc.) were thriving. The result is an eventual shift in cover type, fire regime, etc., from P. pine dominated to grand fir dominated.

    • The facts presented here (not opinions) indicate that there should be lots of places we could prioritize for “resilience” treatments that would not have large fir trees.

      “The point of withdrawing the Eastside Screens is to allow for cutting large trees when it makes sense to do so…” The Eastside Screens do not prohibit cutting large trees when it makes sense to do so. They just require a project-specific forest plan amendment and demonstrating to the public that it makes sense to do so (which the Forest Service has done is some cases). As noted in the paper, the original point was to protect at-risk wildlife, and changing the default to something that is not as certain to protect wildlife increases that risk for what appear to be minor benefits.

      it’s also important to recognize that the Eastside Screens were intended as an “interim” amendment “until the Eastside EIS is completed” “which will fully analyze the pertinent information and set new management direction.” It would “develop an ecosystem management strategy” that would be “long-term.” (Quoting the 1994 Decision Notice.) The expectation was therefore that a comprehensive new old growth management strategy would be developed through an EIS (which became ICBEMP, and then did not result in a decision). What we got instead was simply undoing the Eastside Screens by making the protection of wildlife habitat more discretionary – based on an EA.

    • Re #3: well some in FS are most certainly advocating cutting large-diameter trees, not necessarily widespread cutting, but likely as-widespread-as-they-can. Example: some timber-oriented nat. forests have a 30″dbh limit but there aren’t many trees over that. So they can, and they do, harvest up to 29.9″ dbh. Yes, there are other parameter and restrictions. But if they can harvest the 29.9 ers, they will. Another strategy: those forest plans have an exception to the 30″ limit, “when the purpose and need is not stand density management”. That allows (at least in FS leaders interpretation it allows) removal of any and all conifers of any size within 150′ of an aspen grove being rejuvenated”.

      Further, ya got that fact that FS can and does remove trees of any size during wildfire, deck ’em, and sell ’em later. With no NEPA involved at all because it’s during a fire. And they claim the action is just decking not selling trees, therefore No NEPA is required. Of course the public is not much if any aware of that, how would they be.

      Further, the FS has not let a good disaster go to waste. Everybody so disgusted. So now the attitude is we’re in a disaster so remove as many restrictions and as much process as possible.

        • Larry, your comment is nonsense. If it’s legal, they can do it. So, why wouldn’t they? That’s just one way to look at it. I photographed the over 30″dbh trees that are marked for removal. I photographed the 26 – 29.9″dbh trees too, also marked for cutting. The aspen treatments are in the proposed actions, go look. The exception to the 30″ rule that allows the over 30’s to be removed is in the SNFPA ROD, go look. The large trees decked during fires, I saw the decks and photographed them too.

          • Just because it happened once or twice, some of you are assuming that felling trees along firelines is all about cutting large trees for boards. All the times I saw an aspen project proposed, the wildlife people wouldn’t sign off on it. I propose that you show us where such projects have been completed, so we can look at the aerial views. (Be sure that such lands are actually Forest Service, too!)

            I also have yet to see a skidder working on an active fire, decking logs. I also haven’t heard of dozers decking logs, as they have little ability to actually lift one. Of course, firefighting sawyers don’t carry loggers tapes, as well (for bucking).

            If you have ‘the facts’, why not bring them to court?

            • I not assuming. It happened, more than once or twice. It’s was proposed on an 85,000-acre project that was planned using Condition Based Mgt. Search the PALS website and the Sched. of Proposed Actions (SOPA). The aspen colonies weren’t identified; that was planned to be done after the NEPA decision. But then that area burned so FS shelved the project. They spent 5 1/2 years planning that project prior to the burn. It burned in 2021. Taxpayers paid for the 5 1/2 years planning and the fire suppression. Wildlife people have signed off on it in CA. It was definitely on FS lands. Ha, ha, nice try. You’re grasping for straws.

              On the fires they used feller bunchers (aka hot saws, Timcos) and skidders. Dozers, ha, ha, another nice try. You wouldn’t know if they don’t notify the public. And they didn’t notify. FS puts resources advisors on the fire. If the resource advisors won’t cooperate, the FS simply finds one who will. They know each other, and they know who the brown nosers are or aren’t. Those who will do it are rewarded. Humans have a tendency to agree and comply when it’s to their advantage. So, there is incentive to do what the forest supervisor wants. For some things, the supervisor can simply order FS employees to do it.

              Look at the large fire areas in northern CA from the past 3-4 years, from the Modoc to the Sierra NF’s. The decks are mostly gone, sold for pennies because the mills couldn’t keep up. The mills had timber from their own lands, all the timber from the many enormous fires on FS lands, and all the beetle killed timber from the drought years of 2012 – 2016. They didn’t buy all those decks in the fire areas because they were simply overloaded. The mills can do what they want and they don’t need to justify it. So the log decks had to be sold extremely cheaply to get someone to come get them.

              “Firefights don’t carry loggers tapes.” Another meaningless comment. Wildfires are emergencies and that gives the FS all the justification they need. They brought in contractors with feller bunchers and skidders and paid them with the P Code (i.e. the firefighting funds). The resource advisor and the Incident Mgt Team on the fire simply point to the area, or the road, or the individual trees and tell the operators to go cut and deck. They don’t need logger tapes, but if they did they’d have no trouble getting them.

              • You do realize that feller-bunchers can only safely handle trees up to about 24″ dbh. It’s awful hard to skid entire large trees, as well. You are clearly cherry-picking rare incidents, and painting them as a crisis, in the midst of massive firestorms. The desperation of anti-Forest Service folks is growing stronger, as they are powerless to stop legal projects, these days.

                Again, if you have the evidence, bring it on into court.

              • Larry, you’re really reaching, and changing the subject. Logging contractors most certainly have the technology to harvest the large over-30″dbh trees. They can fall them, cut to 16′ or 32′ lengths and skid. You’re argument that feller bunchers can’t handle the large trees is meaningless because the loggers are definitely capable of harvesting them.

                It is most certainly a crisis in my area of the world where 2/3 of the nat. forest has burned in the past 3 years! That’s 700,000 acres burned, much of it at high severity. That’s the crisis. FS could’ve thinned but didn’t and blame others for the problem.

                The events I’ve described happened and are being planned. Those actions might be rare some places, but they are common here. I’ve been closely watching this unfold for 18 years here. Oh, I could be bull shitting you, I’m just a person on the internet. But I’m not bull shitting. Perhaps you noticed that I have some knowledge of what I’m talking about. I’m not cherry picking, I’m telling you what is happening.

                I’ve debunked your nonsense comments: conspiracy BS, thin from below prescriptions, 30-year ban on clearcuts, fell bunchers capability, dozers, logger’s tapes. None of those withstand simple scrutiny.

                You haven’t addressed the many issues I raised regarding Condition Based Mgt, Emergency Situation Determinations (ESD), removing large over-30″dbh trees in Aspen treatments, implementation before decisions (yeah, the ESD can allow that). While your pondering those add: using CE’s with Condition Based Mgt on a project of 85,000 acres (that project failed – no decision after 7 years of planning), EADM (you familiar with that nonsense? Look it up! Some serious garbage from Washington office, it’s mostly dead now but some people retained the concepts), the fact that the ESD can eliminate the requirement for an Objection period. And those actions cannot happen without support from a regional office at the least. The ESD requires the WO’s approval. That is NOT cherry picking.

              • You have not made the case that any of this is an actual widespread concern. I have worked on many salvage projects and have never seen decked logs, from the active suppression. I have also worked on Sierra Nevada thinning projects, always leaving adequate canopy cover and following all the rules, laws and policies. You’re just ‘fearmongering’, powerless to actually prove what you’re claiming as a crisis.

                Again, IF you have evidence, you should bring it into court.

              • Did you look up EADM?, Cond. Based Mgt?, ESD’s? Those are agency-wide. That’s widespread! As I said, the FS has for the most part dropped EADM now. But the leaders put in place during the last presidential administration still cling to the nonsense in that curriculum. Look it up! Look into the other concepts. It’s true that I didn’t record the FS conversations so I don’t’ have that evidence. Search FS web sites.

                Do you think Cond. Based Mgt is not being proposed? You think I just made it up? Look at what I wrote about it. It has huge long-lasting effects on forests across many states. Did you look on the SOPA?

                As I said, the crisis is the lack of thinning while the agency wastes tons of time and money. Look up the fires of 2020, 2021 in CA, OR, WA. That’s the evidence for the crisis. More fire is coming, wouldn’t you agree? Thinning is needed, agreed? Or do you need photos of the brush fields and overstocked forests? The FS created those.

                The SNFPA FEIS ROD is very widespread, applying from the Lassen NF and south to the Sequoia NF. See p. 51, #9. That brief sentence allows the taking of over-30″ trees for “restoration”. And it’s legal. Read it. That’s evidence and it’s widespread!! Covering 9 nat. forests!

                So you worked on other projects that didn’t do what I allege is being done. That doesn’t mean these things aren’t being done now on other projects. So, once again, you’re logic is meaningless. As I said earlier, the decks are mostly gone. You can’t go see them. I have some photos of them, but you’ll have no way to know where and when I took them. So you’ll rely on your only argument, i.e. that I could be bull shitting. That’s all you got. And I ain’t bs’ing. As far as I can tell, this web forum does not have capability to upload photos. If it does, point that out to me and I’ll upload some photos for you. I could e-mail them to you. I’m telling ya, everything I said is happening in my county. It wouldn’t happen if the region opposed it, would it?

                So, you worked on projects where all regs were followed. The fs can change regs. They interpret regs and if nobody sues, they get what they want. But what they want doesn’t have to be what’s best for the forest or the taxpayer. This is often called the “could” vs. the “should”. If they could do it, legally, then there’s nothing the public can do if the forest decides to take the large trees. The agency was sued over the decking during wildfire, FS won that suit. See that’s how the “could” wins over the “should”. If they had done what they “should”, the thinning could have been done before the devastation of 2020 and 2021. The FS is made up of humans, and humans will often do what’s best for themselves. Was anyone held accountable for the devastation? See? that’s why EADM, C-Based Mgt, ESD’s are bad ideas. They shift much power to one human and reduce the already nearly nonexistent accountability. You can call it fear mongering if you like, but that’s just more semantics. We can fear it; but we can also work for change.

                I’ve now debunked all you arguments except your demand for evidence. So your only remaining argument is that I could be bull shitting. Look at the logic and reasoning I present. And consider, what if I”m not bull shitting? Now do you get it? Or will you look for more nonsense about loggers tapes and dozers? I can send you photos.

              • Why do you bother to even engage then? You’ve just been shown, with evidence, what has and is happening. Not might happen!! Did happen! Is happening! You’re “moving on” rather than doing anything about it. Not even making the effort to admit that this is a huge problem. Instead you’re dismissing the problem with more meaningless comments. My concerns, call them fears if you like, are million-acre wildfires and whole towns burned to the ground in CA and OR. You’ve noticed that, haven’t you? My concern is enormous waste of taxpayer money on years of planning that accomplished nothing. FS is made up of people. Law, reg. & policy exist to give us more trust and accountability of those people who make decisions for the FS. Their discretion has gotten us into the crisis we’re in across the western US. If you give people discretion without accountability, that incentivizes them to serve their own interests. FS leaders are just humans. It’s naive to trust humans to do the right thing. People like you and I, who have some knowledge and concern need to speak up if we want improvement. And improvement is needed!! If you are not even willing to acknowledge what you’ve been shown, you’re just punting. At least you’ve been educated even if you won’t admit it.

              • Lots of talk, but little evidence. You know nothing of what I think and believe, but yet you continue to paint me (and others) as criminals, accusing us of breaking environmental laws. My ethics during my 25 year career have served me well. I never made decisions I couldn’t support, with rules, laws, policies and…….. science. I support full transparency of Forest Service projects. The timber industry wasn’t a fan of my desire to strictly follow the provisions of the timber sale contract, too. I did my jobs very well, and am proud of the beneficial work I helped complete. Since I am now retired, I have no effect on current projects. All I have is the experience and knowledge I want to share, marginalizing extremists from both ends of the spectrum.

              • Go back and read my comments. I did not accuse you of any of that, or paint you as a criminal. That’s all your own fabrication. Evidence: I gave you the SNFPA ROD reference with page number, I offered you photos of the decks, I offer photos of the 30+” trees marked for removal, and I referenced the SOPA where you can find the Proposed Actions published by the FS. Those Proposed Actions include the Cond. Based Mgt, ESD’s, and the Aspen treatments.

                I didn’t comment on your ethics. I directly addressed what you have written. I did not address your character. So quit claiming victim. I am accusing you of writing stupid shit, yes. The only things I know of what you think is what you’ve written. And that’s what I have commented on.

                I did not say the FS has broken environmental laws. You made up that up yourself and then defend yourself from the accusation that I never made.

                You most certainly can affect the current projects of the FS if you choose to.

      • Hopefully that with anyone who has been closely associated with western Forest over the last 4 decades would agree yes there is a disaster- I believe a lot of the current situation could have been minimized except for “process”. As to strict diameter rules such as the 21 inch rule in the Eastside screens. They serve a political purpose but or not scientifically or biological based. We should be arguing over the objectives and then do what is best for meeting that objective. It is sometimes safer to take on process than it is to be against objectives

        • It is indeed a disaster. The FS has not done enough to promote under burning and has instead focused its resources of time, money, labor on green tree projects that accomplish timber targets. Further, the FS has wasted tons of time, money, labor on trying to go around NEPA requirements. That strategy has failed repeatedly in my part of the world. And it slowed down the pace and scale of treatment, for YEARS. They have talked about the need to underburn for 25+ years. But they failed to do it. Instead, they’ve focused on timber sales. Who was making the decisions that lead to the conditions of extreme fire danger??? The ‘ologists?? The tree huggers???? Who makes the decisions??? Who is responsible??

          Condition Based Mgt is another attempt to avoid planning and avoid resource surveys. It’s a recipe for disaster. It is literally a method of planning by avoiding details. Would you do that with your own land, money, time? Or would you consider all the details in order to make the best decision and increase odds of success?

          Condition Based Mgt transfers a ton of power away from scientists and the public and gives it to one future unknown forest supervisor. Law, Reg., & Policy exist so that we needn’t rely on trust. But FS states we can trust this unknown future forest supervisor to do the best mgt. The f. supe can put the future treatment units wherever he or she chooses within a 200,000-acre area and apply the treatment they choose. There would be no accountability because the decision will have been signed years prior. And the public would not be notified of where the treatments get placed, nor of any new info uncovered by resource surveys. Giving that power to one person (or one position as the case may be), for as many years as it takes to treat 200,000 acres incentives that person to implement their own bias. THere’s no accountability. And if Cond. Based Mgt is allowed, it will be legal. Are you guys getting it yet?

  2. As always, this pro-logging post doesn’t understand natural science very well and instead depends on creating enemies in the same way right wing politicians further their political careers by demonizing something/someone and getting people to support their hateful ‘us vs. them’ rhetoric.

    In this case it’s not being woke, not minorities or women, or LGBTQ people they want us to hate, but a range of different varieties of grand fir trees that are doing their evolutionary job of preparing the land for forest recovery despite more than a century of too much logging.

    And while we all can pretty much agree that Ponderosa Pine live longer and are more rot resistant and that’s the future forest these landscapes need to grow into, what we won’t agree on is the role the natural life cycle of grand fir plays at creating suitable habitat for for P. Pine.

    In log de-composition studies the grand firs have always been the fastest to rot out and rotted out wood, especially heartwood rot is essential for wildlife, as well as for future soil health, which is what P. Pine needs to be restored to its former glory on the landscape before catastrophic anthropocene deforestation events turned our forest landscapes into sapling-seeding chaos.

    Of course rather than understand the benefits of natural succession and a healthy resilient ecosystem that slowly build up into health soils over many centuries, the rhetoric of this post is much like the steroids junkie at the gym who wants to cheat and accelerate the process to get to the end result of big muscles quicker. But we all know what roid-rage does to these muscle junkies, we also know how this process of acceleration of muscle growth is not sustainable in the long run and an untimely death is the risk that they’re taking.

    Likewise, increasing forest disturbance with logging, especially east of the Cascades can quickly destroy the soils ability to hold moisture in the dry season leading to increased mortality of P. Pine.

    And perhaps in some cases where P. Pine is suppressed by grand fir intelligent branch pruning could be helpful in ensuring P.Pine trees don’t get shade out. What’s more pruning branches doesn’t destroy soil ecology & hydrology the way dragging logs across the forest floor does in flashy weedy fuel creating ways, which is what created these nightmare thickets of young trees in the first place.

    As always, the agenda is not how to minimize disturbance to regrow a healthy forest for future generations, but how can we eliminate all restrictions on what can be logged in order to get rich today because greedy people only care about what they can get for themselves right now, not what they leave behind for the people who come next. They never stop lying to end any/all restriction on logging… They are dishonest to the core and will never admit how wrong they are.

  3. This paper seems to be the latest salvo in scientific battle between Mildrexler et al (who favor adherence to the 21″ limit) and Johnston et al (including Franklin and Johnson) who do not. For their most recent (I think) salvo (from 2021), see

    The debate is indeed, as Jon captioned this thread, whether large grand firs are friend or foe, with Johnston et al generally take the “foe” side, as I read them.

  4. It’s a very similar situation with white fir in the Sierra Nevada. Many older white firs have dead tops and rotting wood, as well as being infected with mistletoe. It would be nice to be able to pluck some of those crappy large trees out, while saving smaller pines as better leave trees. Of course, it takes knowledge and experience to do that, effectively, and the Forest Service doesn’t seem to have enough of those types, these days.

    I think that since there is a track record of several decades, a study could be commissioned for areas logged under the CASPO guidelines, during the last 30 years, to see what worked, and what didn’t.

    • Where in the natural sciences does it say that normal end of life degeneration of more short-lived / faster rotting conifers is a threat to the ecosystem? All the science I’ve read proves their end of life cycle is a natural and normal benefit to the long term health of the ecosystem/biodiversity. Maybe you could provide some references?

      If you were talking about your houseplants, or your gardening bed next to your house your anti-natural life cycle version of forestry would apply…

      But out in wild natural systems that are recovering from deforestation of the past and aren’t private property.,but owned by all of us, your points come across as a white wing wacko pushing a delusional monocrop tree farm dogma that has no basis in scientific fact or any basis at all/entirely when it comes to how tall tree forest ecosystems have evolved to dominate this planet for 382 million years.

      • ALL California forests have been affected by humans since the last ice age. Yes, we know that you want a ‘pre-human’ forest, in a world dominated by us. You’re willing to let human-caused firestorms continue to impact our forests in a very, very severe way. Yep, ‘Whatever Happens’ to today’s forests are alright with you, as long as humans don’t intervene. No one in Congress feels like YOU do, so your invalid points have zero traction. (And that makes me happy)

        Again, you paint me as a right-wing clearcut fanatic. The last clearcut I worked on was in 1989, when entire slopes were covered with dead and dying trees. Your lies are more ‘right-wing’ than I am. I have never voted Republican for President or Governor.

    • Maybe that would be a decent treatment, i.e. to remove some crappy large white fir. But FS is likely to take large pines at the same time. The 30″ dbh limit in the Sierras doesn’t mean that much if there’s few or no over-30’s around. I’m not sure that it’s knowledge and experience that are the problem, though. It’s the whole agency, it’s based on bias. Jump on that bandwagon and one can ride upward. So agreement from yes men/yes women and blind faith are incentivised. Dissent, no matter how well supported, is strongly discouraged. And the wildfire crisis is now an all-purpose excuse to cut as many and as large of trees they can. “Never let a good disaster go to waste!” And there ain’t many large ones left after the last few years of fires… plus the previous few drought years and bug kill. There’s a lot of dead trees on a lot of burned acres. I support mechanical thinning (and getting logs to the mill btw) but they are fighting hard to take the best trees. I’ll try to start a new thread regarding Emergency Authorization, implementation prior to decisions, Condition Based Mgt.

      • You seem to not know the recent history of forest management in Sierra Nevada National Forests. For the last 30 YEARS, the ban on clearcuts and old growth harvesting has been in force. There is a LOT of old growth throughout the National Forests there. The marking prescription are designed to “thin from below”, favoring the pines and cutting the flammable firs and incense cedars. I like these three ideas:

        1) Restore tree densities to match current precipitation rates.
        2) Restore species compositions to a more resilient mix.
        3) Restore forest structure, enhancing old growth populations.

        We even embraced the “clumps and gaps” idea, leaving some 2 acre clumps of untouched forest, within the cutting units.

        • You seem to be unaware. I did not mention clearcuts. Clearcut and harvesting large trees are two different things, right. There is very little old growth in the national forest in my county. Consider the fires in the Sierra over the past years. How many large conifers were killed on the Stan., Sierra, Eldo, Tahoe, Plumas, Lassen, Klamath, etc in these past 5 years? A lot of old growth? Not where I am! What’s a lot? Nevermind arguing over semantics. Current prescriptions are not “thin from below” and FS has been disparaging the “thin from below” concept for years. Current prescriptions are based on the low-end of the range of stand density index, creating openings, aspen enhancement, and promoting shade intolerant pines. Consider the aspen treatment: in a zone 150 feet from the outermost aspen stem all conifers can be removed with NO size limit. It’s in the proposed actions. The SNFPA ROD allows ignoring the 30″ limit if the treatment is not managing for stand density. FS simple states the purpose of the treatment is to enhance aspen not manage stand density. Look it up! An aspen colony of any size can get a clearing (it is in fact a clear cut, but let’s ignore semantics for now) around it for 150 feet! It’s been done, the stumps are there to see. It’s being proposed. And how much need is there to enhance aspen in CA? Not much since thousands of aspen colonies have just been “treated” by wildfire over the past 3 years. Biodiversity of, and associated with, aspens is in not threatened in CA because the aspens are resprouting rapidly all through those fire areas, from the Modoc in the North to the Sierra in the south (perhaps down to the Sequoia and Angeles forests too but I’m not very familiar with those, so I won’t make that statement). But somebody still wants to clear that 150 foot area of all conifers including the biggest ones. Combine that with the power grab of Condition Based Mgt, harvesting trees during fires and selling them later, and seeking Emergency Authorization to implement projects prior to making NEPA decisions.

          Also you haven’t commented on the realistic scenario of a stand that has no or very few trees over the 30″ limit. There the FS can, and does, remove the 24 – 29.9″ trees. The prescriptions use low SDI as target. But that SDI can allow FS to take the largest trees if they choose. And they have chosen to. The trees are marked. I measured and photographed them. And the 30 YEARS of banned clearcuts is not preventing all this from happening.

          • I think it is more common (or at least it should be) to interpret forest plans to require, when there is not enough of something to meet a standard, to leave all of what there is and enough of the next best thing to meet the standard. That would likely preclude removal of 24-29.9″ trees in your example. It would be interesting to take a look at the language of the relevant standard here.

            • The forest plan in my area is not interpreted that way. Though I agree that it should be. It’s often quite the opposite. The forest’s attitude is: if it’s perfectly legal we can do it, so there’s no argument to be made. Yes, I have talked to the leaders directly. Their interpretation allows taking the 24 – 29.9. I’m telling ya, the damn trees are marked.

  5. Curious as to how much of the lower fire severity of GF is due to their presence on more mesic sites? I’m not too familiar with the species outside CA. I know we have been seeing white fir die back like crazy due to drought and beetles, could this be a motivation for removal of fir in Oregon and Washington? With the way the climate is moving, I’d rather bet on pine than fir on a lot of sites.

    • Seems like you’re trying to convince us to bet on which deck chair on the titanic is more comfortable to sit in while also convincing all the people who are about to sink with you that all the “less desirable” deck chairs would be better off being thrown overboard.

      And truth is the ultimate destination for all the forests managed by chainsaw delusionals who prefer too much life-robbing sun rather than too much life-giving shade in times of a massive acceleration in anthropogenic climate change is a sunken ship where all live are eventually lost because dogma is more important than rational thought.

  6. Where prior management practices in the Blue Mountains removed pine, larch and Douglas-fir to favor grand fir due to its superior growth rates, grand fir is indeed the enemy – the single-species management of grand fir, particularly on ash cap soils, was upended by several years of drought in the 1980s, followed by a spruce budworm outbreak – the Blue Mountains “Forest Health Crisis” – extensive areas of dead trees. So where prior management has simplified species composition and increased insect and disease susceptibility, restoration of species diversity is needed along with restoration of the disturbance regime. In other cases, where alteration of the disturbance regime by the forced removal of indigenous people has allowed grand fir to become more predominant (and other species to exist in denser conditions), there are a lot of factors to consider. Due to its susceptibility to insects & disease, grand fir can form a number of different habitat structures ( – especially hollow trees – so retaining grand fir that can help fulfill that role for different wildlife species is important.

  7. “The grand fir forest type had severity values at the same level of forest types dominated by fire-resister species despite grand fir was classified as a fire-avoider species. … In many ponderosa pine forests maintained historically by a high frequency, low-severity fire regime, the transition towards denser forests dominated by Douglas-fir and grand fir would explain why ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir still compose a significant proportion of basal area in the grand fir forest type, and many maintain large, old, fire-resistant ponderosa pine trees (Johnston et al. 2021; Merschel et al. 2021). Therefore, the particular structure and composition of these “recent” grand fir forests (e.g., Merschel et al. 2014), with an important presence of large-diameter trees of fire-resistant species, may provide latent fire resistance (Larson et al. 2013).”

    Jose V. Moris, Matthew J. Reilly, Zhiqiang Yang, Warren B. Cohen, Renzo Motta, Davide Ascoli 2022. Using a trait‑based approach to asses fire resistance in forest landscapes of the Inland Northwest, USA. Landsc Ecol (2022) 37:2149–2164. energy,

  8. 97% of congress approved passage of the now hidden 13th amendment in 1810 that led to the war of 1812 then sent to the states to ratify…those people in government now-today-foreign agents, that the hidden 13th banned from holding office tell us the bill was never ratified- missed it by one state vote..darn-they say Virginia never voted on it. Virginia being the home of Washington and Jefferson who.thr latter. With Madison helped create the amendment….just forget the great fire in Virginia in 1811 that killed many important Virginians including the governor..forget when in 1812 Dec 9 when New Hampshire was about to vote to ratify their state seal attached to the proposal said Virginia has passed it…forget that congress was almost unanamous about the bill yet the states were not unanamous. Forget in 1811 in Virginias revised state codes was the hidden 13th amendment..forget that hidden amendment has been found in dozens of other state constitutions up to 1865 ..which the powers that won the civil war..covered it with the current 13th which should be the 14th
    ..keep listening to the bs and just drink the cool aid and as a founding father said that one day you will all wake up pennyless and hungry..4% and 8% but ignore the facts…the Gran Firs are not affecting 92% of forest and the larch is not effecting 96% of the forest , therefore both species need to be removed wherever else found… and people in government who work for foreign powers need to stay and keep mixing more kool aid.

  9. A little history on the east side screens. They were initiated when legal counsel advised that the lack of a policy which was broader than just a national forest made the east side vulnerable to a legal challenge which could shut down active management programs. The NW Forest Plan had addressed that issue but it did not include the Eastside. Recognizing this situation the Columbia Basin project was initiated but the timing would leave a gap where the R

    Eastside was vulnerable to litigation. The Eastside screens were meant to be a stopgap measure until the Basin plan was completed. The plan took a lot longer than expected and some part of the timber industry had it defunded before completion.

    The 21 inch rule was used to satisfy research on peckerwoods coming out of the La Grande station. The objective being to provides a source of snags well into the future there was no seperation by species. No agreement could be reached on number of trees per acre etc so the 21 inch rule was used. It has no biological or scientific credibility and I have advocated for decades that it should be removed and replaced with a
    Policy developed from the information and knowledge developed in the Basin planning effort. Climate change was not a significant consideration at the time primarily the policy was to exist for only 2-3 years. Chances are healthy 18 and 20 in trees will be of more value to objectives related to climate change than older trees 21 inches plus. In any sense it is decision that should be made at the project level based on many ecological variables and climate change conditions

    • I guess you should know the Eastside Screens history, since your signature is on the decision. Thanks for the additional insights on that and why ICBEMP fizzled. I had moved on by that point, but I was hoping and expecting to see the screens “replaced with a Policy developed from the information and knowledge developed in the Basin planning effort.” Not by just loosening the Screens. I also agree that what trees to cut is “a decision that should be made at the project level based on many ecological variables and climate change conditions.” However, that doesn’t answer the question of what the forest plans should say to address the original concern about a legal challenge (I believe it related to diversity and old growth species viability).

      • In the Sierra Nevada National Forests, I think that many of us begrudgingly-accepted the diameter limits issue as a necessary sacrifice. Sure, it would be great if discretion could be utilized on some larger trees but, the trust level isn’t there, and diameter limits are easier to justify and enforce. The marking crews just don’t have enough knowledge and experience to accurately apply such discretion.

        I often thought it might be worthwhile to expand the diameter limits for white fir to 36″ dbh, AND take GPS coordinates, and document why that over-30″ tree was selected. Yes, it would be difficult, but would that satisfy critics of ‘more discretion’?

        Such a program could also be used with the grand fir, too. I think more transparency is a really good thing, myself.

  10. Diameter limits have political and biological justifications. Political – the timber industry would take every large tree on the landscape if given the opportunity and will continue to advocate for their removal until they are gone. Ecological – there is a relative absence of trees >21 inches on the landscape compared to historical conditions. Sure, a single hard number is difficult to justify on each acre, but flexibility has been shown to be routinely abused. Too many times I have seen the exception to the rule become the rule. When given a numerical range, the extractive end of the range becomes target. History has repeatedly demonstrated that “Trust us, we are the experts.” doesn’t typically turn out very well for wildlife and big trees.

    Unfortunately, we are now facing a climate crisis that requires action. Commercial harvest is one tool in the box, but it’s not the most important tool to deal with the wildfire crisis. All I hear from the agency are excuses for why prescribed fire and managed fire cannot be scaled up, but all I hear from the fire science community is that prescribed and managed fire must be scaled up immediately or everything else is for nothing.

    Shoot, the USFS is so far behind on dealing with the wildfire crisis that they have to start by hiring up their HR department before they can begin to hire up planners and crews to actually get the work done. It’s a sad state of things that commercial harvest is the only work the agency is capable of actually getting done under the current staffing levels.


Leave a Comment