Trump’s trade war tests Alaska’s struggling timber industry

By Marc Heller, originally published Friday, August 16, 2019 at E&E News

KETCHIKAN, Alaska — The Trump administration’s trade war with China is hitting Alaska’s timber industry where it may hurt most: in the younger trees that everyone seems to agree are the future of the business.

China’s 20% tariff on U.S. timber is retaliation for similar levies the administration placed on Chinese goods. And while Chinese officials spoke earlier this week of trying to reach a middle ground in the broader trade battle, people close to the timber industry in southeast Alaska say they’re not sure the region’s mills that ship there can quickly recover when the battle settles.

That could throw off plans to transition out of old-growth timber harvesting in the Tongass National Forest, a practice that’s unpopular with conservation and environmental groups, as well as Alaska Native tribes, but maintains support from the state’s political leaders.

Conservationists promote the Tongass as bulwark against climate change

Conservationist Dominick DellaSala asks can the Tongass save Alaska?

By Peter Segall, Originally published Friday, August 16, 2019 at The Juneau Empire

Can the Tongass save Alaska from climate chaos?

Dr. Dominick DellaSala, president and chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, asked that question to the small audience of about two dozen gathered in the Mendenhall Valley Library Tuesday evening.

He speaking at at an event hosted by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council about the role that old-growth forest like the Tongass National Forest can play in combating climate change.

Temperate rain forests like the Tongass soak up an incredible amount of carbon and play a pivotal role in keeping the planet’s temperature at sustainable levels. In answer to his own question, DellaSala said that the Tongass can play a part in saving Alaska from climate chaos, so long as it continues to exist in its present state.

That may be a problem as the Alaska’s logging industry is eager to get at the hundreds of thousands of acres of old-growth forest in Southeast. “Old-growth” forests are not simply forests with old trees, but forests with a complex array of features which create a unique ecosystem which have remained mostly undisturbed by humans.

This Trump administration proposal to roll back logging rules is reckless

By Jim Furnish

Jim is a consulting forester in Iowa, following a 34-year career with the U.S. Forest Service, including as the agency’s deputy chief from 1999 to 2002.

Published August 11 at The Washington Post

I was the supervisor of Oregon’s Siuslaw National Forest in 1996 when a huge landslide caused by shoddy road construction sent tons of mud and debris into a critical salmon stream. I felt terrible ― and personally responsible. In the rush to build logging roads along treacherously steep hillsides, we mismanaged forests for decades and pushed salmon and spotted owls to the brink of extinction.

When I came to Washington to become deputy chief of the Forest Service a few years later, that Oregon landslide ― and countless other road-building mistakes ― motivated me to rewrite national forest policy. I was a chief architect of two landmark rules to reform logging and road building in our national forests.

‘Deliberate extinction’: extensive clear-cuts, gas pipeline approved in endangered caribou habitat

Scientists warn another B.C. caribou herd could disappear as the provincial government approves 78 new logging cutblocks in critical habitat for the Hart Ranges herd, while construction of a pipeline for LNG industry takes out another chunk of boreal forest

By Sarah Cox, Originally published on Aug 7, 2019 at The Narwhal

Standing near the summit of a clear-cut mountain in B.C.’s interior, overlooking the brown and emerald green Anzac River valley, scientist Dominick DellaSala has a bird’s eye view of why the Hart Ranges caribou herd is at risk of extinction.

Only a fringe of forest remains around the distant mountain peak where the declining herd seeks protection from wolves and other predators in ever-shrinking habitat northeast of Prince George.

“The difference between this and Borneo is that there aren’t any orangutans behind me,” says DellaSala, pointing to extensive clear cuts covering much of the mountain side.

“You’ve got caribou at upper elevations. That’s their habitat out there. And they’re being squished to the top of the tallest mountains because all the habitat’s been taken out down below. The species is migratory, it goes up and down.”

DellaSala, chief scientist and president of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, is touring parts of B.C.’s ancient inland temperate rainforest as part of an Australian-led study documenting the world’s most important unlogged forests.

Continue reading at The Narwhal

 

‘Deliberate extinction’: extensive clear-cuts, gas pipeline approved in endangered caribou habitat

Scientists warn another B.C. caribou herd could disappear as the provincial government approves 78 new logging cutblocks in critical habitat for the Hart Ranges herd, while construction of a pipeline for LNG industry takes out another chunk of boreal forest

By Sarah Cox, Originally published on Aug 7, 2019 at The Narwhal

Standing near the summit of a clear-cut mountain in B.C.’s interior, overlooking the brown and emerald green Anzac River valley, scientist Dominick DellaSala has a bird’s eye view of why the Hart Ranges caribou herd is at risk of extinction.

Only a fringe of forest remains around the distant mountain peak where the declining herd seeks protection from wolves and other predators in ever-shrinking habitat northeast of Prince George.

“The difference between this and Borneo is that there aren’t any orangutans behind me,” says DellaSala, pointing to extensive clear cuts covering much of the mountain side.

“You’ve got caribou at upper elevations. That’s their habitat out there. And they’re being squished to the top of the tallest mountains because all the habitat’s been taken out down below. The species is migratory, it goes up and down.”

DellaSala, chief scientist and president of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, is touring parts of B.C.’s ancient inland temperate rainforest as part of an Australian-led study documenting the world’s most important unlogged forests.

Continue reading at The Narwhal

 

Canada’s forgotten rainforest

Less than one-third of the world’s primary forests are still intact. Deep in the interior of British Columbia, a temperate rainforest that holds vast stores of carbon and is home to endangered caribou is being clear-cut as fast as the Amazon

By Sarah Cox, Originally published on Jul 27, 2019 at The Narwhal

On a balmy day in mid-July, in the heart of British Columbia, Dominick DellaSala steps out of a rented truck to examine the remains of one of the rarest ecosystems on the planet.

DellaSala, a scientist studying global forests that hold vast stores of carbon, is silent for a moment as he surveys a logging road punched through an ancient red cedar and western hemlock grove only days earlier.

A spared cedar tree, at least 400 years old, stands uncloaked in the sun beside the road, an empty bear den hidden in its hollow trunk.

“I haven’t seen logging this bad since I flew over Borneo,” says DellaSala, president and chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, a partner in an international project to map the world’s most important unlogged forests.

“It was a rainforest. Now it’s a wasteland.”

Continue reading at The Narwhal

Proposed Tongass change could speed young-growth transition

By Marc Heller, E&E News reporter, Originally published at E&E News on July 26, 2019

The Forest Service is proposing to open an additional 1,144 acres of the Tongass National Forest to harvesting of young-growth timber, opening a debate about where the transition away from old-growth timber should be focused.

In a proposed amendment to the forest management plan for the Tongass — the nation’s biggest national forest at nearly 17 million acres — the agency said it would allow more harvesting of young growth on a landscape known as moderate-vulnerability karst, which is typically underlain by a soluble rock like limestone.

Moderate-vulnerability karst doesn’t have caves or sinkholes — which are typically found in high-vulnerability karst landscapes — and the Forest Service said those areas can handle management activities such as timber harvesting. In addition, the agency said, regulations have been written in an inconsistent way that would allow cutting of trees in those locations if they were old growth.

“Analysis of old-growth harvest on moderate vulnerability karst has demonstrated that the standards in place were sufficient to maintain the natural processes and productivity of karst lands. This amendment will align the standards for young-growth and old-growth harvest on moderate vulnerability karst,” the Forest Service said in a news release.

Climate change calls for new look at fire, experts say

By Caitlin Fowlkes of the Tidings

Dominick A. DellaSala, chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland, says more scientists agree that forest thinning in the backcountry is futile.

At a presentation he gave Friday during a symposium on fire, DellaSala said that according to a 2017 study, less than 1% of areas that were thinned had a forest fire.

He said thinning doesn’t work well in extreme fire weather, it can increase wind speed and vegetation, it doesn’t last longer than 10 to 15 years before it must be redone, and it can make land more prone to fire.

DellaSala, speaking at the 100th annual meeting of the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said there’s just no way to tell where lightening is going to strike.

“A lot of it is in backcountry, in steep areas that you can’t get to it anyway,” DellaSala said. “In many areas you don’t have access, and there’s no way you can treat enough of the landscape to make enough of a difference.”

Timber industry the focus of GOP wildfire response

By Adam Aton, E&E News reporter

Originally published at E&E News on June 17, 2019

Republican climate policy is taking shape under the Trump administration, with a new forestry proposal offering an example of businesses setting the parameters of action.

As wildfires become an emblem of climate change, the GOP wants to help the timber industry respond. The strategy mostly disregards emissions, accepts some collateral damage to local ecosystems and limits public oversight of corporate activity.

The Forest Service’s new proposed rule, open for comment until Aug. 12, would loosen environmental reviews for many projects, including logging and road-building. A new suite of categorical exclusions for those projects would require only public notice, not public comment.

Lane County’s forests being whittled down

By Roy Keene and Dominick DellaSala
Posted Jun 13, 2019 at The Register Guard

The Shotcash BLM timber sale would clear cut some 1,200 acres of ecologically healthy, still-growing, 60-80 year old timber within the heavily logged Mohawk River drainage. In a watershed checkerboarded with thousands of acres of clear cuts and almost entirely depleted of older forests, the BLM claims it needs more seedling plantations. We think this is a bad idea.

In its 1957 forest inventory, the United States Forest Service reported Lane County having a sawtimber volume of 97 billion board feet. Its 2001-2010 inventory reported only 64 billion board feet, a 34% decline. In the last half century of so-called “sustained yield management,” 33 billion board feet of Lane’s timber has been liquidated. The 2010 inventory shows 83% of the county’s remaining timber volume vested in federal forests. Having consumed most of their mature timber, Lane County’s mills now press federal lands. The BLM seems eager to accommodate the county at the public’s expense. 

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