Forest Legacies Programs

Forest degradation and deforestation contribute more greenhouse gas pollution globally than the entire transportation network.

Conversely, protecting and responsibly managing forests for their capacity to store carbon for long periods (centuries) along with their associated biodiversity and clean water is pivotal to stemming serious global warming problems. Thus, we seek to elevate the importance of intact forests and watersheds in the Pacific Northwest and southeast Alaska nationally and globally in climate change and land-use policies.

Because public lands policies depend to a great extent on which political party is in the White House or in the majority in Congress, we periodically revise program goals to be responsive to threats and opportunities on public lands. Our near-term goals are:

  • Transition logging on the Tongass Rainforest out of 2.5 million acres of old growth to about 100,000 acres of previously logged plantations within five years, thereby ensuring the Tongass will continue to sequester up to 8% of the nation’s globally warming pollution annually.
  • Defend public lands from inappropriate logging and fire management policies – Fire Ecology
  • During forest plan revisions, advocate for protection of ~1 million acres of at-risk legacy forests in the Pacific Northwest that store the equivalent of ~80 times Oregon’s global warming pollution.
  • Permanently protect 220,000 acres of a legacy landscape that may act as a climate refuge within the world-class Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion.

Summary of Oregon’s forest carbon findings

Geos Institute partnered with the Center for Sustainable Economy in 2015 on a ground-breaking report that identified Oregon’s forestry practices as among the top global warming polluters in the state. That report triggered the formation of a task force on carbon appointed by Governor Kate Brown to which our Chief Scientist sits on. The task force recently released its forest carbon findings and Geos Institute sent a summary to Oregon state legislatures. Read it here.

Murkowski targets roadless rule in spending talks

Marc Heller, E&E News reporter

Originally Published by E&E on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A fight over road construction in the Tongass National Forest may flare up in spending negotiations.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) sponsored a provision in draft Senate appropriations legislation for Interior and related agencies that would exempt Alaska from federal rules that restrict building of roads in national forests.

Murkowski’s move against the “roadless rule” marks another line in a battle that’s been playing out, mainly in federal courts, since the Clinton administration handed down the regulations in 2001.

A U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia judge in September dismissed a lawsuit by Alaska seeking to overturn the rule.

Murkowski, chairwoman of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, is also pushing a provision that would slow the Forest Service’s transition from old-growth logging to young-growth logging in Tongass and Chugach national forests.

The thinning debate: Does logging help or hurt fire mitigation?

Politicians say thinning forests will help prevent ‘catastrophic’ fires. But ecologists say this season wasn’t the worst, and logging won’t stop it from happening again.

According to peer-reviewed studies on the overall likelihood of a thinned area of forest being hit with fire and on historical fire trends, the argument that thinning is the best way to address future fire seasons like the one we just had is profoundly flawed.

For one, proposals to remove trees, or “fuels,” are based on the idea that fires burn more intensely in unlogged forests, making them more severe and quicker to spread.

But a recently published examination of the intensity of 1,500 forest fires over the past 40 years in 11 Western states found the opposite. Its authors, scientists at the Project Earth Institute, Geos Institute and Earth Island Institute, found fires burned most intensely in previously logged areas. In contrast, in wilderness, parks and roadless ares, the fires burned in mosaic patterns – which maintain healthy, resilient forests.

Both sides of the thinning debate frequently point to one-off incidents to show how thinning either is or is not effective.

“You have to be careful about anecdotal information,” warned Dominick DellaSala, a renowned fire ecologist and chief scientist at the Geos Institute. “Wind speed can change, humidity levels can change, and if you don’t account for all those factors, you could conclude either way. Either the thinning helped, or the thinning didn’t help, depending on what was going on with the fire climate.”

Read the full article at streetrootsnews.org

fire talk portland2017

After the Smoke Clears – PDX Fire Forum

fire talk portland2017

Geos Institute Chief Scientist speaks to packed house in Portland’s Revolution Hall on the ecology of wildfires and attempts by the Trump administration and congressional allies to radically increase logging on public lands.

 

Scientists fight for wildfire-burned land amid logging threat

Published by The Guardian, November 15, 2017

The US cashes in on timber from ‘devastated’ areas – but the land is actually ‘the rarest and most biodiverse habitat in the Sierra Nevadas’, says an expert

Less than a mile from Yosemite national park, Chad Hanson is wading through a sea of knee-high conifers that have burst from the ashes of the vast 2013 Rim fire. The US Forest Service essentially says the baby trees don’t exist.

The agency says that “catastrophic” fires have “devastated” parts of the forest, painting an eerie picture of swaths of blackened tree trunks like something out of a Tim Burton film.

But the vibrant green pines, firs and cedars surrounding Hanson among the patches burned during California’s third-largest wildfire tell a different story.

Keep reading online at The Guardian

 

Chetco Bar Fire, Photo: Liam Moriarty/JPR

The Damage Done – a two-part series on the Chetco Bar fire (Jefferson Public Radio)

Chetco Bar Fire, Photo: Liam Moriarty/JPR

Restoration efforts in the Chetco Bar fire in southwest Oregon are getting underway. While most of the area was lightly burned or even unburned, more than a third of the acreage suffered severe or moderate tree damage.

Federal forest managers are gearing up to authorize salvage logging in some of the more badly-burned areas. Local elected officials are pushing hard for cutting those trees. But others question whether the long-term costs outweigh the short term benefits.

The Chetco Bar fire in southwestern Oregon was the state’s biggest wildfire of 2017, burning just over 191,000 acres, mostly in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Seven homes were lost and hundreds of people had to evacuate from Brookings and nearby communities.

Read and listen to the November 2017 two-part series on Jefferson Public Radio:

 

(photo: Liam Moriarty/JPR)

2014 Meadow Fire, Yosemite National Park

A New Climate- and Human-Influenced Wildfire Era for Western Forests

By Dominick DellaSala, Ph.D.

2014 Meadow Fire, Yosemite National ParkWildfires are greatly impacting human communities in the West that every summer face the prospects of loss of life, homeowner damages, and smoke-filled skies. Legislators and many managers believe wildfire intensity and occurrence can be greatly reduced by removing environmental safeguards to allow more logging in the backcountry to avoid wildfire “disasters.”

Wildfires are not ecological catastrophes, rather, they are a keystone natural disturbance agent that has maintained the biologically rich and fire-adapted web-of-life in forests of the western United States for millennia. Wildfire area burned, size of large wildfires (>1,000 ac), and length of the fire season have been increasing in recent decades and these increases are at least partially attributed to the emergence of a new fire-climate era that is interacting with human-caused wildfire ignitions and logging related conversion of native fire-resilient forests to flammable tree plantations.

Proposals to radically increase logging of native forests to reduce “fuels” will not achieve their desired outcomes but instead may increase wildfire risks and impair the adaptive capacity of forests to respond to cumulative disturbances in a rapidly changing climate. Responsible wildfire management and climate change policies are needed to:

  1. reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning while storing more carbon in forest ecosystems;
  2. prioritize vegetation treatments in “fire-sheds” closest to homes;
  3. redesign the built environment with wildfire safety in mind, including limiting ex-urban sprawl, and
  4. manage wildfires for ecosystem benefits under safe conditions.

Download the full paper

(photo: Pbjamesphoto/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Summer of Fire, Smoke and Ash

Why has this year’s fire season in the West been so intense? Is this a precursor of what is becoming the new normal?

On Monday October 16, Dominick DellaSala was a guest on KBOO’s Locus Focus. In previous conversations they stressed the important role that fire plays in ensuring healthy forest ecosystems. But after this summer of fire, smoke and ash across the Pacific Northwest, and now Northern California, how do we reconcile our understanding of the need for forests to burn from time to time, with the horrific realities now in our faces.

Listen to the full interview at KBOO.fm

 

Credit: amissphotos / pixabay

Fire management faulted in Calif. disaster

By Marc Heller, E&E News reporter

Credit: amissphotos / pixabay

Originally Published: Friday, October 13, 2017 at E&E: Greenwire

The widespread damage from wildfires in California’s wine country could have been avoided with better fire management policies, researchers say.

A more consistent and thoughtful approach to defensible space around homes would reduce wildfire threats and is a better long-term approach than thinning forests far away from populated areas, said Alexandra Syphard, a senior research scientist at the Conservation Biology Institute.

Syphard, speaking yesterday at a forum sponsored by critics of the timber industry, said policymakers should stick to a “from the house out” strategy to protecting homes and businesses, and not rely on management of wildland areas to control fires.

wildfire town

Wildfire safety starts at home

By Annette McGee Rasch / for the Mail Tribune

wildfire townAfter such a smoke-filled summer, many are fatigued by wildfire and hope next year’s fire season will be less intense.

But fire officials and scientists say if future impacts are to be minimized, the public must take personal responsibility on their own properties, embrace common-sense rural development plans and support science-based forest policy.

“Especially in the wildland-urban interface zones, people need to become more responsible for their own survivability,” said Illinois Valley Fire District Chief Dennis Hoke. “We can’t look for the government to solve everything. People should ask themselves, ‘What would it take to create the defensible space that can spell the difference between losing or saving my home if a wildfire runs through?’ ”

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