Author Archive

Experts claim admin used ‘misinformation’ to justify logging

By Adam Aton, Originally published by E&E News Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Trump administration says the Tongass National Forest is America’s best carbon warehouse — so it’s fine to increase logging there.

The Forest Service last week released a draft environmental impact statement for building new roads through the Tongass, a precondition for feeding more old-growth trees into southeastern Alaska’s struggling timber mills. Every 21st-century president has fought over whether to expand or curtail logging in the massive forest. Trump has gone the furthest; his Forest Service last week said the time had come for a final resolution and recommended opening almost the entire area to development.

At stake is the country’s largest forest. The Tongass is among the world’s best carbon sinks, and it’s one of the largest unfragmented ecosystems in North America. Its trees hold about 650 million tons of carbon, which roughly converts to half of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2017.

‘Hundreds of hectares of moonscape’: B.C. spruce beetle infestation used to accelerate clear cuts

The largest spruce beetle epidemic in decades is attacking B.C.’s rain-rich interior, intensifying logging in forests that provide habitat for imperilled species like mountain caribou. But scientists and ecologists say resilient trees will survive and the forest will recover if we only give it a chance

By Sarah Cox, Originally published on October 16, 2019 at The Narwhal

Retired B.C. government forester Judy Thomas bushwhacks down a steep incline in B.C.’s Anzac River valley, north of Prince George, in search of a spruce beetle the size of a mouse turd.

To find one of the marauding insects Thomas has to chop through the coarse bark of an old-growth spruce to its soft inner layer, where a single beetle lays as many as 1,200 eggs. Extended ‘galleries’ of beetle larvae feed on the sapwood, killing the tree in tandem with an associated blue stain fungi.

“Let’s see if they’ve flown the coop,” says Thomas.

She points to telltale signs that the tree, still green and healthy-looking, has been under siege as part of the largest spruce beetle infestation B.C. has witnessed in 30 years.

Frass — a reddish brown sawdust-like substance that is a mixture of beetle poop and chewed tree debris — is sprinkled in bark crevices. The bark also has pitch tubes, appearing as tiny blobs of sap, that form as the tree tries to expel its miniature attackers.

Continue reading at The Narwhal

Chief Scientist Dr. Dominick DellaSala’s letter to Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s Wildfire Council on how the state can best prepare communities for wildfires

I am a conservation scientist with over 200 peer-reviewed publications including books on forest-fire ecology, climate change, and forest management globally and in Oregon. I also served on the Oregon Global Warming Commission Task Force on Carbon, and the Governor’s Forest Carbon Stakeholder Group. I have reviewed the report from the mitigation subcommittee and I write to provide input and a summary of the scientific literature on wildfires in a changing climate to help with your deliberations.

Read the rest of the letter

Not Just Brazil: Troubles In Temperate Rainforests

The world took notice of the summer’s fires in the Amazon region of Brazil.  The tropical rainforests are often called “the Earth’s lungs” for the oxygen they supply. 

Far less notice is taken of the fate of rainforests in temperate zones, including in the Pacific Northwest.  Logging continues on both sides of the US/Canada border, and that concerns a pair of scientists well-versed in the workings of those forests. 

Jens Wieting is with Sierra Club BC and Dominick DellaSala is with Geos Institute based in Ashland. 

They visit the studio to discuss their concerns for the temperate rainforests and the creatures that depend upon them.  

Listen to the exchange: https://www.ijpr.org/post/not-just-brazil-troubles-temperate-rainforests#stream/0

Oregon Governor’s Council Projects Big Bill To Manage Wildfire

by Cassandra Profita | OPB Sept. 27, 2019 1:54 p.m. | Portland, Ore.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown got a progress report from her Council on Wildfire Response on Thursday, and it came with a hefty price tag.

The board is advising the governor on how to change the state’s wildfire policy in response to growing wildfire risks from overstocked forests, population growth and climate change.

Council Chair Matt Donegan told the governor that one of the major changes the board is recommending is increased investment in wildfire suppression. 

“It just stands to reason that in an era of climate change, in an era of fuel buildup and in an era of population growth and increased wildfire activity that we’re going to have to spend more resources suppressing fire,” he said.

He said the state will need an estimated $4 billion in “a multi-decade initiative that will involve significant state, federal and private investment” to reduce wildfire risks through actions such as logging overstocked forestland.

“That number feels a bit overwhelming,” Brown said in response. “But I think it’s critically imperative that we bite off a significant chunk right now — immediately.”

The governor said she wants to spend more to improve wildland firefighting capabilities, increase controlled burning and help communities live with more wildfire smoke.

“There isn’t really a fire season anymore. It’s year-round. It’s increasing in Oregon and frankly around the entire globe,” she said. “I obviously know we need to do things differently and we need different tools and we clearly need additional resources.”

Megafires Not Increasing: New Research Shows Large High-Severity Fires are Natural in Western Forests

For Immediate Release, September 10, 2019

From Geos Institute and The John Muir Project

Contact: Eric Podolsky, eric@pikeandcompany.com, (415)585-2100, photos available via e-mail

“MEGAFIRES” NOT INCREASING: NEW RESEARCH SHOWS LARGE HIGH-SEVERITY FIRES ARE NATURAL IN WESTERN FORESTS

Case Study Rebukes U.S. Forest Service’s Post-Fire Clearcut Methods

ASHLAND, OR – SEPTEMBER 10, 2019 – A peer-reviewed study by leading experts of forest and fire ecology recently published in the science journal Diversity disputes the widely held belief that “megafires” in our national forests are increasing, preventing forests from re-growing, and that logging is necessary to prevent these wildfires. While many policy and management decisions in U.S. national forests are based on these assumptions, research shows that large patches of trees killed by wildfires—known as high-severity burn patches—have not been increasing. These findings thus show that taxpayer-funded logging projects on public lands are not only unnecessary, they are also counter-productive, as related research shows that such logging often increases fire severity.

Researchers analyzed the most extensive contemporary and historical datasets ever collected on large (over 1,000 acres) high-severity burn patches across 11 western dry pine and mixed-conifer forests over three decades. The findings dispute the prevailing belief that increasing “megafires” are setting back post-fire forest regeneration.

“This is the most extensive study ever conducted on the high-severity fire component of large fires, and our results demonstrate that there is no need for massive forest thinning and salvage logging before or after a forest fire,” says Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, lead author of the study and Chief Scientist at the Geos Institute. “The perceived ‘megafire’ problem is being overblown. After a fire, conditions are ideal for forest re-establishment, even in the interior of the largest severely burned patches. We found conditions for forest growth in interior patches were possible over 1000 feet from the nearest low/moderately burned patch where seed sources are most likely.”

DellaSala and co-author Dr. Chad Hanson of the John Muir Project used computer mapping (GIS) databases to investigate vegetation and fire severity trends in large, severely burned forest patches, out of which grow “complex early seral forests” or “snag forest habitats”—unique and ecologically rich areas that are comparable to old forests in terms of native biodiversity and wildlife abundance. They analyzed these patches in four equal time periods from 1984 to 2015 using U.S. Geological Survey fire severity datasets. They found an increase in large burn patches only during the 1980s and early 1990s, followed by a flat pattern to the present day.

“We will use these findings to counter ill-conceived post-fire logging projects on the Stanislaus National Forest in the Sierra Nevada,” says Dr. Hanson. “The U.S. Forest Service, assisted by The Nature Conservancy and Sierra Nevada Conservancy, is proposing to clearcut several thousand acres of prime snag forest habitat based on their false assumption that the forest cannot rejuvenate on its own and is better off being converted to wood chips for biomass energy production, which worsens the climate crisis.”

The study concludes that over the past three decades, the interval between large, high-severity burn patches at the landscape scale averaged 12 centuries to over 4,000 years, allowing more than ample time for forests to regenerate and develop into old-growth areas. Evidence was found in historical records of even larger high-severity burn patches, countering claims that contemporary high-severity burn patches are unprecedented and forests cannot recover on their own.

“This paper is critical to wildlife conservation in fire-dependent forests, as it dispels notions that large, high-severity fires are unnatural and catastrophic,” says Monica Bond, a Ph. D candidate and researcher with the Wild Nature Institute, who was not involved in the study. “As a researcher, I have documented spotted owls, songbirds, and numerous woodpeckers using these large burn patches for both foraging and nesting. An entire community of under-appreciated wildlife depends on these large burns.”

See below for links to the study:

Abstract: https://www.mdpi.com/1424-2818/11/9/157

HTML Version: https://www.mdpi.com/1424-2818/11/9/157/htm

PDF Version: https://www.mdpi.com/1424-2818/11/9/157/pdf

For more information on the Rim fire, visit https://bit.ly/2kaxpMF.

About Geos Institute:

Geos Institute is a science-based organization that is helping to make natural and human communities whole in the face of climate change. For information on their forest work, visit https://www.forestlegacies.org/.

About The John Muir Project:

John Muir Project (www.johnmuirproject.org) is a forest conservation and research organization dedicated to ensuring that public forests are protected and managed for ecology and recreation, not commercial logging.

 

Trump tariff policies are threatening our efforts to transition the Tongass National Forest away from logging old-growth forests

By Marc Heller, E&E News reporter 

Originally published at E&E News on Friday, August 16, 2019

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.

Oregon Needs New Approach to Forest, Fire Management

For Immediate Release, March 13, 2019

Contacts: Luke Ruediger, Applegate Network, Klamath Forest Alliance, (541) 890-8974, elliottcreek@yahoo.com | Dominick A. DellaSala, Geos Institute, (541) 621-7223, dominick@geosinstitute.org | Timothy Ingalsbee, Fire Fighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology, (541) 338-7671, fire@efn.org | Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, (310) 779-4894, rspivak@biologicaldiversity.org

Oregon Needs New Approach to Forest, Fire Management

Gov. Brown’s Wildfire Council Ignores Wildfire Science, Won’t Make Communities Safe

ASHLAND, Ore.― Conservation groups are urging Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to include proven methods for protecting communities and firefighters in the Governor’s Council on Wildfire Response. In a recent letter to the governor, the groups outline six recommendations as part of a proposed community protection alternative plan.

The governor should include expertise in defensible space and wildfire risk planning, climate change and forest-fire ecology on the Council, the groups said. Brown also should ensure a transparent process for the public and scientists to contribute to the council’s work.

“Our community protection alternative would most effectively accomplish the governor’s goals of keeping the public safe and protecting Oregon’s environment, which brings residents, visitors and businesses to our state,” said Luke Ruediger with the Applegate Network and Klamath Forest Alliance. “Unfortunately, public promises to eliminate smoke and stop wildfires are not realistic and are misleading. It may be counter intuitive, but we need more fire in the backcountry, where wildfires benefit forests and reduce fuels.”

Investing in home and firefighter protections will do far more to keep communities and firefighters safe than thinning backcountry forests. Research found that wildfires occur in only about 1 percent of U.S. Forest Service areas that have undergone fuel-reduction treatments. This suggests that landscape-scale thinning is not a cost-effective means of addressing wildfires.

“The chance of a forest fire encountering an area where fuels have been reduced is about 1 percent, but we’re 100 percent certain where there are communities at risk from wildfires,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Focusing resources on existing developments, rather than on logging in the backcountry, is the best way to protect communities with limited tax dollars.”

Wildfires are a natural and necessary ecological process. But a warming climate, fire suppression, clearcutting, and post-fire logging and tree planting practices have transformed portions of Oregon’s fire-resilient older forests to fire-prone landscapes.

Oregon also suffers from a lack of fire-safe building siting and construction practices. Homes that are easily ignited by embers are responsible for feeding urban conflagrations like those in Santa Rosa and Paradise, Calif. This risk can be greatly reduced by proven defensible space measures that prepare homes from the home outward instead of logging from wildlands inward.

“Thinning is appropriate in densely planted tree plantations that act as fire’s gasoline, but is being oversold as a panacea to stop fires and smoke that it simply cannot deliver on—especially in a warming climate where large fires overwhelm firefighting forces regardless of thinning efforts, said Dominick A. DellaSala, chief scientist with the Geos Institute. “Thinning forests away from houses does nothing to prevent those houses from burning.”

“Firefighters are needlessly being exposed to extra risk trying to protect vulnerable homes and communities, said Timothy Ingalsbee, executive director of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology (FUSEE). “If homes and communities are proactively prepared for fire, this dramatically improves their chance of surviving fire from any source or location, and greatly expands opportunities to ecologically managed fires in remote natural areas for the many benefits they provide in fuels reduction and forest restoration–virtually for free.”

The Community Wildfire Protection Alternative recommendations:

  1. Emphasize reducing home ignitability and discourage new development in naturally fire-prone areas.
  2. Target thinning and prescribed fire in strategic locations surrounding communities on both public and private lands within a quarter-mile of residential lands. This will help provide safe spaces for wildlands firefighters.
  3. Address particulate pollution by improving state air-quality standards and restricting emissions from uses such as wood-burning stoves, automobiles and agriculture.
  4. Provide funding for fire/smoke shelters, tax rebates for HEPA filters and upgrades to HVAC systems, and aid to the most health-vulnerable segments of society by working with health care providers.
  5. Utilize both managed wildland fires in the backcountry and prescribed burns under safe conditions for multiple ecosystem benefits—including the most cost-effective way to restore forest ecosystems to have more natural amounts of burnable material.
  6. Prohibit logging practices that can increase unnatural wildfire risks such as clearcut/modified clearcutting, postfire logging, removal of large fire-resistant trees, excessive opening of forest canopies, and commercial logging operations that produce highly flammable, excess slash that is expensive and most often not feasible to remove.

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