Author Archive

Hundreds of Scientists Back EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment

In under two weeks, 360 individuals added their name to the letter to support of the science-based approach the EPA has taken to assess the risks and consequences of proposed large-scale mining in Bristol Bay and encourage the EPA to pursue protective action.

The final letter was handed to the Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran on February 4th during his visit to Anchorage, Alaska. He and his colleagues were eager to read it. The letter has also been mailed and emailed to other relevant regional and national EPA officials and caught some attention in the media covering the debate around the proposed Pebble mine and the assessment.

Wyden Gets Pushback On His O&C Timber Bill

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden pledges to do everything he can to get his proposed timber plan passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama this year. He’s gathered support from key players in both the timber industry and the environmental community, and he’s painting opponents as uncompromising extremists. But, hold-outs on both sides say splitting the baby in half isn’t the wisest choice. Read more

Scientists Question Wyden’s O&C Logging Plan

Contacts:         Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph.D. (541-482-4459 x 302; 541-621-7223)
                         Robert Hughes, Ph.D. (208-354-2632)

Two preeminent scientific societies believe plan increases extinction risks for salmon, other threatened wildlife

Washington, DC —Two international scientific organizations, the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) and the American Fisheries Society (AFS), are questioning the assumptions behind Senator Ron Wyden’s plan to double logging levels on publicly owned Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in Western Oregon. In testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the organizations raised serious concerns that the Oregon and California Lands Act of 2013 (S. 1784) abandons science-based management of public lands.

Why our forests need fire, not salvage logging

Medford Mail Tribune

November 24, 2013

By Dominick A. DellaSala

For over two decades, I have studied forests from Oregon’s amazing coastal rainforests to the fire-adapted forests of the West. In dry forests, there are three issues that reoccur every fire season: (1) forests will burn regardless of what we do; (2) politicians will propose unchecked post-fire “salvage” logging, even in national parks, as a quick fix; and (3) scientists will continue to document the incredible regeneration that takes place after fires and how post-fire logging disrupts forest renewal.

Recently, I submitted a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden and other members of Congress signed by 250 prominent scientists summarizing fire ecology studies from around the globe ( The letter was especially urgent as Wyden and other legislators are currently drafting legislation to increase logging on public lands in response to wildfires and, for economic reasons, on Bureau of Land Management lands in Western Oregon. In the letter, we compared four common fire myths with the evidence from around the globe.

Myth 1 — Fire is catastrophic, and forests cannot recover by themselves.

Statement of the Geos Institute on O&C lands

Contact: Dominick DellaSala, Geos Institute, 541/482-4459 x302

Oregon’s O&C BLM lands provide drinking water for over 1.5 million people, contain the region’s last mature and old-growth forests, and provide habitat for endangered wildlife and salmon. These BLM lands are managed under the guidelines of the Northwest Forest Plan, a global model of ecosystem management and conservation on 25 million acres of public lands from northern California to Washington.

Geos Institute stands ready to work with Senator Wyden to find a common sense solution to O&C lands that provides timber and jobs from appropriate thinning of small trees for fuels reduction and restoration purposes in tree plantations. We urge Senator Wyden not to unravel the Northwest Forest Plan to increase clearcut logging for timber volume because hundreds of scientists have supported the plan’s protection of salmon, drinking water, and mature forests.

Scientists oppose two logging bills in Congress

by Scott Sonner, Associated Press

More than 200 biologists, ecologists and other scientists are urging Congress to defeat legislation they say would destroy critical wildlife habitat by setting aside U.S. environmental laws to speed logging of burned trees at Yosemite National Park and other national forests and wilderness areas across the West. 

Click here for the full text of the scientists’ letter to Congress.

The experts say two measures pushed by pro-logging interests ignore a growing scientific consensus that the burned landscape plays a critical role in forest regeneration and is home to many birds, bats and other species found nowhere else.   Read More>

250 Scientists Concerned about Proposed Post-fire Logging Legislation

MEDIA ADVISORY – October 31, 2013

Contact: Dominick DellaSala, Chief Scientist, Geos Institute  541/482-4459 x305 or 541/621-7223

In an open letter to the U.S. Congress, 250 scientists request that Congress show restraint in speeding up logging in the wake of this year’s wildfires, most notably the Rim fire in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park.

The scientists raised concerns that currently proposed legislation (HR1526, which passed in the House in September, and HR3188, now before the House) would seriously undermine the ecological integrity of forest ecosystems, setting back their ability to regenerate after wildfires.

The letter also pointed to the numerous ecosystem benefits from wildfires and how post-fire landscapes are as rich in plants and wildlife as old-growth ecosystems.

Click here to see the full text of the scientists’ letter to Congress.

Click here for a Nov. 2, 2013 Associated Press article about the scientists’ letter.

Tongass can transition to second-growth logging in 5 years

[Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202/628-6500]

Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest could transition completely to second-growth logging within the next five years, according to a new report from an Oregon-based consulting firm.

The report by Mater Engineering Ltd. said sufficient trees are available in previously logged, roaded stands in areas the Forest Service has already designated for logging.

But the transition would require the area’s logging and manufacturing infrastructure to be upgraded to process small-diameter logs. It would also require changes to Forest Service rules to allow trees to be harvested at an earlier age.

The report was commissioned by the Geos Institute, an Ashland, Ore.-based nonprofit that aims to protect forests in the face of climate change.

“We were surprised by how much 55-year-old second-growth volume could be obtained to offset old-growth logs in the Prince of Wales region and that the transition could be notably accelerated if the administration adopts policy changes on when younger forests can be re-harvested,” said Mater Engineering consultant Catherine Mater.

Quickly phasing out old-growth logging on the 17-million-acre Tongass, one of the world’s few remaining intact temperate rainforests, could also provide a market for private landowners including the Sealaska Corp. to harvest more young growth, the report said.

The report comes as debate rages over Forest Service plans to allow limited old-growth logging to sustain local mills while it transitions to young growth. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in July issued a memo saying that within 15 years, the “vast majority” of timber harvested on the nation’s largest national forest will be young growth (Greenwire, July 5).

Conservationists argue the transition must happen more quickly, but a logging official suggested it will take roughly twice as much time for second-growth trees to be old enough to cut.

“There is clear potential to stimulate a new economic model in southeast Alaska where a viable wood products industry works side by side with ecologically sustainable tourism and fishing,” said Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist of the Geos Institute.

The report found a base-line volume of 15 million board feet per year is needed to establish and sustain the processing of second-growth logs in an existing, but upgraded, medium-sized sawmill in the Prince of Wales region.

The Forest Service would have to lift the so-called cumulative mean annual increment (CMAI) — which requires most trees to grow until they are 90 years old before being cut — in order to allow the harvest of 55-year stands, the report said.

Vilsack’s plan endorsed a bill by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would allow the Forest Service to change CMAI, allowing it to harvest second-growth timber sooner. But the bill, S. 340, is strongly opposed by conservation groups since it would convey public forests to a private corporation.

Vilsack’s plan calls for allocating more Forest Service staff and resources into planning second-growth timber sales, considering amending the forest plan to speed the transition, and supporting research into second-growth management and wood markets.

It encourages the Agriculture Department to offer financial assistance to retool mill equipment to more efficiently process younger timber and to establish a federal advisory committee to provide stakeholder input.

A primary concern of the Forest Service is the low availability of second-growth trees in a forest where industrial harvests did not begin in earnest until the 1950s.

New Study Shows Saving Tongass Old Growth Can Happen in Just Five Years

For Immediate Release – October 28, 2013

Dominick A. DellaSala, Geos Institute – (541) 482-4459 x 302, (541)-621-7223 (cell)
Catherine Mater, Mater Ltd. – (541) 753-7335

Ashland, OR – A new report prepared by Oregon-based Mater Ltd., using updated Forest Service timber acreage and age class distribution data, shows that the agency could complete transition to supplying a second growth logging economy in Southeast Alaska within 5 years.

In May 2010, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a framework to transition away from old growth logging on the Tongass National Forest, something the Forest Service said it believed could be done “quickly.” Early this month, Forest Service officials announced their “focus on identifying the timber base suitable to support a transition to young-growth management, in a way that supports the continued viability of the forest industry in Southeast Alaska.

The Mater report shows such a transition could take place in as little as 5 years, shifting exclusively to previously logged stands of second growth, in the current land base already designated for logging and close to existing roads. Along with logging and manufacturing infrastructure adapted to work with small diameter logs, the transition would require changes to rules about how soon second growth stands can be cut. The report also recommends an aggressive regime to research and identify new value-added lumber grades and products to meet existing market demand.

Viewpoint: Fires can be restorative, unlike heavy logging

by Dominick DellaSala and Chad Hanson

This year, as in every year, fires are occurring in the forests of the western United States. And, as always, we read the predictable headlines about how many acres of forest were “destroyed,” whether in Yellowstone National Park in the famous 1988 fires or today’s Rim fire in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park.  Some claim more logging is needed to “salvage” dead and dying trees and “rehabilitate” burned landscapes, and many complain about the smoke. But the central questions remain: Does fire harm forests and what remedial actions are needed, if any?  <read more>



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