The TRUTH and what the timber industry wants you to believe
by Lawrence Prather
Have you ever visited a forest that had been recently commercially logged? You
would have noticed several things immediately. First of all, it is HOT! With the
majority of the big and valuable trees removed, the sun bears down relentlessly,
drying out the forest floor that was previously shady and cool. Second, you would
have to maneuver around huge piles of slash. Slash is the name for all the branches
and needles that have been stripped off those big firs, redwoods and pines, all
the discarded hardwoods such as oaks and madrones that had been damaged during
the harvest, and their branches and leaves. Picture in your mind a tall, full
redwood tree, then picture only the trunk being taken away and everything else
left behind on the ground to bake in the hot sun.
For several years after a harvest, the fire hazard is increased substantially. There is all this available fuel present, dried out and ready to go. Chad Hanson wrote: In the Forest Services own National Fire Plan, agency scientists warned against the use of commercial logging to address fire management. The report found that the removal of large, merchantable trees from forests does not reduce fire risk and may, in fact, increase such risk. [San Francisco Chronicle, June 19, 2001].
When the timber industry folks try to tell you that commercial logging is good for the forest and good for fire prevention, you should be shaking your head in disbelief. And when they tell you that they are only removing dying and diseased trees, it is a fairy tale, because those trees are not valuable commercially. They take only the biggest and the best, leaving the skinny and the sickly, misshapen specimens which make great fuel.
The Earth Island Journal in its article, The Big Lie: Logging and Forest
Fires, reports that Not long ago, Congress commissioned a study of
Californias forests that came to be known as the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem
Project (SNEP) report. Produced jointly with the US Forest Service in 1996, the
report confirmed what people have known for over a century: timber harvest, through
its effects on forest structure, local microclimate, and fuel accumulation, has
increased fire severity more than any other recent human activity.
The article further states: Big Timbers PR solution was both simple
and diabolically clever: Tell people that commercial logging is the best thing
for the forests. If you love forests, their argument goes, then you must love
logging. By encouraging and exploiting the publics fear of fire (and the
publics lack of understanding about fires essential role in forest
ecology), timber corporations have deftly cast themselves as heroes, seeking only
to save our forests from catastrophic wildfires and saving adjacent
rural communities in the process.
Lawrence Prather is a local Sierra Club member and Director, Citizens for Responsible
Forest Management, Boulder Creek.