Nez Perce Clearwater NF logging Demonstrates Industrial Bias

A Feb. 17th article in the Morning Tribune about the Nez Perce Clearwater National Forest proposal to log forests along the Lolo Motorway and Nez Perce National Historic Trail demonstrates clearly the Forest Service Industrial Forestry Paradigm bias.

I see the Industrial Paradigm all the time in statements from Forest Service representatives. Instead of using the latest science, most of the time they repeat industry propaganda and fear tactics.

For example, District Ranger Brand Knapton is quoted as suggesting that insect infestations (a pejorative word in itself revealing timber bias) and root rot are making them more susceptible to intense wildfires.

One has to wonder where Mr. Knapton learned his forest ecology because there has been a huge amount of research showing that dead trees are less likely to burn than live green trees, especially under the extreme fire weather that creates the so-called “intense wildfires.”

There two reasons why Mr. Knapton is incorrect in his statement.

First, what burns in a wildfire are fine fuels like needles and small branches. This is why you have snags after a fire—the main tree boles do not burn readily.

Secondly, green trees have flammable resins which are easily ignited under drought, low humidity and high temperatures that characterize extreme fire weather conditions. Indeed sometimes green trees can have internal moisture that is 1-2% while kiln-dried lumber may have 15% moisture. A green tree ignited under such conditions has explosive flammability.

Thus, if a tree is killed by bark beetles or root rot, and the needles fall off the tree is less likely to burn.

Another way that Mr. Knapton demonstrates his timber industry bias is by suggesting that root rot is a problem. What is the ecological role of root rot? How does it benefit the ecosystem? These are questions that Mr. Knapton appears to ignore.

However, how a tree dies affects its later trajectory and use in ecosystem processes. For instance, a tree killed by beetles is more easily colonized by fungi through the holes created by boring insects and thus rots more quickly. While a tree killed by fire rots more slowly because charred wood is resistant to decay.

And his efforts to limit mortality in the forest demonstrates his green tree bias. But from an ecological perspective, dead trees are critical to healthy forest ecosystems. Many plants and animals rely on dead trees and live in mortal fear of “green” forests. Indeed, the second highest biodiversity found in western forests are in the snag forests resulting from wildfire and beetles.

We need professionals who will manage our forests using science, not timber industry propaganda.  And people who will manage our forests for all Americans, not just the timber industry, as well as for all species, including those dependent on wildfire, beetles, root rot, and other natural ecological processes.






  1. rork Avatar

    I was volunteering two weeks ago and got to chat with a timber management guy for state land who was also there. He mentioned that some of the fancier one-tree at a time selective harvest used in some European forests was not being used in northern Michigan because the forests will not regenerate under such management – cause we have too many deer. So they do modest clearcuts and replant monocultures, cause that works better. He knew I would be horrified.
    Our DNR is trying to think of ways to get us to kill more does, but most land is private, and many such people do not want deer densities too low. Also, so far, when we make it harder to kill bucks with the intention of getting folks to put more does in the freezers, it has not worked. It could be made to work, but the methods contemplated for that so far would reduce the number of buck licenses sold. Considering now a more expensive combination of a buck + doe tag set.
    The entire process of private land licensing, in all US states I know, of giving licenses to every person, rather than to the land owners, is stupid. In France, officials give tags to the landowner, based on the size and quality of their land, and how much of the animals it holds, like St. Aldo figured it should work. In some years they give you more tags for females and less for males, some years the reverse. In MI a very few places do get permits of this kind but it’s for game birds, not deer.