What’s Killing the Great Forests of the American West?
Worse, die-offs are not limited to North America-
Next summer will probably be a pretty bad forest fire season in the Pacific Northwest due to a dry winter, and so many of the forests are dead. This is not a local problem, however, as Jim Robbins discusses in the feature article below.
What’s Killing the Great Forests of the American West? “Across western North America, huge tracts of forest are dying off at an extraordinary rate, mostly because of outbreaks of insects. Scientists are now seeing such forest die-offs around the world and are linking them to changes in climate.” By Jim Robbins. Yale Environment 360.
As for myself, I have been following the politics of forest fires since 1980 when Idaho had its first large forest fire in a generation or so. In the 30 years, I have learned that forest (and range fires too) will always be used for political purposes to further the agenda of the timber and grazing industries.
Their lobbyists know that most people don’t know that the pine beetle kill covers the entire West. They know the people don’t know that logging an area has no effect at all in stopping the spread of the beetle. They know that the public doesn’t know that dead forests are probably less flammable than green, but dry (droughty) forests.
So it is easy to predict there will be an effort to blame conservationists for the forest fires. They have been doing it for 30 years, and they will do it next summer. The news media should be prepared for this. I can also confidently predict most of the media won’t be.
Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.
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We can already see that people don’t understand the overwhelming size of the beetle kill and that logging will not stop it at all.
The Forest Service might enter some of Colorado’s national forest roadless areas to log beetle-killed timber. This would be of no benefit at all because it would stop the beetle, there is a massive amount of similar timber outside the roadless areas, and it will stir up a lot of anger.
Story on this: Report urges agency to steer clear of roadless areas in beetle battle. By Bobby Magill. Coloradoan.com
Dead forests, except for the first year or two after their death, are no more of a forest fire hazard than green forests. During a drought they are less likely to burn hard than are green forests.
Reminds me of the on-going and mind-numbing campaign to wipe out a champion invasive species in the Northeast — the gypsy moth — by throwing gazillions of dollars into aerial spraying campaigns.
There is a billboard on the main Interstate in town ( I-65 in Louisville, KY. – GO CARDS!) which advises folks not to transport firewood from one campsite to another. Unfortunately, it does not say why – I suppose you can only get so much info on one of those monster. Moreover, maybe 3% of the people who do see it are not aware of the problem, do not care bout the problem or can’t read.
Besides while definitely a good idea it’s kind of like locking the barn door after the horse got out.
This is going to be the next big environmental problem the public doesn’t understand and gets more and more confused rather than educated by the various political interests pushing their agendas.
Although it will do little good, this is one reason I wrote this preemptive article about next summer’s likely forest fires.
What has been interesting to me in the Cody area is all of the firewood collectors bringing the pine beetle killed logs into town and stacking them up in their yards and then wondering why the pine trees in town are starting to die.
Actually by the time the tree is dead, normally the beetle has made the jump to a new stand of trees, which is one of the reasons it is so difficult to deal with them. I would imagine the trees in town are starting to die, is because the beetles have already been through there and not because of the firewood.