Clearcuts in Montana

The Forest Service is once again demonstrating its Industrial Forestry bias with its proposal to treat 3,790 acres by Cruzane Mountain in the Lolo National Forest. An acre is approximately the size of one football field.

The District Ranger suggests that treatments will “address insect and disease impacts and improve forest health (in) nearby communities at risk of wildfire.” Everything in this statement is inaccurate.

I know the Forest Service is under the gun from the Trump presidency to increase subsidized timber harvest to provide “healthy” profits for the timber industry. Still, at some point, I would hope federal employees would find a way to speak truth to power.

The FS plans 1,411 acres of commercial harvest. This logging would include 981 acres of “regeneration harvest,” which removes most trees from an area; zones with high infection rates of root rot among Douglas fir would be clear-cut. There would also be 417 acres of thinning and 12.7 acres of improvement cut to remove certain tree species.

How is removing most trees on a site “improving” forest health? Healthy forest ecosystems depend on the biological legacies that are created by insects, fire, root rot, and other mortality factors. It is just assumed that anything that kills a tree (except chainsaws) is somehow “detrimental.”

Dead trees are not a wasted resource from a forest ecosystem perspective. Indeed, as much as 2/3 of all wildlife depend on dead trees at some point in their life history. One could argue that many species live in dread of “green forests.”

For example, a recent study by Dick Hutto of the U of Montana (an ecologist-not a forester) found that 49% of bird species (out of 68 studied) were more common in or even depended upon severely burnt forests. These are the very kinds of wildfires that the Forest Service claims are an indication of “unhealthy” forests.

Another study found more native bee species in severely burnt forests.

Snags and wood in streams are essential for the aquatic ecosystem. If you are a trout, there is no limit to the amount of woody debris that enhances your habitat.

The Forest Service proposes reconstructing 11.6 miles of roads and constructing 4 miles of new roads. Roads are a significant vector for the spread of weeds—is this a way to enhance forest health?

Logging roads are a chronic source of sedimentation into streams. Does this sound like you are enhancing “forest health”?

It’s not just birds or other wildlife that are harmed by Forest Service timber industry management. Logging removes carbon. Even burnt trees store more carbon than is emitted by logging operations.

One study looked at 1500 wildfires across the West and found that higher severity blazes occurred in “actively managed” forests. Sites in wilderness protected from the “benefits” of chainsaw medicine had fewer high severity wildfires.

The Forest Service must abandon its Industrial Forestry Paradigm and manage our public lands for healthy forest ecosystems, not just “wood products.” The birds and bees (and fish, etc.) will thank them.


About The Author

George Wuerthner

George Wuerthner is an ecologist and former hunting guide with a degree in wildlife biology

2 Responses to Lolo NF Timber Sale Harms Forest Health

  1. The policy of logging forests in order to make them healthier keeps reminding me of the Vietnam War doublespeak of “burning down a village in order to save it.” It’s not surprising the timber industry pushes this non-science, but it’s distressing to see the U.S. Forest Service do so too. This sad, common occurrence makes me wonder if the Forest Service is being bought & sold — I mean “influenced” — by the powerful corporate timber interests… In addition to the numerous studies showing forests are both unhealthier AND more fire prone after industry has had its way with them (including in many Wildlife News posts), plain old common sense points to these truths too. That forests need LESS human interference, not more; they certainly don’t suddenly need to to be logged to become healthier, or free of beetles, or infections. Instead, forest everywhere would be much better served by replacing logging, and of course clear-cutting, by us humans mitigating the massive and increasing effects of our very own anthropogenic global warming. As the old folk song goes, “When we will ever learn? When will we ever learn?”

    • Nancy says:

      + 1 Jack. But of course we here in this country (and some other countries as well) have yet to reach the “bottom” when it comes to protecting what forests are left because of greed?

      Here’s a good look elsewhere, of humans trying to save forests. But got to say, the gym shorts on these shamans, made me cringe when I think about how they may of been “expected” to dress or dressed because of outside influences to make an impression? to get the word out about their concerns of the destruction of their lands by greed?


March 2020


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey