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Letting forests grow sure way to guarantee their destruction

Discussion in 'Land Use' started by Bubba Ray Boudreaux, Dec 31, 2002.

  1. Bubba Ray Boudreaux

    Bubba Ray Boudreaux 1 ton status

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    December 30, 2002 — 8:38 p.m.
    Winter has put its cold blanket on our Western forests, mercifully ending
    another difficult and destructive wildfire season. More than 6 million acres
    burned this year, including huge blazes in Colorado, Arizona and Oregon,
    along with those in California.Many of the burned areas sustained only light
    to moderate damage because of cooler flames that, in most cases, are actually
    beneficial to the ecological health of the land. But extensive stretches were
    ravaged by unnaturally hot blazes with catastrophic effects. These include
    charred "moonscapes" resulting from the Hayman Fire near Denver and the
    McNally Fire in the Sequoia National Forest.

    These disasters are not random acts of God that we are helpless to prevent.
    We can greatly reduce their risk of occurrence by using forest management
    tools such as thinning and prescribed fire. That we haven't been doing so
    reveals our lack of natural resource stewardship.

    The hottest wildfires devour entire watersheds, feasting on heavy
    accumulations of flammable vegetation and woody debris. Destroyed homes
    provide the best media footage, but resource professionals more clearly see
    the damage done to soils, water quality and critical wildlife habitat. Forest
    fires can burn so intensely that they actually reach down into the soil and
    devour its vital organic component. Denuded slopes are left with an almost
    kiln-fired finish, vulnerable to flash flooding and accelerated erosion.

    In the aftermath of a 12,000-acre wildfire in 1996, the Denver Water Board
    spent millions of dollars recovering from the effects of debris flows into a
    key municipal reservoir. In the year following the Buffalo Creek Fire, storm
    runoff carried as much sediment — 250,000 cubic yards — from the devastated
    watershed into the reservoir as had accumulated during the previous 14 years.
    Now, after last summer's 138,000 acre Hayman Fire, the looming impacts to
    Colorado's communities and water supplies are potentially much worse.

    It's even arguable that we are now incinerating more spotted owl habitat in
    the Sierra Nevada and Pacific Northwest than we are growing. This is despite
    years of strict timber harvest prohibitions intended to protect areas that
    provide forage and nesting sites for these and other threatened creatures.
    Fires that devour dense forest canopies kill more than the trees. Once
    destroyed — especially with severe damage to the soil — forest habitat can
    take decades, if not centuries, to fully recover.

    So why aren't we doing more to prevent catastrophic wildfire? The proven
    tools are there: forest thinning, selective logging and prescribed fire.
    Unfortunately, forest policy remains highly politicized, with more than its
    fair share of junk science, emotional appeals and litigation.

    Ironically, language from a venerable piece of conservation law might provide
    a way out of the current stalemate when it comes to forging a vision for the
    proper stewardship of our natural resources.

    In 1897, Congress passed the Forest Reserve Act, providing direction that
    "public forestlands" (now called national forests) must be managed so as to
    "improve and protect the forest . . . for the purpose of securing favorable
    conditions of water flows, and to furnish a continuous supply of timber for
    the use and necessities of citizens of the United States."

    What is important to note is the act's primary emphasis on watershed
    protection. In recent decades we have been fighting about trees, but perhaps
    we need to think more about "securing favorable conditions of water flows"
    (i.e., watershed health) and the "continuous supply of timber" will take care
    of itself.

    We also need to look even further back, to the centuries of forest management
    experience at the hands of Native American peoples. Nineteenth-century
    environmentalist John Muir marveled at the parklike appearance of Sierra
    Nevada forests. Numerous accounts by early American pioneers describe Western
    forests as open and inviting — a very different picture from the dense
    fire-prone thickets that are commonplace today.

    It is now known that these pre-European conditions were not a random accident
    of undisturbed nature. Native peoples managed the North American landscape,
    cutting trees and using fire to perpetuate desirable forest conditions. There
    is no reason that we cannot equal or better this record of stewardship.

    Catastrophic wildfires and their undeniable impacts on vital watersheds are
    forcing us to rediscover our deep connection to — and responsibility for —
    the forest. That means waking up from a generation of environmental overkill
    and looking toward the future with a clean slate. "Saving" the forest only to
    burn it down should become a relic of the timber wars.



    William Wade Keye is past chairman of the Northern California Society of
    American Foresters. His commentary was first published in the San Francisco
    Chronicle.
     
  2. imiceman44

    imiceman44 1 ton status

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    I have been saying the exact same thing for 2 years now, ever since I cam to the states.
    I used to live in Europe and Asia, and there, they have a good forest managment.
    The problem here I was told is the environmentalists and their wilderness designations.
    By definition, you are not allowed to touch a wilderness area, no controled fires, no brush controll no thinning. In nationnal parks they can and they are doing it, but the problem is that most of the times, fires start in wilderness areas, and spread into the nationnal forests.
    The technology is there but there are people fighting it, claiming we would be disturbing the echological balance.
    Well guess what people, we are part of this system, so if we are excluded we are disturbing the balance.
    I heard a couple of months ago that the Bush admin. gave an order to override all laws, and start preventive maintenance for the forests everywhere, especially in the west where we've been having those huge fires.
    It was opposed strongly.
    I don't know how but we must fight this and do what ever is necessary to actually preserve our forests, and the only way is to clean them, and thin them.
    All the environmental provisions that have been implemented so far have cost us more than preserved, so they should really wake up and smell the smoke.
    /forums/images/graemlins/thumb.gif
    Anyway anyone can think of that we can make a difference and be heard?
    We have beautifull lands, and we're losing them faster than I can count.
    We need action fast.
    Suggestions anyone.
     

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