29 Nov 2007, 4:50pm
Latest Forest News
by admin

Avoiding Crown Fires

Fuels reduction thinning can help

published in the Eugene Weekly, 11/29/07

We have serious disagreements with the Viewpoint (11/1) by Tim Hermach on fire ecology and fuels reduction with thinning. We recognize that protection of old-growth forests is necessary, since enough old growth has been clearcut — too much, in fact. Given the fact that logging reduced Oregon’s old forests by approximately 80 percent over the 20th century, people are justifiably skeptical about yet more logging in these forests. However we also fear that we may lose much of our remaining old growth to fires, especially in the mid- and low-elevation ponderosa pine zone of Eastern Oregon…

In his column, Hermach said, “In fact, recent science demonstrates that forests that were thinned before a wildfire, including the Biscuit Fire, ended up with more dead trees than the forests that were left to nature. Not surprisingly, many of the forests around Lake Tahoe had already been ‘thinned,’ some of them up to six months before the fire, which — at best — did next to nothing to prevent the fire, and — at worst — intensified the blaze.”…

In fact, thinning and slash treatment have been successful in reducing severe fire in eastern Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Tahoe, the Biscuit Fire and parts of northern California. Studies show that when the slash from thinning is treated by burning or crushing into small pieces, fires stay mostly on the ground with canopy fire reduced considerably, but without such slash treatment, fires can indeed burn hotter. Thinning opponents have sometimes singled out areas without treated slash to support their case. For example, ignoring the full range of treatment effects at Tahoe, one of Hermach’s colleagues widely distributed pictures of the one treatment area that had not had thinning slash treated, and consequently burned severely, using it to argue that thinning didn’t work…

Even when we disagree, we respect opponents who present evidence soberly and accurately, but we cringe when scientific literature is ignored or misrepresented. We are not contending that thinning in all locations is advised, helpful or even economical, but Hermach and others have blatantly misrepresented studies of wildfire behavior in stands thinned for fuels treatments. Whether due to sloppiness or purposeful cherry-picking to support a point of view, such distortions do a disservice to those trying to understand how to best protect our forests and rural communities… [more]



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