11 Mar 2008, 8:37am
Saving Forests
by admin

The Only Task

This just in from a SOSF fan, forester, and long-time contributor:

Now that the eco’s AND the Bush Administration are united in burning our forests to the ground, what can foresters do? It looks like the shift will have to go with salvage logging. The stage is set for foresters to make their stand in court on the benefits of salvage logging. Too bad the government lawyers know almost nothing about forests. And in a battle of lawyers, which lawyer would you trust on environmental issues? (No, you DO have to choose!…LOL) — Backcut

This is sarcastic commentary, tongue-in-cheek, and I am afraid many newer readers may not understand the nuances. Please let me explain a few things.

I personally do not give a dead rat about salvage logging. Salvage logging is not forestry. That’s not what foresters do.

Hello, World! Catch a clue! Forestry is not about the logs!!!!!!


Forestry is about the forests. It’s about protecting, maintaining, and perpetuating living forest ecosystems!!!!!!!!!


Look, I know that you all live in wooden framed structures made of boards that came from trees, or else in concrete Stalinist tenements that were built using wooden forms. Naturally, you are concerned about the price and availability of construction lumber since your very lives depend on them.

And I know you all read newspapers made of pulped-up trees, and that you love your paper and spend wads of cash just to have it delivered to your door everyday. So naturally you want as much logging done as possible worldwide to keep the newsprint prices down, no matter what the carbon footprint.

But that is not what forestry is about. Sorry, wrong number. You are thinking of tree farming. That is the commercial business of making logs from trees to remanufacture into the products you hold so near and dear.

Tree farming is not forestry. Two completely different things. It’s like baking and cooking. To an untrained, ignorant observer they seem like the same things, but they are not. Baking is it’s own world, cookery is another. They both happen in kitchens, but they are not the same.

Foresters do not do salvage logging. Salvage logging is not in the text books. There is no forestry course in salvage logging. It is not a function of foresters. It has nothing to do with forestry.

Salvage logging is what happens when forests have been destroyed, and there is no forest left, and there is nothing else to be done. Salvage logging is like a funeral for a dead forest.

Foresters work strictly with live forests, not dead ones. We’re like doctors that way. Once the patient is dead, the doctor hands off the corpse to a mortician. No more doctoring required. Similarly, once a forest is dead, there is no more need for foresters.

Right now, the main job for foresters is to somehow prevent society from destroying forests. It is society that wishes to burn forests to smithereens and convert living ecosystems to dead ones. It is our insane governments, bellicose demagogues, industrial torch jockeys, Professor Frinks, and other grubs and wack-jobs that we, as foresters must somehow block and dissuade from incinerating our forests.

There is no need for foresters if all our forests are dead and burned. If you are a forester now, your only moral, ethical, and practical task at hand is stop the madness of forest destruction.

If you are not a forester, you are cordially invited to please join us in saving forests, or else get out of the damn way.

All that is what Backcut meant. He was a being trifle too obtuse in his comment, in my opinion. I hope this explanation is less obtuse, and helps get the message out.

11 Mar 2008, 9:06am
by Mike

Look, I don’t mean to belabor this point. On the other hand, it is all that this blog is about, or has ever been about.

And despite my bloggistic efforts, the message is not getting through.

The USFS has fired or laid off all its foresters. Ditto the forestry colleges and forestry research. No foresters involved anymore. The new policy is wholesale forest destruction, sans foresters.

That is what has happened, and record forest fires have resulted. Massive forest destruction is the main thing we as a society have embarked upon vis a vis our forests.

Instead of caring for the land and serving the people, the USFS is destroying the land and dis-serving the people.

Political correctness in this day and age is to inflict destruction. It is done in the name of sophomoric monkey wrenching, bolshevik economic dissolution and anti-capitalism, pagan religion, absurdist global warming, mass mindlessness, pusillanimous liberalism, dorkish conservatism, and a hundred other bogus causes and irrationalities.

It is a very sad state of affairs, but regardless, the job of foresters is to save forests. That is what we do. That is all that we do.

I know that none of this will sink in through the thick skulls of the Post Modern Lemming Culture. I know that most of humanity are a dumb as oxen. But regardless, my job is to save forests. Pure and simple. That’s what we do here. That’s what forestry is: saving forests.

11 Mar 2008, 2:47pm
by Janet R

Mike, I check in on your site from time to time and have noticed an increasing amount of rhetoric directed towards the Forest Service and enviro groups. Basically it seems like you think the feds are doing nothing and want to burn everything down and that the enviros are litigating everything and want to burn everything down.

I know plenty of people who work for the Forest Service or are members or employees of green groups and I honestly don’t know where in the world you’re coming from.

Besides, I just went to the feds Healthy Forest website and see that from 2001 through 2007, Federal land management agencies have treated over 24 million acres of federal lands under the Healthy Forest Initiative and the National Fire Plan.

24 million acres seems like a pretty significant amount in 6 years. Even more so when you consider that we’re fighting a couple of wars and money from the feds is pretty tight for everything else.

I’d be curious to know your thoughts on this. If 24 million acres of fuel reduction has happened on federal lands since 2001 are the feds really doing nothing and are the greens really blocking everything?

11 Mar 2008, 3:29pm
by Mike

We’ve been over this before, but we can do it again.

Of the 24.47 million acres claimed by the USFS as “treated” under the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003, only 4.1 million acres have been “mechanically treated.” That is, only 4.1 million acres have had chainsaws at work and mechanical removal of the excess fuels.

The other acres were burned in prescription fires and whoofoos, without fuels preparation. Silviculture by fire, in other words. Not HRFA projects, not forest restoration. Mostly pine plantations in the South and a few wildfires called “prescription” or “wildland use fires” in western forests.

These numbers are from the Healthy Forests FY 2007 Annual Report [here] and include the years 2001, 2002, and 2003, as well as the HFRA years. In the last seven years the USFS has applied mechanical thinning to 2.36 million acres in the Wildland Urban Interface (wherever that is?) and 1.73 million acres of regular National Forest.

That’s less than 600,000 acres a year. The HFRA recommended 10 to 12 million acres a year to address excess fuels and fire hazard on 90 million acres as soon as possible.

Instead, due to various lawsuits etc., less than 5 percent of the necessary work has been done per year. Every year the USFS falls farther behind. At the current rate it will take 150 years to get through the backlog of 90 million acres. By then most of it will have burned in wildfires.

Wildfires are killing our forests to the tune of 10 million acres per year. At that rate, in 20 years every acre of every National Forest in the USA will have been incinerated.

The HFRA is hugely under-implemented and doing almost no good. Which is exactly what the “greens” state that they want and have always wanted since they opposed it in Congress, and why they sue in federal court to enjoin HFRA projects.

11 Mar 2008, 6:57pm
by Backcut

I often mask my desperation in humor of some sort. We foresters live in a time when, no matter what science is produced, it will not be enough to change society’s beliefs. Only when we have been proven right by seeing more millions of acres burn up (and when the vehement protests about the government’s response to disaster will surely pummel whoever is currently in power).

HFRA seems to be a red-headed step child. The Dems wouldn’t pass it without amending it. The Administration decided not to fully fund it, because it wasn’t what the forested Congressional Districts wanted. Mike is absolutely right about their inflated claims and accomplishments. Controlled burns can pile up the acres, but targets can never approach the scope and awesome size of the fuels problem.

I once asked a client “Where are the timber companies lawyers in this battle for THEIR salvage sales?” I think we should accept and maybe even demand their legal presence if the sale is currently under contract. Surely it would be a “cost of doing business” for them, eh?!?

I think it is time for us to “out” the forest management deniers, who eschew science in favor of their faith-based, dogma-drama beliefs. However, this will not change the minds of the power brokers. That’s the source of my desperation and frustration. The power elite of the “environmental movement” refuse to even talk about it. They always bring up clearcutting, logging slash, fire suppression and “industrial logging”. Those are mostly battles of the last millennium.

What are we going to do about TODAY’S forests, other than letting them burn?

PS Janet, yes there are people who are still fighting the good fight and trying to do good silviculture in the Forest Service. Every year a few foresters will throw up their hands in defeat when their fuels projects become enjoined. Lawsuits always seem to end up being about procedure instead of substance.

12 Mar 2008, 10:23am
by Forrest Grump

Well, esteemed leader, I must riff back on this one. Post-disturbance salvage logging IS definitely forestry. What happens after a fire that is not salvaged? Tick brush, the stuff you love to hate? Like Gold Hill? Like the manzanita swaths in the Siskiyous?

There is lots of opportunity for forestry in salvage, in CREATING the sort of human-friendly forest that dominated the landscape for thousands of years. Who but a real forester would know where and how to plant the historically-appropriate seedlings in the right dead-shade and water-friendly spots to kick start a forest free to grow over the herbarium? Dat right dere be FORESTRY.
And yeah, that “treatment.” When the Fool Creek fire first got going, the FS people were totting up “acres treated” to add to their success total. We all know how THAT turned out.

12 Mar 2008, 10:26am
by Forrest Grump

Voops. I fergaht the salvage and REPLANTING part. Yah, der logger’s dey cuts der snaggen und pays der gelt zo der Fahresteren kann plantzen der kindersticken fur der nueue Grunwalden, jah?

12 Mar 2008, 12:45pm
by Bob Z.

I’m agreeing with the Grump on this one, too.

Salvage logging design of the Tillamook was created and implemented by foresters, as was the reforestation plan.

Foresters manage the forested landscape for the long-term welfare of society, no matter how bad the short-termers mess it up. The worse the mess (today’s examples), the greater the need.

12 Mar 2008, 1:28pm
by Mike

All right, I capitulate. Forest recovery following catastrophic fire does require professional forestry expertise. You all are right, I was wrong.

But I hate it. I hate getting called in after-the-fact to clean up someone else’s mess. Happens a lot, or at least it has happened to me often in my career. I always grumble, “Why didn’t you call me before things went SNAFU?”

Irony, right? Burn the forest to ashes and THEN call the pro forester. “Now what do we do, Mr. Forester Guy?” And I grumble.

But you are right. Forest recovery requires some smarts. Forest restoration requires more smarts, but that’s Monday morning quarterbacking again.

12 Mar 2008, 1:30pm
by Mike

btw, the Biscuit Fire required no EIS, but the recovery program sure did. And it was a piss-poor recovery program by any measure, hugely lacking in professional forestry expertise.

12 Mar 2008, 1:54pm
by Joe B.

Not that this adds to the discussion, but I once had a biscuit fire while camping, and as hungry as I was, I sure could have used a professional forester to come in and Monday Morning Quarterback my charred biscuits back into something buttery and flaky. I suffered through on beef sticks and bourbon, and I eventually got over it.

12 Mar 2008, 2:12pm
by Mike

See? That’s what I’m talking about. I cannot recover burned biscuits. However, I can partake in the bourbon, for a modest fee of course (I am a professional), and we could call that my expert contribution.

12 Mar 2008, 2:35pm
by Mike

And just to inject some reality, 96 percent of the Biscuit Burn was left to rot. There will never be old-growth there again. Instead, fire-type tick brush has resulted, and more megafires will explode again there soon.

The Baby Foot Lake Botanical Reserve experienced 100 percent mortality, and the recommendation from the USFS PNW Research Station was to decommission the Reserve entirely. Take the signs down and forget about it. How’s that for a recovery plan?



web site

leave a comment

  • Colloquia

  • Commentary and News

  • Contact

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Meta