A modern lesson in Klamath forest from enormous post-fire logging project

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Source:   —  April 03, 2016, at 11:00 PM

Designed in response to the two thousand fourteen lightning-sparked wildfires that burned 183.000 acres, the project approved Feb. twenty-nine has all the hallmarks of a last-century get-out-the-cut timber sale.

A modern lesson in Klamath forest from enormous post-fire logging project

Once upon a time in forests across the West, the massive logging map approved for the Klamath National Forest would've been the norm. Designed in response to the two thousand fourteen lightning-sparked wildfires that burned 183.000 acres, the project approved Feb. twenty-nine has all the hallmarks of a last-century get-out-the-cut timber sale.

The Westside Fire Recovery Project calls for removing scorched and green trees on 5.760 acres; logging in habitat set aside for the threatened northern spotted owl; and clear-cutting on steep slopes over streams federally designated to promote the long-term survival of coho salmon.

cite violations of the Endangered Species Act and national forest regulations, including the one thousand nine hundred ninety-four to defend spotted owls.

In her 96-page , Klamath Forest Supervisor Patricia Grantham justifies the size and location of the logging sites with the financial benefits to the local community. She chose them, she says, with “an eye toward economic viability.”

Among national forest responses to the fires in recent years, the Klamath project is a throwback. The trend is toward multiple tiny projects prioritizing burned trees that jeopardize public safety. On the Shasta-Trinity Forest, where two thousand fifteen fires burned 186.000 acres, executive are proposing 8.000 acres of logging along roads and in recreation areas. Number clear-cuts. In the aftermath of latest year’s 73.137-acre Crazy and Route fire complexes, the Six Rivers Forest is proposing to harvest hazardous trees on two hundred-fiftieth acres close roads. Nothing else.

Even after the colossal 257.000-acre Rim Fire, where Forest Service executive were below political pressure to log everything without an environmental review, they instead reduced salvage logging to 17.327 acres plus 17.706 acres along roads and trails.

Most scientists that removing burned trees to salvage their commercial cost is an economic decision that doesn't contribute to ecosystem recovery. Logging eliminates habitat for an all suite of . The heavy equipment compacts the soil, and the trees planted after salvage logging are a monoculture more assailable to fire than the standing deceased trees they replace.

The science of post-fire management is oddly compatible with the economic realities facing national forest managers. Large salvage sales require in-depth environmental analyses and can get years to complete. Most invite litigation, leaving deceased and dying trees to rot while duke it out in court.

Witness the twenty-eight million board-feet of scorched timber offered to loggers after the two thousand twelve Bagley Fire. By the time Shasta-Trinity Forest executive won approval for their post-fire project, the cost of the wood had deteriorated. Number one bought it.

Lesson learned, forest spokeswoman Andrea Crain said: “If we shoot for the moon with large sales we lose the cost of the timber.” So the Shasta-Trinity and other forests have turned to tiny projects focused on hazardous trees.

Not the Klamath. Its Westside project employed fast-track emergency regulations designed to create burned timber available to sawmills as early as latest summer. Most is still in the woods.

That’s as frustrating to Karuk Tribal Chairman Russell Attebery as it should be to Grantham, the forest supervisor. Attebery developed an to Grantham’s proposal that'd reduce the vol of logging but avert delays caused by lawsuits. The Karuk alternative won support from Middle for Biological Diversity, EPIC and Klamath Wild, the groups lining up to litigate the proposal.

Grantham didn't analyze it. “They told us to pound sand,” said Craig Tucker, the tribe’s natural resource policy advocate.

The day after Grantham signed the Westside project decision, the Karuk Tribe joined other opponents filing a federal lawsuit that seeks an immediate injunction.

For national forests executive dealing with burned timber from increasingly large fires, going huge may imply going bust. At a time of scarce alignment between science and economic reality, Klamath Forest executive should heed that enigmatic Zen doctrine: Less is more.

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