Mitigation or Misguided? (Revised)
The US Forest Service has issued a final project Decision in Boulder County for fire mitigation, “forest restoration,” and watershed protection (Forsythe II Project). They are cutting patches of forest using both clearcuts and aggressive thinning. Will these cuts actually help, or is this activity misguided? The USFS would have us believe that they know what they are doing and we should trust them to manage our forests, but should we?
While the USFS has been making these types of cuts for years, there is little evidence to indicate that they work, for either fire mitigation, or forest “health”. The “new” plan would cut trees to “restore” the forest to a historical fire regime that did not exist at this altitude. It proposes the paradox of cutting the trees that hold the soil in place to prevent erosion in the watershed. The unfortunate result of this new mitigation may be more…
USFS Final Decision Notice Released
The USFS has released the Final Decision Notice (DN) for the Forsythe ll project, which triggers implementation of the project. Logging is expected to start in 2018. While we still feel this project is misguided, we did make some inroads in the design of the project. These include:
- A 300′ defensible space buffer around private property, where the USFS won’t cut, unless requested, but where homeowners can create defensible space.
- They will cut 1000 fewer acres.
- The largest conifers will be preserved. There will be a maximum cut diameter limit of 14″ and the largest 10% of trees will be saved within mixed conifer units.
- Aspen units will retain more surrounding conifers.
- Thick lodgepole pine regeneration from the last project will be thinned.
- Soil scorched by hot burning of piles will be tilled and seeded
- Knolls and rock outcroppings won’t be denuded of trees
- A multiparty monitoring group (MMG) will be formed and we plan to be participants.
Thanks to all who signed the petition, wrote letters, and donated funds! Along with tireless work from individuals within our group, you helped to effect these changes.
Our work is not over! We hope to use the MMG to continue to make small changes, which can have a large impact. Changes to specific unit designs can ensure that USFS purposes and needs are met, while we do our best to protect flora and fauna…
Magnolia Forest Group, NFP
is a citizen group working towards sensible forest management in the Arapaho/Roosevelt National Forests, utilizing the best, current scientific information and educating the public.
Only You (+ your neighbors, friends, and visitors) Can Prevent Forest Fires
We are all probably aware of Smokey the Bear’s admonishment to prevent forest fires and a recent study by Jennifer Balch et al has verified Smokey’s philosophy. Humans do cause most wildfires in the USA, “Human-started wildfires accounted for 84% of all wildfires, tripled the length of the fire season, dominated an area seven times greater than that affected by lightning fires, and were responsible for nearly half of all area burned.” Balch goes further to say, “National and regional policy efforts to mitigate wildfire-related hazards would benefit from focusing on reducing the human expansion of the fire niche.” So, it appears Smokey has to do more work to get us to prevent forest fires.
Tania Schoennagel, author of another recent paper, states, “The regional increase in wildfire since the 1970s is due to primarily to warming (that allows fuels to dry out and become more flammable), and not due to major increases in fuels in areas in mid- to high-elevation forests.” Our mid and high-elevation forests haven’t changed from historic norms; they tend towards dense forest and high fuel loads. What has changed is the role of warming on the forest by climate change and the expansion of the fire season by people starting fires in spring and (particularly in the West) fall. Not to say that humans don’t play a role in summer fires, because they do; Balch states, “the most common day for human-started fires by far was…