Excerpt: Don’t Get Burned by the Forest Service

Laws that protect public lands from destructive activities have reduced most commercial logging in our national forests, but the Forest Service has a loophole to log our trees: fire. Worse, they do it on our dime. Congress always lets the Forest Service take money from the General Treasury to pay for timber sale administration, road building and logging costs, and then the agency keeps the profits from those sales. The Forest Service enriches itself at the people’s expense by selling the people’s trees. This is the incentive for another agency deception: that the forest “will never be the same” without “restoration” work. This presumes forests don’t naturally regrow on their own – which of course they do, in what scientists call “succession,” one of the first ecological processes ever described.

Don’t believe it either when they tell you we might have avoided a big fire if only we had removed “excessive fuels” beforehand. Studies show that logging doesn’t prevent or stop big fires during extreme weather when most acreage burns. But it does enrich the Forest Service.

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Forsythe II Proposal – Does It Pass Muster?

Fire in the WUI (Wildland Urban Interface) is a threat. The question is how to best address it and minimize the risk. I think most of us want it all: a safe place to live, a vibrant ecosystem with varied wildlife, and a place to find joy. The question is whether that is possible.

It has been a year since we halted the Forsythe Project in Boulder County, CO and the USFS has a “new” Forsythe II Proposal. Despite a year of meetings, field trips, and input from the community, the new proposal looks a lot like the old one. While their justifications and reasons have changed, they are following a pattern they have used for many years – cutting trees – despite recent science that contradicts their justifications.

What are they proposing and why shouldn’t we believe they know best?

The proposal states the intention to

  1. “Restore” the mixed conifer to a more characteristic and historic pattern,
  2. Increase aspen stands and meadows,
  3. Improve wildlife habitat to benefit species,
  4. Protect the watershed from the impacts of fire, &
  5. Decrease risk of crown fire, particularly next to homes.

That all sounds reasonable and good, but do their proposals succeed in achieving these objectives? Let’s look at each objective and see whether they pass or fail.

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MFG’s Alternate Forsythe II Plan

  • Forest Health
  • Watershed Protection
  • Wildlife Habitat
  • Improved Home Protection from Wildfire

Given that:

  • the area of the Forsythe II project is all above 7600′, in the northern half of Colorado, and falls into the upper montane zone, with a historical fire rotation of 100+ years, fire exclusion has probably had little effect on the forest. [1,2,5,8]
  • this fire regime is one of mixed intensity fire, with a predominance towards moderate and high severity fire, primarily dependent on weather and terrain, not on fuel density, thinning will likely have few mitigating effects on fire in this area. [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8]
  • the upper montane zone is not an area that has ever been similar to the pure ponderosa, open stands of the lower montane zone and that this area actually is transitioning to sub-alpine, as evident by the dominance of lodgepole pine over ponderosa or Douglas fir, all attempts to convert it into a lower montane zone should be abandoned. [1,5,8]

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