Burn Baby Burn

By Chris Horgan
Executive Director, Stewards of the Sequoia

According to recent statements by Sierra Club & Sequoia Forest Keepers, the answer to our overgrown, diseased & high fire risk forests is prescribed burns. They hail the small prescribed burn projects of the Sequoia National Park.

Apparently there is absolutely no place in their mind for selective thinning. Burning & hand trimming are the only options. Yet prescribed burns can only be done under certain conditions, otherwise it is more likely that the prescribed burn will turn into a forest incinerating catastrophic wildfire. A prescribed burn of an overly dense forest is much like striking a match to a gasoline can.
Eighty six percent of the Giant Sequoia Monument is categorized as high to moderate fire susceptibility. The time it will take to do all the prescribed burns & hand trimming will be far longer than if some selective logging where done as well. The longer it takes to reduce fire hazard the more likely the forest will be incinerated through wildfire.

They fail to mention that prescribed burns will release millions of tons of so called greenhouse gases that the environmental movement blames for global warming. Whereas, according to Dr. Patrick Moore, co founder of Greenpeace, selective thinning would lock up the carbon & reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The 1985 proceedings of the workshop on Giant Sequoia included a summary position by Sierra Club that said, "Perhaps the biggest threat to some of the groves today is fire. Accumulated fuel and dense stands of fir and pine are a disaster waiting to happen. The Sierra Club has advocated a one-time timber harvest in some groves where whitewoods are too dense." Fire threat to the groves today is even greater. Why has Sierra Club reversed their position now?

How much will it cost to do prescribed burns? Between 1995 & 1999 the cost per acre of prescribed burns almost doubled per National Interagency Fire Center. The National Park Service, hailed by Sierra Club, has spent about twice as much per acre treated as the Forest Service for prescribed burns.

The management plan for the Monument includes treating 64,000 acres in the first ten years. Done by prescribed burning alone, this would cost over $4,608,000 using the 1999 cost per acre for the National Park Service prescribed burns. This estimate is probably low & the true number today would more likely be double. Add to that the cost of proposed hand trimming. All very costly at a time when the Forest Service is getting less & less funding.

The Giant Sequoia National Monument Plan is not proposing doing only timber harvest, but in addition to prescribed burns where appropriate to protect the Giant Sequoia Groves.

When you add it all up, having less greenhouse gas emissions, cleaner air, providing a renewable resource, jobs & faster fire hazard reduction in the forest, it just makes sense to use all the tools, including chain saws for timber harvest where appropriate.

Stewards of the Sequoia (Tree Planting)

Related article: Death of a Sawmill












     Stewards of the Sequoia 2005

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