Restoration or Incineration
To log or not to log...
By Chris Horgan, Stewards of the Sequoia
I have spent a great deal of time in
the California Sequoia National Forest and the McNally burn
area. From extensive research into forest health, I find that
most of the claims against forest management are incorrect, or
worse yet, harmful.
In a recent Bakersfield Californian article, "Saws or
woodpeckers," the author, Mr. Weiser states that two types of
restoration can be heard in the Sequoia McNally burn area, that
of chain saws buzzing and woodpeckers drilling into burned bark.
The idea of woodpeckers actively restoring the forest sounds
quaint. It is not realistic. I encourage people to go to the
burn area, on Sherman Pass Road, I doubt they will hear
woodpeckers. I have not. There is little life in the burn area.
Mountainside after mountainside of forest are totally burned,
and I cannot find any seedlings. Apparently Ara Marderosian, of
the Sequoia Forest Keepers, has been monitoring an acre patch of
burned forest, where he claims 57 seedlings are growing in the
shade of burned trees. It is most regrettable that those
seedlings are destined to be incinerated when lightning
inevitably strikes, sometime within the next hundred years. That
is how long it will take for the standing matchstick forest to
rot enough to no longer be an extreme fire hazard, capable of
incinerating the area again. Both Flat and Bonita fires proved
this. After both fires, there was no tree regrowth in 30 years.
Both areas were reburned in the McNally fire, at heat so intense
it sterilized the soil.
The forest will eventually restore itself from the unnatural
wildfire, but it will take an inordinate amount of time, from
200-500 years. Compare this to actively managed forests where
burned trees are harvested, new trees are planted, and the
forest returns in 30-50 years, providing much needed habitat for
wildlife and endangered species.
An extremely stark example of the benefits of active management
is the Mount St. Helens eruption. Government did no restoration
work, and the landscape is littered with dead trees, and almost
no wildlife. As one drives through the dead zone, there is
suddenly a wall of forest. This is the Weyerhauser property.
They planted trees soon after the eruption, and a healthy forest
has returned in only a few years, teeming with wildlife.
Benefits of actively managing forests can also be seen at
Edison's Shaver Lake Forest, as well as in those few places
where management has not been stopped by anti-management groups.
The Director of the John Muir project stated that "post fire
logging is the worst thing you can do, in terms of forest
recovery. It will set back the recovery dramatically." He offers
no clue as to why he thinks this is so. Real world examples
prove that his viewpoint is incorrect.
John Muir commented in his writings, that when fires would
overtake him, he would climb a tree and wait for the fire to
pass. The unnatural wildfires of today would incinerate John
Muir, as well as the tree he climbed and the forest, and the
wildlife that surrounded him. These fires cannot be heralded as
natural, and will not heal themselves as natural fires of the
past have done.
I contacted Kent Duysen of Sierra Forest Products, the company
that is contracted for the McNally burn logging. One of the
claims by anti-logging advocates is that this company is only
removing large trees, and that the smaller ones are what will
create a higher fire risk. Mr. Duysen explained that if the
contract had been awarded sooner, they would have removed the
small trees, and the taxpayers would have gotten more money from
Over the years, anti-logging groups have lobbied for more
regulations, and filed numerous lawsuits. To comply, it now
takes two years before the forest service can allow timber
companies to start work on only one percent of the burn area,
and that means that the trees below 20 inches in diameter are
now useless. According to the Government Agency, Northern
California Scaling Bureau, 30 percent of gross volume of the
wood from the McNally fire is now non-usable. We waited too
Still, the more dead wood that can be removed from the forest,
the better. Even if trees below 20 inches are left, they will
rot far faster than the large ones, and therefore pose a fire
threat for hundreds of years less time. Besides, we need the
wood for paper and lumber. It is a renewable resource.
All logging is subject to California logging regulations that
minimize erosion, and other impacts to the forest area. These
stringent protections are in place to make sure that logging is
done in the most responsible manner possible. To prohibit
responsible logging, in favor of massive destruction of our
forests, for hundreds of years, is insanity.
Over 250,000 acres, or 20 percent of Sequoia forest, has burned
in three fires over the past 15 years. Nationwide, over the past
decade, there have been record-breaking larger unnatural
wildfires. We are incinerating forest and wildlife at a far
faster pace than the forest can regenerate. These fires are on a
scale never before seen in human history.
John Muir must be turning in his grave knowing that through
non-management, we are allowing the destruction of our sacred
This devastation has been caused by anti-logging hands-off
management practices. Logging, even in its worst form, has never
destroyed an entire forest, as well as the wildlife. We have
examples of what can be done with proper management. Common
sense must prevail to allow management, or we will not have much
forest or wildlife for our children, their children, or their
children's children. Is that to be our legacy?
To find out more about how you can
help make our lands healthy go to.
the Sequoia (Tree Planting)
Chris Horgan is the Executive Director of Stewards of the
Sequoia a Division of California Trail User Coalition 501c3 non
profit group in California.
Stewards of the Sequoia promotes volunteerism on public lands,
responsible recreation, and environmental stewardship
Copyright Stewards of the Sequoia 2005
All Rights Reserved
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