November 16, 2017
One thing I learned at last night’s Eagle Creek Fire Forum was that people still have some misperceptions about salvage logging. There is logic that says that after a forest fire, salvaging the standing dead helps the area recover, and when I’ve asked specifics, I hear about thinning such that there isn’t another fire and vaguely that scientists say so.
Folks, economics is a science, and it isn’t about forest health.
From the perspective of making cash, salvage logging in an area you can’t normally log is going to make you more money than having not harvested timber. If you need to have people working in burned property, salvaging the standing dead will make it safer for humans who don’t want to watch for falling trees.
But it’s not good for the ecosystem.
Recall the ecosystem was burning from lightning strikes during dry, windy seasons long before humans started managing the land (also with fire). After the burn, insects went after the dead trees, birds went after the insects, fire-evolved plants grew in the new meadows that were a habitat for small mammals, resin-hardened pine cones opened and seedling trees grew in the partial protection of the old guard scorched trees, while fallen dead slowly decompose into soil -each different species of tree returning a different set of building blocks. “Forest” isn’t a noun, it’s a process.
That’s the logic piece I’m really missing. If the dead trees aren’t allowed to rot in place, how are the minerals supposed to return to the soil for the next cohort of young trees?
In tree farms, they deal with this by adding nutrients when they plant the young trees (one hopes). In salvage logging, particularly in national public spaces like our Gorge, they can’t do that – really, the rains would wash the chemical fertilizers into the Columbia River more or less immediately, and they’d need to keep unprotected hikers out of the landscape even if it was flat.
So salvage logging is good for the pocketbook and steals from the future of the forest.
They’s a bill proposed to allow salvage logging not only in the Gorge,but in National Parks and other public land without those pesky environmental studies or public input, getting some value out of a natural disaster (which somehow includes not only fire, but rainstorms and windstorms -we get those for 5 months every year here). I’m opposed to it because Science.
And also because I love the forests of the Gorge. The Eagle Creek Fire was a mosaic within a 49k acre boundary, less than 15% actually burned. That means there are patches of burn among healthy trees -in 3-5 years, those will be meadows in the woods. As opposed to eroded cliff faces.
This might warrant a call to a senator.