Wholesale clear-cutting of burns benefits neither the forest nor the public. Despite the ill-informed declarations of both U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and a host of vested private interests, the sub-optimal state of today’s forests is not the result of meddling by environmentalists. It is the result of misguided “beliefs” about forest management rather than solid scientific research — with a good dose of climate change added to the mix.
The battle cry of “salvage-log to save the forest” sounds good — and I believed it at one time — but it has extensive undesirable consequences including:
- tearing up forest topsoils;
- introducing and proliferating harmful invasive species;
- robbing native wildlife of important habitat.
Furthermore, by removing the large, dead trees from a a burn, you prevent their cones from dropping the seeds that naturally reforest the landscape. Instead, you must use scarce taxpayer dollars to pay an army of workers to grow and plant trees — trees that often grow back just fine on their own.
The cry to “salvage log” is too often a ruse to abandon intelligent decision-making. We have plenty of live trees that need thinning, especially around urban areas. Communities and the Forest Service should focus on that — and allow our burned forests to heal themselves.