Forests don’t pose the only wildfire threat
This is in response to the Guest View column by Tim Feller of Sierra Pacific Industries (“Who will thin our forests to prevent fires?”) that ran in the Tribune on Nov. 6.
Some important points were made, but the column failed to recognize the bigger picture. We all agree that some thinning of flammable brush and small trees is necessary to protect Sierra homes and communities. But Feller failed to point out one of the major issues that contributed to the devastation of the Angora fire: the lack of defensible space around many homes throughout the hardest-hit area.
Even as people talk about reducing the risk of catastrophic fire to lives and property, many fail to talk about the things that homeowners can do to protect their property well before any thinning project takes place.
It also is important to point out that the real problem in the woods is not large fire-resistant trees, but highly flammable ground fuels, brush and small-diameter trees – much of it produced by decades of logging and through fire suppression. Streamlining reviews of thinning projects, as suggested in the article, is a dangerous proposition and is viable only if land managers consider all the alternatives and the environmental consequences of the proposed actions.
My fear is that by “streamlining” projects, we will fail to complete the important environmental review process regarding impacts on our soil and water.
I will agree with Feller that we need to move our forests in a direction that would provide trees of all ages and sizes. But what he failed to mention are the thousands upon thousands of even-aged mono-crop Sierra Pacific Industries plantations that plague the Sierra Nevada. Those plantations are an extreme fire danger to Sierra Nevada communities for at least 40 years, as they provide an opportunity for fire to rip through them with nothing to stop it.
Trees removed in thinning projects can provide jobs and wood products, as evidenced in the White Mountains Stewardship Contract in Arizona and other places. The forestry industry has the tools, skills, loggers and mills to help thin our forests, but their approach is rooted in old and outdated practices that got us in this mess to begin with. Our future does not lie in unsustainable large-scale logging. We need timber people and their skills, but we need to help them adapt their practices for today’s forests. Blaming the Forest Service, other agencies or environmental protections overlooks the bottom-line problems facing mill closures, primarily mechanized technology and workers-comp costs.
What we really need is funding for important fuels reduction projects around communities, and the timber industry can help do that – in a way that benefits everybody in the Sierra, not just SPI.
– David Jaramillo is a registered professional forester with Sierra Forest Legacy. Visit their Web site at http://www.sierraforestlegacy.org.
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