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No axe if burnt tree has green

After a big forest fire, when is a conifer really dead?

When it doesn1t have any green needles left, according to a new U.S. Forest Service policy that affects about 40 percent of the Sierra Nevada national forest land.

3If you see a (green) sprig on the tree, you can1t mark it for cutting,² said Matt Mathes, spokesman for California1s national forests.



After a fire, a fire-damaged conifer showing green needles can ultimately die after a few months<or even a couple years.

In the past, the Forest Service has marked burned trees for logging if 65 percent or more of the crown was scorched.




It makes more sense economically to remove all the dead trees at once instead of waiting for questionable trees to die and then coming back to cut them.

But some environmentalists criticized the old guidelines, saying the Forest Service was taking trees that weren1t really dead.

Regional forester Jack Blackwell in August issued the new policy to settle the matter. It kicks in under 3stand-replacing events²<fires which kill 75 percent or more of trees in 3old forest emphasis areas.² That describes about 40 percent of the Sierra where the Forest Service wants to restore old forest conditions.

Chad Hanson, a Cedar Ridge environmentalist who heads the John Muir Project and would like to see commercial logging end on national forests, hailed the new rule.

3That1s a big thing. It1s a really big thing,² Hanson said. 3Most of (the trees) most of the time survive really severe scorching.²

Yet before this policy, 3usually, if it1s got a little bit of scorch on it, they1ll call it dead or dying,² he said.

Phil Aune of the California Forestry Association disagreed with the new policy, saying the Forest Service will leave trees that will ultimately die, increasing future fire risk.

Salvage logging helps pay for reforestation of burned-over land. By leaving too many snags, 3It1s going to cost the government. You need these other trees to help carry the cost. Otherwise, you have this huge buildup of fuels,² Aune said.

The new policy is part of the Sierra Nevada Framework, an overall management plan for the region1s national forests.

The Bush administration ordered a review last year of different aspects of the framework. The new tree mortality policy could change, depending on the outcome of that ongoing review, Mathes said.

green


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