Robert Ingram: Environmentalists blowing smoke
Do environmentalists like Chad Hanson and his newest disciple, Christy Sherr, care about our environment? Obsessively so. Are they honest in their attempts to “save” the Sierra? Absolutely not.
Hanson, as high priest to the cause, deems all commercial logging of federal lands a crime against nature and will do or say anything to stop it. His latest humorous attempt, authored by Christy Sherr in The Union on April 1, borders on fantasy. Hanson and Sherr’s contention that a “Snag forest, or ‘complex early seral forest (CESF)’ created by high intensity fire (75 to 100 percent mortality) is the most ecologically diverse and wildlife rich forest habitat type in the Sierra Nevada.” Really? No, not really. Below are a few glaring gaps in their half-truths and faulty logic that just doesn’t pass the smoldering forest smell test.
1. Massive hot and destructive wildfires are not natural, they are human created. Our Mediterranean climate provides the means for forest fuels to annually accumulate. For more than 100 years we have excluded repetitive low and moderate intensity fires from cleansing our forests. We, not nature, created these huge fuel-loaded, catastrophic events. The aftermath actually consists of miles and miles of monoculture sameness. This is best? Really?
2. Trees numbering 300 to 500 per acre now occupy most of our Sierra forests. Historically the number ranged from 60 to 90 trees per acre. Once again the primary cause of this unnatural over-stocking, over 100 years of human orchestrated fire exclusion. If all snag dependent species survived well in forests of 60 to 90 trees per acre, how does 300 to 500 dead trees per acre over tens of thousands of acres mystically become vital to snag dependent species? Really?
3. A condition known as hydrophobicity occurs to surface soils when high intensity fires consume organic matter. This conversion impairs soil wettability and infiltration, i.e. faster runoff and greater erosion. Breaking up the hydrophobic layer, as occurs during salvage logging, greatly decreases hydrophobicity which allows for greater absorption and far less sediment transport. Do we just ignore this fact? Really?
4. Environmentalists promote carbon sequestration? Salvaged logs provide lumber and other wood products stored in homes and buildings, i.e. long-term impoundment of carbon based materials. High intensity fires kill most or all trees, leaving virtually no seed source for seedling regeneration. Most untouched “snag forests” turn into brush fields and vent tons of carbon as the snags decay. Salvage operations followed by planting returns forests rapidly. Young thriving forests far out sequester carbon more than brush fields and snags. So ignoring faster carbon sequestration is better? Really?
5. So if 100,000 acres plus human-caused blackened forests create the pinnacle of all habitats, why don’t environmentalists embrace human-caused little blackened forests? (Like regeneration or even-aged forestry)? Both provide critical early seral forest habitat. Plus forests of different ages and sizes surround these small regeneration areas, i.e. biodiversity. But environmentalists fight this type of forestry. Which system creates, promotes and maintains far superior diverse habitats? Hanson and Sherr say catastrophic wildfire. Really?
6. Californians utilize tons of wood products, about the equivalent of a 16-inch diameter, 100-foot tall tree, each one of us, every year. California must import over 80 percent of these products from other states and countries with far less environmental controls on harvesting than here. If it’s truly “one world” as the environmentalist say, why don’t we take advantage of our own renewable resource? Billions of board feet of timber die annually due to fires, insects and fungus in California. Fire salvage, should be a no-brainer. Harvest the majority of the trees while sound and usable. Sporadically retain individual and clumps of snags and some large logs on the ground for habitat, break up the surface soil to increase infiltration, plant the site with the species that historically thrived there and grow forests and wildlife habitat at the same time. Or leave the human-caused mess alone to collapse and become the next high intensity fire. Really? Following the destruction of enormous expanses of existing spotted owl, mountain lion and all other forest dwellers’ habitat to then mystically embrace the new dynamic “complex” forest habitat created only makes sense to strident environmentalists, if you believe them.
In reality, their sole obsession, stop all commercial logging on federal lands in the Sierra, including burned dead trees. Extremists bend, cherry pick and falsify science to promote their cause. The ends justify the means. Do they speak for you? Really?
Robert G. Ingram is a Nevada County resident and licensed professional forester working for Sierra Pacific Industries. He currently administers salvage logging, site preparation, planting, road reconstruction and land and watercourse rehabilitation crews on company lands in the 95,000-acre King Fire.
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