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Reporting on forest conference one-sided

It’s little wonder The Union’s reporting on the recent Forest “conversation” event in Grass Valley was one-sided, since three-quarters of the conference panelists were overtly pro-logging. Not one person from the environmental perspective was included among the panels.



The Union reported Tom Bonnickson’s bogus claims that only 21 percent of Sierra forests were old-growth historically, as well as his absurd suggestion that we increase logging of such forests so we don’t have too much. However, The Union failed to mention that the two panelists with the most experience studying Sierra forests directly contradicted him. For example, Jo Ann Fites, a forest ecologist with the Tahoe National Forest, who was a Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Report author, stated that the evidence indicates that between 30 percent and 80 percent of presettlement Sierra forests were old growth. She pointed out that only 10 percent of Sierra forests are currently old-growth, since we’ve lost so much due to logging. When questioned by two other panelists, Bonnickson – whose doctorate is in forest policy, not forest ecology -admitted that his “estimate” was based upon a present day survey of one single watershed, not on historical data on the entire Sierra range.




Fites made clear that both surface fires and crown fires occurred naturally in presettlement Sierran forests, and that these forests had 40-60 percent canopy cover in drier sites and 50-90 percent canopy cover in wetter sites, with dense understories in some areas and more open understories in others. Very few openings occurred historically in Sierra mixed-conifer forests.

The Union article also failed to mention that Fites said it is small-diameter surface fuels that govern fire behavior and severity, not mature trees. She stated that commercial thinning of mature trees reduces forest canopy cover, creating hotter, drier conditions, increasing wind speeds, and accelerating growth of highly flammable brush, which can result in more severe wildland fires. Against all science, the pro-logging speakers advocated “thinning” of large mature trees, which would reduce canopy cover to less than 30 percent.

We need an honest conversation about the forests, not one engineered by Sierra Pacific Industries and Forest Service timber sale planners.

Chad Hanson

executive director

John Muir Project

Cedar Ridge


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